Don’t Just Search; Research!

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We have talked about the necessity to research a company to see if the company culture would suit you in a past article. But what exactly can you do to undertake research about the company? And how do we begin the research process? What does one mean by research anyway? And why is it needed?



Research about the company should be done with an aim to gather some information about:

  • Company history
  • Company culture
  • Leadership and management
  • Mission statement and values
  • Recent news and events
  • Business model

But one must know how to use that information, especially during interviews.

  • Do use the information as a way to know more about the company
  • Do use the information to try to ascertain whether you would be a good cultural fit there
  • Do use the information to try to better understand the company
  • Do use the information to be prepared
  • Do be strategic in how you use the information
  • Do ask the questions you have based on the information
  • Do use the information to augment your skills and experience

Moreover, there are ways one must not use that information; there are some don’ts  one must adhere to and some limitations one must keep in mind:

  • Don’t be insensitive while talking about sensitive issues you found in your research
  • Don’t make an assumption that the information you found is up to date
  • Don’t stick to the online information 100%; while the world today demands everyone to be tech-savvy, it shouldn’t be the only criteria for any decision, unless being tech-savvy is a professional requirement
  • Don’t stick even to the offline information 100%; relayed and second-hand information can be subjective


Now, let us dive into the process! Below are some pointers you can start with as you undertake research about a  company. You could be researching for an interview, a potential collaboration or just for some general  knowledge.


The Bigger Picture:

Before undertaking research about the company, it is a good idea to research a bit about the industry, especially if you are a candidate about to switch industries. Knowing a bit about industry norms and standards, its functioning, can give you a sense of what you should be researching about.



As we talked about in the article mentioned about, the obvious first step of a research these days is running an online search.

Check the company website. How updated or outdated it is can be telling. Don’t forget to check the ‘About Us’ page. Look for their mission statement if there is one on the site. Mission statements directly talk about the values of the company. In case the website isn’t too text heavy and a mission statement can’t really be seen anywhere, look for recurring words and pictures; they can indirectly tell us about the values the company identifies with.

Running an online search also includes checking the company’s social media. How active or inactive they are, the kind if posts they share can also give you some idea about the company’s functioning and core values.

Social media also gives us idea about any recent events or functions the company may have hosted or been part of.

An online search can not only give you glimpses about the company culture but also things to talk about during an interview. Depending on where your priorities lie, you may uncover some potential red-flags or green-lights!

Check your LinkedIn. Do you have any connection who was associated with the company? You can ask things about:

  • The company culture,
  • What it is like working there,
  • What differences there are, if any, between the brand image and the reality,
  • What the management/leadership is like, if there is someone new in the management and how they have changed or not changed the functioning
  • What the employees are like
  • What the employee and employer relationship is like

Researching about a company also means researching about personnel. LinkedIn can take you to the profiles of your potential boss and colleagues.

One can also use websites like Glassdoor, where employees themselves give a glimpse about the workings of the company.



If it happens to be an internationally or nationally well-known company, an online search often proves to be enough to know about the news and events, the business model, the values and their mission, and even news about personnel and management.

But what to do if it’s a newly emerging or a fairly old-fashioned company with no telling online presence?

No problem. We just need to look somewhere else.

Information about companies can also be found in good old offline resources like:

  • Newspapers (local and national)
  • Relevant business journals and publications
  • Word of mouth about the company
  • The old grapevine of ‘gossip’ which can be known by networking with people, be it your neighbour or your colleague or your acquaintance or a friend’s friend or a relative…the grapevine is endless

Researching about a company thus entails running a background check about them. Chalking up a schedule to research particular aspects of company on a particular day or hour is a great idea to organise information. So go ahead, and use that information to your advantage!

A Test to Know If You Are Really Job-Happy!


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We spend so much time at our jobs. A  good day at work means a good mood at home. A job can get boring, challenging and sometimes frustrating.

We often ask ourselves if we are really happy at our jobs. What is that happiness everyone talks about? Yes, it’s a feeling. But when it comes to happiness at workplace, we often realise we were happy at a job only when we have actually left it. It is thus a wise thing to check what we call the ‘happiness quotient’ of your job. It is necessary to put our job through a mental test of sorts.

You are doing well at your job. It is equally important to find out that your job is working well for you.

So, how to test your job?


Where Are you Going:

Do you see yourself undergoing professional and personal growth in your current job? List out all the soft skills and hard skills which you have learned or might learn soon. Recall the experiences which taught you lessons that left you wiser and smarter. See where your job stands on this test.

