How to Research a Company Before Your Interview
Interviews are tough. You need to impress the employer and prove to them that you are the perfect person for the job. If you want to really make yourself stand out from the crowd, you must research the company. Having a knowledge of the company, its policies, and its people shows a Hiring Manager that you are enthusiastic, thoughtful, and excited to work for them.
On the other hand, if a Hiring Manager realises that you haven’t even done basic research into the company then they will think that you don’t really care about the business in the way they want you to.
To Research or Not to Research
I’ll give you a hint: It’s always best to have something up your sleeve about the company before walking into the interview room.
If you want to really impress a Hiring Manager, you need to perform well in your interview. This means more than a smart outfit and a firm handshake. Don’t get me wrong, those things are still important. It’s just that your competition is going to be doing all that too. Go a step further and learn all you can about the company you’re applying for.
In many ways, the interview is like your resume. You can’t just say you have certain skills – you need to back those statements up! If you go into the interview saying you are a curious person or you are really excited to work for the company but you haven’t done even a basic search you will send mixed messages to the Hiring Manager. Show them that you can walk the walk and research the company. In fact, just doing this simple step is enough to make your application stand out to recruiters.
What exactly should I know?
Okay, so you’ve decided that you will do some research about a company you’re applying for. That’s great!
The trouble with researching a company is working out what you need to know and what you can learn later or ignore. If you’re applying for a big company there is probably more information available then you could ever read. If it’s a small company there might be very little or none. The trick is working out what to prioritise finding out.
When you start your research, it can seem like there is way too much information. Ex-CEOs, product lines, slogans… To help you focus try and find out some information about each of these key topics.
Know the Job
Imagine giving a long detailed answer to the question, “What makes you a good fit for the role?” only at the end to be told, “We don’t do that here…”
Well for one unfortunate job seeker – it really happened!
When you’re researching the company it’s really important that you look into what a person in that position is actually expected to do.
Obviously, the easiest way to do this is to read the position outline or description (if there is one). This can give you a fairly good idea of what you will be doing day-to-day. You can also try and find present or past workers in that position on LinkedIn to see what skills they used and where they went once they finished in that job.
Know the Company
Before you work with a company it’s a good idea to have a solid foundation of who the company is, what they want, and how they try and achieve those goals. If the company you’re applying for has a similar name to another one – make sure you know which one you’ll actually be working for.
Most companies are proud of what they do and the way they do it. Look for their mission statement that will neatly wrap up their plan for you in a few short phrases. One of the worst things you can do in an interview is apply and tell the Hiring Manager that you have no idea who they are.
Know the Future of the Company
Understanding the future of the company isn’t about being a fortune teller or obsessing over a company’s every move. Things that could affect you or your position in the future however are worth knowing.
Things like a company’s financial health are important. You don’t want to hitch your wagon to a company that is burning through money faster than it can earn it. That’s a quick way to find yourself back at square one without a job.
Other things that could be important include whether the company is expanding rapidly into new locations or are they established and stable? How many new workers have they got? If it seems like they are constantly turning over staff then maybe it’s because the management or policies are bad – either way RUN!
Maybe a larger company has been sniffing around and is looking to acquire the business. If that’s the case you could either find yourself in a great role with a larger company than you hoped or you could find your job taken overseas.
Try and find out as much as you can about a company and their direction they’re headed financially. Not only will it give you peace of mind, it will confirm that you are making the right decision in joining them.
Know the Company’s Values
If you’re going to work for a company and spend a lot of your time there, it’s probably a good idea that you agree with their core values. Otherwise you might find yourself hating the people you work with and looking for any way out.
Values are important so companies like to wear them on their sleeve. The good news for you is that this makes them easy to find. Do they care about the same social issues as you do? Do they value flexible working arrangements for their staff?
If you can explain to a Hiring Manager how your values align with the company’s you may as well start signing the contract then and there. That stuff is interview dynamite.
Aligning social values isn’t just important for successful interviews though. If you work for a business that matches your social values closely, you will work more productively and feel happier at work. If those reasons can’t convince you of it’s importance then nothing will.
It is important to bear in mind that what is advertised may be different to the final product (i.e. they say they care about work life balance but then you find yourself working hours of overtime).
Know the Field
Knowing the company is good.
Knowing company’s primary industry and important rivals is great.
Every business has their rival companies and want to know they are being more innovative and engaging than their competitors. If you can show you know what developments are happening in their industry you are showing the Hiring Manager that you are already thinking about how you can a winning mentality to their business. You want the best for the company and are actively thinking about ways to improve your industry.
