What to Look for When You Research a Company Before an Interview
Most people are at least a little nervous when they sit down for a job interview. Even if you’re fully confident in your abilities and your fit for the position, there’s no guarantee you’ll click with the interviewers and land the job.
One way to ease interview anxiety is to prepare well before you walk through the door. And a key part of that preparation is to research a company you’re interviewing with beforehand.
Here’s how to research a company before an interview:
What, exactly, does the company do?
This seems obvious, but recruiters will tell you that people sometimes show up for interviews with almost no knowledge about what a company does—or, sometimes, the company’s name. Check out the business website and look through pages about products and services offered.
What are the other basics of the business?
While you’re on the website, gather details about how many employees the company has and where its primary offices are located. Read the corporate history, especially noting mergers or product changes over the years. These details may not come up during the interview, but they will provide good context for the rest of your research.
Who’s running the show?
Take a look at the official bios for the company’s executives on the corporate website. Then do a web search for other information about them. If you know who is going to interview you, pay special attention to their backgrounds. Consider opportunities you may have to talk about common education or experiences.
What’s the company’s mission and/or vision statement?
You can usually find this information on the “About Us” page of the company’s website. Not all mission statements provide insight into an organization’s goals, but if you’re fortunate, the company you’re researching will have a good one. By studying it, you can prepare to talk about how your skills fit within the company’s vision.
What is the corporate culture like?
Company culture often goes hand-in-hand with the mission or vision statements, but it can also go beyond that. For example, if you’re interested in remote or flexible work, look for clues about the organization’s attitude toward flexibility. If you can give examples during your interview that show you will be a good cultural match, it could give you an advantage over other candidates.
Is the company “in the news”?
Do a web search on the company’s name and check out recent articles from newspapers or the business press. If it’s a smaller company, or a startup that hasn’t made the news yet, look for press releases on the corporate website. This will help you get a feel for how the business presents itself to the outside world, which could help guide your conversation with managers.
How are the organization’s finances?
Look for an “investor relations” page on the company website. If its stock is publicly traded, listen to the recorded earnings calls for the last few quarters and check out published financial statements. If it’s not listed on a stock exchange, or doesn’t have a page for investors, you may need to dig a little deeper. Again, the Internet can be your friend here. You’re not going to grill your interviewers about the company’s finances, but knowing its financial situation may provide useful context for the questions you face.
Who are the company’s competitors?
Researching this will give you a better feel for the challenges the business is facing and how it differentiates itself from the competition. As noted in an article from LiveCareer, “Being educated in how a company is doing things differently is a great point of emphasis in your interview, particularly if the interviewer asks you what attracted you to the company. Studying up on this little detail will help prepare you with an educated answer.”
What is the organization’s social media profile?
An article in The Muse points out that, prior to your interview, someone at the company will probably check out your social media accounts. You should return the favor, starting with a look at corporate blogs and the LinkedIn page for the business to check out its community interaction. “Lastly, check out the company’s Twitter and Facebook profiles,” The Muse recommends. “Is the tone professional or casual? Is it nonstop promotion with zero interaction? Is the team responsive to complaints? Tuck away positive news and examples you encounter during your research to use in the interview.”
As you dig up answers to these questions, also think about how you’re going to use them. You shouldn’t go into the interview planning to tell the company’s executives about missteps they’ve made, based on your analysis. Rather, focus on how your strengths and skills will help the company grow and prosper.
With this background, you can approach an interview with the confidence that, regardless of the outcome, you did all you could to put yourself in the best possible position to succeed.
Looking for more interview tips? Browse our job interviewing tips category.
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