Feeling all the time that the job isn’t taking you anywhere is enough to sap one out of energy. Not only can it reduce efficiency but can also damage your self-esteem. The job could be considered to be taking you somewhere not only when there’s professional growth but also when there is personal growth and there occurs learning and development on regular basis.



Put it In Perspective:

It is necessary to draw a line between short term and long term. Knowing that you are there for the long haul and knowing you are there for a short period can give you a great sense of perspective. When we know the bigger picture, we can act more calmly and take up reasonable challenges.

A “short term” job will be about learning skills, a “long term” about learning skills and getting promoted.  A short term job makes us happy in different ways than a long term job.  This test is all about contextualising expectations.


Work Environment:

Psychological and emotional well-being is important. Take a look around. What kind of rapport do you share with your co-workers? Cordial? Friendly? Competitive? And what about the boss and the management?

Setting a realistic standard is important here.

You may not be best friends with your colleagues. Your boss might not be like a “cool” uncle or aunt. But as long as everyone is cordial and warm relationship with each other, the workplace can said to have passed this part of the test.


Check Your Health:

How has your health been ever since you started? The usual ? Have you been feeling energised? Good about yourself?

A good job should challenge you enough to tire you out sometimes. But it shouldn’t leave you exhausted all the time. Be sure to know where the line lies!

It is also necessary to draw a line between occasional, explicable illnesses and frequent illness, often unexplained ones. The latter could be your body reacting to stress.


Your Feeling About Going to Work:

Does going to work fulfills a sense of responsibility? Does it give you a sense of purpose? Do you feel motivated enough?

Losing motivation to go to work sometimes is normal. The daunting feeling that may come when you just have too much to do is normal. The feeling should go once you start working and get in the flow. This is an important aspect of the test.

If the feelings persist, think about your options.

  • Can you use a mini break?
  • Can you ask for a department change?
  • A fresh challenge that gives a break from your routine?

While “testing” your job this way , it is necessary to steer clear of some hasty jumps to conclusion which may lead to you to find short term and nonexistent problems with your job:

  • Would things get better when a particular assignment is over?
  • Would the storm-clouds clear once that difficult discussion is over?
  • Is it just a phase that you are dreading, and how long would it take for it to pass?
  • Are you threatening something long-term by getting bogged down by a short-term problem?
  • Is quitting the assignment an option? Can you delegate it?


Strategic quitting is a concept worth mentioning here. Knowing when to quit is an art. Contrary to general opinion, giving up is not a sign of failure. It is a sign of wisdom. One should be smart enough to realise when one is trying to fit a square into a circular slot. 

Stability, good health, doable challenges, learning and development, a sense of purpose and motivation, cordial colleagues and understanding bosses are often the bunch of keys needed to unlock a fulfilling professional life. As the disciplines of psychology and philosophy say, happiness is often more about a sustaining feeling of calm and stability than momentary euphoria.


Avoid These Mistakes: What Not to Do For an Interview

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In the past, we have talked about the things which should be done before, during and after the interview. Today, we are going to talk about the things which shouldn’t be done when it comes to interviews. In other words, we are going to talk about some common mistakes to avoid if you want an interview to go well.

First, let us look at some very basic mistakes:

  • Turning up late: Time management and a margin for handling unforeseen delays should be thought of beforehand.
  • Dressing inappropriately: This includes being over-dressed and/or under-dressed. Being appropriately dressed matters, not only because of the impression it will create, but also because your level of comfort in your own skin will be reflected in how you conduct yourself.

Now, let us look at some not so basic mistakes to avoid:


  • Not Knowing Your CV Thoroughly:

An updated CV is important. But what is also important is knowing what you have included in it.

As basic and even silly as it sounds, it is a good idea to go through your own CV and polish up on your own understanding of the kind of brand you have created for yourself.

A question like “can you walk me through your CV?” shouldn’t leave you clueless about where to begin and what all to include in your response.


  • Talking Negatively About the Current/Previous Employer:

Perhaps the reason you are looking for a change is because your experience with your current employer is not going too well. You can’t wait to resign and you are desperate for a change. Or you have already resigned.

Your experience with your current or former employer may or may not have been that great, but it’s necessary to remain as diplomatic as possible when asked about them (except in very serious cases). That is, if being positive is out of question.

Bad mouthing the current or your former employer can go wrong in multiple ways:

What if the interviewers know them?

What if it gives the impression that you are telling only your side of the story?

What is the guarantee for the interviewers that you will not bad mouth them in the future?


  • Not Doing Enough Research:

By this, we mean research about the company, about the position you are interviewing for, the work culture and if possible, also about who is going to interview you. Good research gives the impression that you are taking the process seriously. Bad research leaves you clueless, hesitant in your responses and often leads to misunderstandings.

