I have been involved in interviews for a number of years now and there is one recurring question that continuously irks me:
“What does your company do?”
This is a very broad and open-ended question that poses a couple problems during the interview:
1. It makes the candidate appear lazy or naive.
In our web enabled world very few companies lack a web site. The majority of these sites will have at least the basic purpose of the business if not the entire overview and history. A little research will typically tell the visitor all they need to know about the business they are interested in and will more often than not give a potential hire enough information so that they can frame some specific questions that will make them appear studious and competent. When candidates do not take the time to research such a basic bullet point it makes the interviewers question whether the candidate is simply naive or if laziness is the underlying issue.
2. It wastes the time of all parties involved.
When I have to explain what my company does I am simply repeating what can be found, in detail, on the company website. This means that X minutes of the interview, that could better be spent on other topics, are wasted on discussion of details that the candidate should have already known. This lends a disservice mainly to the interviewee. They waste precious time for valid and detailed questions and they make themselves appear unprepared, lazy, or naive.
If you are going into an interview you should always know as much as possible about the company you are going to be speaking to. If you don’t know something, be specific and avoid broad “what do you guys do” type questions at all costs.