When we first started drafting the interview process to hire someone for our team, I included two questions that seemed a no brainer to me:

  1. Describe what our company does;
  2. Describe the job description you replied to and explain why do you find it attractive.

At the time I didn’t gave much thought to it, since it was just a way for me to break some ice, allow the person to get started talking and get the juices flowing, before we got to the hard questions. Since sometimes the job descriptions have several requirements, I also thought it would be a good way to understand what motivated the person, what challenges did they find most interesting, and what where the areas that they needed some improvement.

In these kinds of things I always put myself in the other person shoes: don’t ask embarrassing questions, or any kind of stuff that I personally would feel uncomfortable being asked. So when I wrote down this question this is what I thought:

  1. People read a job description;
  2. Either you ignore it because you see it’s not a fit for you, or you start considering it;
  3. Taking into account that you’ll be executing your job in a specific context, you will want to learn about:
    1. What the company does - If they specialize in selling pacemakers, maybe its not for you;
    2. The company culture - If they feel pride in working 80-hour weeks, maybe it is not for you;
    3. The company reputation - If they claim they work 40-hour weeks, but have weekly hackatons, maybe it is not for you.

Another important factor is the company name. If their name is something like “Low Cost Temp Agency” or “Low Cost Human Resources”, then you don’t even need to start searching for the company culture. Go ahead and dismiss the job proposal. Seriously, I could not make these names out.

This is why a job interview process is like a mating ritual: both parties need to access if they are a fit for each other. The worst thing a company can do is hire the wrong person, and the worst thing you could do is working at a job that you suck and hate.

The twist

Low and behold, after several interviews, few people could give me a description of what the company did or even explain what they expected their responsibilities would be if they got the job. Most of them told that they saw the company web site, but when asked for details they could not say anything. Also most of them told that they saw the keyword “training” in the job description, so they thought they would have fun training people.

Applying for your favorite company

Of course I was searching for someone who would love doing the job I was posting. Imagine your favorite company. Now imagine that you are interviewing with them and they ask you the same thing. What would you reply?

Of course you would probably provide an incomplete description of what the company does, after all there is usually a huge facade between the customer-facing parts of the business, and the back office, but at least you would be able to name some of the products/services that company provides. I bet you would also be able to explain in what way those products/services help the world becoming a better place.

If it was your dream job, I also bet you would also be able to name and use some of the internal tools they are already using, you would be able to name some of the company’s employees, since you follow them on Twitter, and so on.

The other side of the table

As an interviewer this tells me two things:

  1. They do no care enough for this job;
  2. They do try to fake it until they make it.

So if someone replies me with “huff…” or “I think you do something having to do with the Internet”, it just does not cut it. It tells me that they do not have a particular interest for this job or company.

Now you tell me “well, some people are not fortunate enough to be able to work at their favorite place, so they need to knock on some doors”. Well, yes they do, but unless you’re a door-to-door salesman, you are not going to a job interview without searching a bit what the company does. So you should at least fake it until you make it.

Don’t forget that this is a two person dance and if you were not lucky enough to get the most stunning match for you, at least try to fake you are putting some effort into the dance yourself.