Not everything has to be about beating a competitor though. Maybe a breakthrough technology or a new sales technique has been gaining traction in the industry. Even something as simple as that can show you already thinking about ways to work better rather than harder. You want to show that you are excited to join the team and make an impact.
How to Research a Company Before Your Interview
Okay, so now you know what to research you’re stumped at how on Earth you are going to start finding the answers to those questions. The number one thing to remember is that company’s love blowing their own horn. If something newsworthy happens to them, you can pretty much bet that the company will talk about it.
Here are the sure-fire ways you can look for and find the information you will need to blow your Hiring Manager away.
The Company’s Website
A business will usually want people to know more about them. A combination of a company’s blog, news, and about pages should give you a great starting point for your research.
Pro Tip: Look for any awards they might have won recently or if they have celebrated any new workers starting with them recently
JobGetter Company Pages
JobGetter offers company pages. This can be a good source of information about businesses as well as showing you their hiring patterns. Simply follow the companies you’re interested in to stay up-to-date on their latest news.
Pro Tip: You can follow companies on JobGetter to make sure you never miss out on news about (or jobs posted from) your preferred companies.
Check their Socials
Businesses love social media because they is more freedom. Unlike websites which can be a bit formal, the laid back nature of social media means that companies can act and look more like the way they actually are. This is good because it can show you a little (or a lot) of the culture that exists.
Pro Tip: When you do your social media search don’t forget to check their LinkedIn. Not only will LinkedIn be the place that businesses talk about their business related success but you also might find out a bit about the Hiring Manager or other HR staff that could help your interview and application.
Google can be your friend if you’re looking for topical information. Obviously you’ll still want to make sure you check out their website and social media pages but Google should also tell you if the company has featured in any other news.
Anybody can write a good story about themselves but what do other people in their industry think? If there has been a good news article or they were featured in a list of best businesses feel free to mention it in the interview.
Pro Tip: Look for any mentions from places that don’t obviously have a reason to promote the company. Glowing reviews from a newspaper or mentions in a scholarly article? That could mean great things are in store for them (and you).
Networking isn’t just a great way to get into the hidden job market, it can actually be super helpful in working out a company’s culture and style. Even if you do excellent research across websites, news articles, and company viral videos – you still might not have the best idea of what it is really like once you clock in. Speaking to a friend who has worked there in the past or currently works there will allow you to have a better idea of your average day.
Pro Tip: If you don’t know anybody who works or has worked there, don’t be afraid to take your network to new heights. Reach out to people on LinkedIn or visit events where there will be an opportunity to meet workers from that business.
Are You Ready for an Interview? Test Your Research
Now that you’ve done your research you need to make sure you’re ready for an interview. Of course there is more to an interview than knowing a company’s background but this is a quick test to help you feel more confident before going it.
- Who is the CEO?
- Who is the Hiring Manager?
- Where are they based / how many locations do they have?
- How do they make money? (i.e. what products or services do they sell?)
- What industry are they in?
- How do they differ to their competitors?
If you can answer all of those questions, you’ve probably done enough research to feel comfortable going into your interview.
Don’t stop there though, make sure that you’ve practised tailoring your answers too!
Tailoring Your Response
While it’s likely that you will get a chance to show the Hiring Manager that you’ve done some research prior to the interview, it’s unlikely that they will simply ask you to recite everything you know about their company. The odds are that they will ask you a question that requires you to show you know something about the company AND tells them how you relate to that.
This synthesis of information is really educational for Hiring Managers. Almost anyone can read a fact and remember it at the right time. Remembering facts, selecting the important and relevant parts, and combining them with different information (e.g. how you interact with the company’s values) shows that you have a critical mind.
Employers want to know you have great soft skills. Being selective when talking about your research and tailoring your responses is one of the easiest and best ways to prove that you do.
Research the Company and Find the Best Fit for You
Researching a company isn’t just an exercise in pleasing a Hiring Manager. It can actually help you decide if this company is the best for you. You’ll get a much better idea of the type of place you’ll be working at. Do their values match yours? Have they been recognised in their industry for their innovation or the way they treat their employees? Are they expanding in the near future?
These changes could make a job seem much more enticing or they could show you that despite what the job ad says, this one might not be the right one for you. If you don’t do the research though you could find yourself in a job you hate and be forced to look again or worse – you could not give yourself the best chance to work for a great employer!
- Hints from HR: Mark Lulham, Manager – Talent Acquisition Australasia at Valiram
- Tips for Grads: Graduate Advice from EY with Melinda Woodlock
- 5 Things You Should Know Before Working with a Career Coach
- Hints from HR: Becci Drummond, HR & Business Operations Manager, Brand Chemistry
- Here’s How to Recharge with a Staycation