Moreover, research also includes researching on some potential generic interview questions and preparing loose scripts as responses. While it’s necessary to give space to spontaneity, it is also important to be as well prepared with the available information and knowledge.

That brings us to the next point.


  • Not Paying Attention to Social Cues:

Remember, we are talking about a “loose script” and not a recorded answer.

As the interview goes on, paying attention to the social cues, the changes in body language, expressions is necessary. And it’s not entirely one way: as you pay attention to what the interviewer says, you could ask relevant questions wherever necessary, or at the end of the interview.

Trying too hard to stick to a script only makes the response come across as too superficial, too generic, too robotic, too mechanical and less human.


  • Not Directly Answering the Question Asked:

A question is asked because the interviewers want to take away some key points from your answer.

Many candidates might feel the urge to side-step a question, especially if it means talking about a not so successful stint. Questions like:

-What are some of your weaknesses?

-Can you tell me about a development goal you have set?

-What is that one thing about you which you think you can improve upon?

As we talked about the article about answering such questions, it’s a bad idea to dismiss the question altogether by asserting you don’t have any weakness. Also, you don’t want to talk about a weakness and then through logical leaps and play of words prove that it is in fact, a strength. This may sound clever but can make you come across as cocky and a wiseacre.

If you are uncomfortable answering the question, let them know but don’t remain silent.

That brings us to the next point.


  • Over-sharing or Under-sharing:

Sharing only the relevant information about skills and experience is necessary, no matter what the interview question is. Unnecessary personal details and digressions, using too much jargon don’t lead anywhere. On the other extreme, giving only generic or incomplete answers could also become a problem; you don’t want to miss out talking about the remarkable things you did.

In one of our previous articles, we talked about the STAR method, especially when it comes to behavioural questions. To freshen it up a bit, STAR, stands for:

S: The situation and its details.

T: The task one is assigned with.

A: The action taken.

R: The result of the action.


Keeping this formula in mind will help you make sure you don’t over-share or focus on irrelevant details. It will also keep you from going into the other extreme of not sharing  crucial bits.




A clear grasp of the don’ts will ultimately result in a confidence necessary to ace any interview. Sometimes, a not-to-do can be more useful than a to-do list!

How to Answer “What is Your Biggest Weakness?”


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We can never talk enough about interviews. In the past, we have talked about answering some generic interview questions like “can you walk me through your CV?“, “can you tell me about yourself?“among others. Today we will discuss about how to talk about your weaknesses during an interview. In other words, how to answer “what is your biggest weakness?”

Some variations could sound like:

-What are some of your weaknesses?

-Can you tell me about a development goal you have set?

-What is that one thing about you which you think you can improve upon?


Why is this question asked, you wonder. There could be a couple of reasons like:

  • To try to look beyond your interview persona, wanting to get a more comprehensive understanding.
  • To see how self-aware and self-reflective you are.
  • To try to understand your standards of good and bad.
  • How you overcome a professional hurdle and a challenge which is essentially self-created.


Interviews can be really stressful and talking about one’s weakness can further increase the level of anxiousness. The following tips and cues will help you to prepare well and answer the question with conviction.

You can’t talk about each and every minor weakness you have. You need to “pick” a weakness which is real, relevant to the professional setting and fixable. Let us delve more in the three adjectives used:


  • Real:

The weakness picked should be real and authentic. You shouldn’t randomly “pick” a weakness from a Google search generated list of generic weaknesses just because its answer is readily available online and it sounds good.

Nor you should just invent or “borrow” a weakness you don’t actually have just for the sake of answering the question.

For your answer to be convincing and specific you have to talk about a weakness you think you actually have. Interviewers can generally see past inauthentic storytelling and generic answers.

But make sure to differentiate between a peculiar habit and a weakness. That brings us to our next point.


  • Relevant:

Peculiarly bad habits might be seen as a weakness in a sense but if they don’t interfere with your professional life in any way, talking about them is useless. After all, the interviewer wants to know how you overcome challenges at work and more specifically how you overcome professional challenges which involve just you.

For example, nail biting when nervous is a peculiar habit but it doesn’t really concern work.

Talking about weaknesses which will never even potentially affect your work in any way is useless. Your inability to draw won’t matter if you are not involved with the fine arts and graphic designing.


  • Fixable:

The weakness you talk about should be fixable.

Let us look at an example of a fairly quickly fixable weakness and one of a weakness that may take time to fix. Lack of delegating skills is a fixable weakness which can be learnt by simply reminding oneself to delegate and learning a few tricks; whereas a fear of public speaking is a weakness one overcomes gradually.

