INTERVIEWS / JAN. 25, 2015
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How to Answer "What Do you Know About This Industry?"

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In the job search, you’ll encounter some interview questions that will come out of left field. Others, meanwhile, are pretty standard, and there’s really no excuse for not being ready for them. You can class the question “what do you know about this industry?” as a common one -- and as such, one you should take time to prepare for.

This question could have a number of purposes. For recent grads, it could gauge your level of education and understanding of a particular field, giving employers a sense of how much you actually learned in school or during your internships. For career-changers, the employer might ask the question to get an idea of whether you’re ready to make the switch. It could also be a question aimed at gauging your level of innovation, your commitment to your career, or how closely you tend to follow trends.

In any case, here’s how to prepare:

First things first: Do your homework


Get your hands on some trade journals

It’s definitely helpful to read the company website and to seek out newspaper articles, blogs or other online resources that discuss the company or its industry -- but the place to find the insider information is through trade journals and associations. If you’re an architect, for example, get a hold of copies of Architectural Digest or AIAarchitect, the American Institute of Architects’ trade journal, to find out what’s happening in the industry, trends that are emerging, people who are winning awards and the like. Also, look to industry associations -- such as the American Institute of Architects -- for other trending information. Even if you’re a support staff worker, like a secretary, applying for a job in an architect’s office, having some knowledge about trends and buzz in the industry can help you get a leg up. Don’t overlook the obvious as well. Wikipedia can be a great resource for basic research on a very broad topic.

Pour over LinkedIn

Knowing about a particular industry is also about knowing “who’s who.” For that, use LinkedIn as a resource to find out who’s working in the industry in your area. Use the site’s search functions to sort people by city and industry, and then check out their educational backgrounds and job histories to find out where they’ve studied, workshops they’ve attended and how they describe their jobs.

Next, prepare what you’re going to say during the interview

As with all common job interview questions, you don’t have to go off the cuff. Since you can almost bet you’re going to be asked certain questions, there’s no reason not to rehearse your responses.

Cover the history

Whether the industry, you’re working in, is new or old, tell your employer something about its origins; where the first pioneers of the industry originated or what precipitated the rise of that particular industry.

Talk about what’s next

You’ve done a lot of research about trends in the industry, so much of your response should be focused on what you’re seeing happening right now. If the industry is struggling, share some of the insights you’ve learned about why. If it’s booming, be prepared to talk about that as well. Keep the tone positive, no matter what the circumstances; employers don’t want to hear a doom and gloom prediction for the industry to which they’ve devoted their lives. They do, however, want to know that you understand their needs.

Offer some insights of your own

If you have ideas about where the industry is headed next or how you see it turning itself around, definitely share that stuff with the employer. Insights like that are going to show you’re a forward thinker who cares enough about the job to spend time thinking outside the box.

Rehearsing some of your questions and researching the industry won’t take all of the nervousness out of the job interview process. However, it can certainly take some of the edge off and help you appear more confident, prepared and insightful.

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