I had an email conversation with Allen, a blog reader. One of the questions he asked is “What do you know about my company?” Allen used this question as a technique to determine how much initiative a candidate has and how much they want to learn about the company.
Allen has a good question. And depending on the answer, he has several areas in which to move the conversation. If the candidate was unable to learn about the company (literally no time between the phone screen and the in-person interview, the web site was down, unknown web site address, no time to go to the library and look up the company), then I would phrase the question differently: “What would you like to know about my company?” and then listen for what they say. Is the candidate interested in the work in general, the project in specific, the people, the culture, something else? I also ask this question at the end of the interview, when I suspect the candidate is more comfortable. Not all candidates feel comfortable about asking questions about the company early in the interview.
Discussing the company is a good idea. Discussing it late enough in the interview give candidates a chance to think about what they want to ask. One caveat: when I was a candidate, I never asked about benefits, vacation, or anything I was interested in, until after the second interview. I did ask about how projects were created and staffed, but nothing else. I didn’t want potential employers to think I was a bad candidate because I wanted to know about tuition reimbursement. I had some wonderful managers and I bet they would have been pleased to know I was working towards a Master’s. But I was concerned that my need to leave an hour early one night a week would have turned them off during the interview, so I never asked. I only asked once we started negotiating benefits and salary.
Do discuss the company. And make sure you supply the candidate enough context so that the candidate understands what you’re trying to hear.