So when you talk about a weakness, let the interviewer know the steps you are taking/planning to take to tackle that.

A note of caution here: a weakness which goes against the nature of your job should get you thinking whether you want to go for such a job in the first place. Plus it risks becoming a red-flag for the interviewer. Could a salesperson who doesn’t have good interpersonal skills be a good salesperson? Or could a person who works in an ad agency afford to not be creative? Your shyness might be irrelevant in a job where you mostly work on your own but a hurdle if your job will involve talking to team members and large groups.


Finally, this brings us to how not to answer this question:

  • By not answering the question: No one is without a weakness. Make sure you don’t dismiss the question altogether by asserting you don’t have any weakness.
  • Mental gymnastics: You don’t want to talk about a weakness and then through logical leaps and play of words to prove that it is in fact, a strength. This may sound clever but can make you come across as cocky and a wiseacre.


Thus talking about one’s weakness could be seen as one exercise of planning self-improvement and self-reflection. Talking about a real, relevant and fixable weakness can help the interviewer as well as the interviewee in seeing things with clarity.


All About Cultural Fluency


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Cultural fluency, intercultural fluency, cross-cultural fluency, cultural sensitivity, culturally aware: there are many expressions which convey the idea we are talking about today.

Have you ever had a really awkward interaction with an international colleague, even though both of you spoke the same language? Or even with someone from your own country but of a different culture? Have there been occasions when a seemingly well communicated thing actually didn’t get communicated at all? When the languages are known but there still seems a lack in the communication, there might be a problem of cultural fluency, or rather the lack of it.


 What is Cultural Fluency? :

You aren’t necessarily culturally fluent if you know multiple languages. Cultural fluency is more about the non-verbal cues. It is the ability to understand the norms and perspectives, attitudes and values of other cultures, and the ability to adapt to them in the particular cultural context. It is the ability to respectfully communicate with members of a culture different than one’s own.

Having cultural fluency is a necessity, especially if your job entails working with international clients. Technological advances may have bridged the gap of literal communication but it is cultural fluency that bridges the more subtle gaps of communication.

A lot of it comes down to communication style; each country’s work culture has unsaid rules which say how much is too direct, how much is too informal, how  “equal” is the relationship between the person who reports and the person one reports to.

That being said, cultural fluency isn’t just about countries. The ability to understand the norms and perspectives, and display sensitivity towards people from a different state, race, religion, gender, orientation, age is also part of being culturally fluent.


How to Acquire Cultural Fluency :

To cite from a post by Harvard Business Review, the three ways to improve cultural fluency are:

1) Assessing your own level of competence and getting an expert guidance if necessary. You wouldn’t know what you want to improve upon if you didn’t know what level you are in the first place.

 2) Acting with intent and to be curious and open about new ways of managing. It’s your job to try to understand the “other” culture, not the other way round. (Remember, your culture is the “other” for them, so it’s not like you are the only one who might be feeling “strange”.)

 3) Remaining non-judgmental when conflict surfaces. Trying to understand the cultural logic and thought pattern would be a good idea.


Interview questions:

Having a global perspective is valued, and to assess if the candidate has one, many interviews consist of questions about cultural fluency. So, what kind of questions could be asked?

  • Describe a situation where you had to work with someone from a different background.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to take into account the sensitivity of a party from a different background.
  • What experience have you had with recruiting/training/supervising/leading a diverse workforce?
  • Describe a situation where you had to work as a part of a culturally diverse team, and how you dealt with it.


To make sure you are prepared, go through the job description. It will help you see what kind of cultural fluency might be expected from you:

  • Are you going to have to work in different countries? Your ability to adapt to new environment and a different work culture might be judged here.
  • Are you applying at a multinational? Your ability to deal and coordinate with your global counterparts might be judged here.
  • Are you applying for a leadership role? Your ability to lead a culturally diverse workforce might be judged here.
  • Are you going to deal with people of a certain class, region or orientation? Applying for jobs at certain NGOs or some government posts can also require this other sort of cultural fluency. Remember, in an Indian context, cultural fluency is not just about being global. For example, if you have been raised in an urban setting, a part of being culturally fluent would be the ability to interact well with someone from a rural area, or vice versa.

To cite a blog post from Big Interview the best way to answer such questions is to adopt the STAR method, where step by step:

  • You talk about the specific Situation (S) that arose
  • The Task(T) that was at hand
  • The course of Action(A) you took and
  • The Result(R) which it brought about.


Be it global or local, cultural fluency is a necessary skill that ensures respectful communication and provides great scope for collaboration, not to forget the growth that comes with understanding multiple perspectives.