I’ll confess that my writing this page coincides with having recently filled a position for my company. I witnessed several mistakes that I’d recommend avoiding if you are trying to enter (or advance in) the profession.

To start, most of the candidates were really great and we were fortunate to have several high-quality candidates submit their resumes. And ultimately, we were able to bring on a high quality person to join our team!

Still, some candidates clearly had no research qualifications or their qualifications weren’t for the type of research we perform. And that brings me to my first point: know what position you are applying for.

In our process we ask candidates to describe their experience with primary research. This could be through professional experience, internships, undergrad classes, or even personal pursuits.

Most of our work is with quantitative primary research. So, if someone tells us about their experience in this space it helps us quickly assess their skills, not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of the specific part of the process they have seen.

A lot of people have some research experience from their undergrad work, even if it was just class projects. If that is all you have, then focus on that. If you’ve done work professionally, then highlight that work.

Here is the thing, we ask about primary research, other companies may ask about secondary research, some may ask about data analytics or even something more specific like predictive modeling, dashboards, or data visualization.

These aren’t random words, they have precise meaning and when you are asked for examples, by all means provide examples that fit. If we ask about primary research, don’t talk about secondary research. Understand the question and be sure to answer it correctly.

Some people claim to have conducted primary research in their personal lives. Which brings me to my second point: doing primary research outside of educational and professional settings is pretty rare. It isn’t unheard of, but it isn’t common.

But if you have done this type of research be sure to explain it. Maybe you created a VOC study for the your kids scout troop. Great, if you did it with the appropriate disciplines, then talk about it.

However, talking to your employees and making changes in your department doesn’t qualify as primary research. It’s a good idea, but it’s a stretch to call that research.

Research requires disciplined protocols, and if those protocols aren’t followed, then what you had was more likely classified as a conversation or reading an article.

Conversations are nice, but they aren’t research. If protocols aren’t followed, then you didn’t do research.

I’m not trying to be a jerk here, but our clients don’t hire us because we had a conversation, had an opinion, or read a few articles. Anyone can do that, and if that is what you are doing then great! But that isn’t research.

My third point should be obvious, but experience would indicate otherwise. The third point is this: don’t bullshit about your research experience. Look, right now my team and I are managing over 20 projects and we’ve been doing it for a long time. I have an entire career in research and quite a few accolades.

One of the most bombastic statements I read was from a person who had zero professional experience but claimed that they had “…done over 10,000 hours of research on my own for personal topics.” Another applicant stated “Trust me, I know how to do research.”

Now, those are big claims. I am naturally skeptical, and I’m very skeptical when I see bombastic statements. So, if you are going to make a statement like that you should be able to offer evidence to back it up.

The point is this, my team and I know research, we do it everyday – other employers know their profession too. If you want to be a part of any team, don’t bullshit your skills and abilities. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not.

Also realize that most employers don’t expect entry level employees to have a lot of experience. They are entry level, after all. So be honest about what you know, provide details and examples (examples and details are so important), and express an honest interest in the company, the work, and the position.

I tell prospective employees that failure is not in not getting the job, failure is getting a job and finding out your aren’t a fit for the work or that you hate the company.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *