You hear it all the time from career experts: "Research the company before you go into a job interview." But what does that mean, exactly? This post will provide some tips on using the Internet and tapping your network to gain information and insight that'll improve your interview answers and help you ask the right questions.
Step 1: Research the Career Field
As a newbie it is vital that you thoroughly research the company's career field and current industry research. Knowing the most you can about the companies career field helps you compensate for lack of actual or extensive job experience.
- How does this industry work--what do the organizations do, how do they make their money (or, in the case of nonprofits and government agencies, how and whom do they serve)?
- What are the skills, personal qualities, education and career paths that successful professionals in this industry share?
- What are the significant trends in this industry? Read relevant trade journals and websites: Professionals in many industries rely on journals and/or websites that provide current news and information on trends within the industry (e.g. in education it's Education Week; in advertising, it's AdWeek).
Step 2: Research The Company
Performing research about a company shows interviewers that you are genuinely interested in the opportunity they’re offering. Most people like where they work, and if you seem enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their organization, they’re probably going to be more inclined to like the idea of you working there.
- Know the Company's Mission: Your prospective employer's Web site is a’s a treasure trove of information. Look for its mission statement: something that outlines the company's values (perhaps on an About Us or similar page). Consider how the position you want relates to that mission and think about how your experience and background have prepared you to support the company’s goals.
- Research recent Company achievements and rewards: While you're at the company's site, look for a Press Room or Company News page that links to recent news releases. (Or simply search the Web for news about the company.)
- Research your Interviewers: If the company site has a search tool, use it to search for the names of the people you'll be meeting. You may find bio pages or press releases that give you insight into their activities at the company. Then look to LinkedIn or do a general Google search to get some more background information about them. You might find some common ground you can bring up in conversation, or a recent professional achievement for which you can talk about or pay a compliment.
- Know the Company's competitors and what makes the company different from their competitors: Get to know your target company’s competition and what they are doing. Wouldn't it be impressive to a prospective employer if you were able to give them a heads up on what their competition was doing? Even more impressive would be if you told the target company why you want to work for them over their competitor!
- The Company's clients: Knowing and discussing the Company's clients is touching on something the interviewers are passionate about because a company's clients is who they do work for everyday. Knowing this shows diligence and shows that you took the time to go above and beyond in your research.
- Company Blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts: Many companies have corporate pages on Twitter, Facebook and Blogging platforms that announce their latest news and happenings. Social media is really useful to follow conversations about job opportunities, new products and the overall culture of companies.
- Look up the Company on Glassdoor.com: This site describes itself as an anonymous workplace community that gives a free inside look at over 200,000 companies including salaries, employee reviews and interview questions. It's helpful in researching companies because the reviews are by actual employees and they give both pros and cons of that company. You can also identify salary expectations and prepare for interviews by seeing actual interview questions that other job candidates were asked.
This all might sound like an unpaid consulting project or business school assignment, but I guarantee it's worth your while. Doing your research will make the difference between the “We’ll call you”, and the “When can you start?” that much smaller!