How to Research a Company Before an Interview
Preparing for a job interview should involve a lot more than prepping for the most common questions asked and deliberating over which outfit you should wear.
Hiring managers will expect you to have some knowledge about their company, and the more research you do, the better.
It’s easier than ever today to gather information about a company before an interview, so there’s no excuse showing up without at least a basic idea of what the company is about.
Conducting good research during your interview preparation will put you in a better position to ask thoughtful questions and show the hiring manager you’re enthusiastic about the job.
So where should you begin? Empire Resume has identified the top areas to research about a company before your big interview.
What Does the Company Do?
We shouldn’t even have to mention this one. But career experts say you’d be surprised how many candidates go into an interview without even knowing what the company does.
At the bare minimum, you should research what kinds of products or services the company offers, who its clients are, and what types of jobs they hire for. All this information can be found on the company’s website or through a simple Google search.
The hiring manager may ask you what you know about the company, and if you stammer over this question, it’ll be a red flag you’re unprepared and not serious about the opportunity.
Get a Sense of The Company’s Culture
Pay attention to how the company describes itself on its About Us website page, especially in how it talks about its mission and values. These descriptions are often dressed up in fancy and feel-good language, but it’s still a telling reflection of the company’s culture.
Empire Resume notes that many hiring managers look for candidates who would be the best cultural fit. Getting a sense of what the company’s culture is like is important during your interview preparation.
It’s also smart to reach out to a current or former employee there and ask what the company’s culture is like. The company can say all it wants on its website, but you’ll likely get more honest feedback from a rank-and-file employee.
Remember you’re evaluating the company during this part of your interview preparation. You may get the feeling the company’s culture isn’t a good fit for you, which is perfectly fine and will guide your decision-making process about the job.
This part of your research will be beneficial during the interview because it’ll allow you to come up with better questions to ask the hiring manager. If you think you’re a good fit, knowing the company’s culture will allow you to showcase that strength during the interview.
What Skillsets Are They Looking For?
Like we just mentioned, hiring managers will want to know if you’re a good cultural fit. They’ll also want to know if you have the right skills and experience.
Knowing what skills and background the company looks for in the jobs they fill will allow you to position yourself as the best candidate.
Empire Resume advises to read the job description carefully and look at other information on their career page, such as the typical jobs they hire for. Notice the traits, skills, and words that seem to come up again and again in the job descriptions, and you’ll get a feel for the type of employee they’re looking for.
Where the Company’s Been & Where It’s Going
It’s helpful to know about the company’s history if you hadn’t heard about it before the interview. A lot of this information can be found on the company’s website but be sure to expand your search.
Empire Resume recommends searching the company on Google to discover how it started and how it has evolved over the years. See if you can find interviews with executives or news about things like mergers, layoffs, or product changes.
Along the same lines, look for more recent news about the company. All this research won’t just help you impress the hiring manager, but also let you know if you want to work there.
Know Your Potential Leaders & Co-Workers
It’s important to know who the leaders of the company are before the interview. Check out the company’s website and read up about the CEO and other senior-level executives.
The CEO and other leaders are the ones who set the tone for the company’s culture. Having some background on them will show the interviewer you’ve done your research.
You should also get background on other people who work there, including potential co-workers, bosses, and the person who will be interviewing you.
Empire Resume advises going on LinkedIn to find these employees and look over their profiles. It’s smart to look for people who work in your potential department and consider the similarities between them. You may be able to spot patterns in the type of people who work there, which can help you determine whether you’re a good fit.
Knowing a bit about the person that’ll be interviewing you is also wise. It may help you prepare for the types of questions he or she will ask you.
Check out the hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile and see if you have anything in common with him or her. Knowing this information may help you build a rapport with the manager during the interview.
If it feels weird doing research about the person, remember the interviewer has probably done the same research on you.
Who Are the Company’s Main Competitors?
There’s a good chance the interviewer will ask you the common interview question, “Who do you think our main competitors are?”
Giving a knowledgeable reply to this question will impress the hiring manager, so make sure you do some research about the company’s industry and its competition.
During your interview preparation, Empire Resume advises identifying a few key similarities and differences the company has with its competitors. Then don’t be afraid to show off that knowledge during the interview.
If you can identify industry best practices and knowledge of the company’s field, it’ll show the interviewer how prepared you are, how serious and enthusiastic you are about the job, and the value you can bring to their team.
Check the Company’s Social Media Presence
As we mentioned before, the interviewer will undoubtedly do online research on you, including checking your social media profiles. It only makes sense then to also check the company’s social media profiles.
LinkedIn is a good place to see what kinds of news the company wants people to know about. You can also use these news updates to formulate questions for the interview.
Check the company’s Twitter and Facebook pages, too, and pay attention to the tone of the posts. See if the posts are more professional or casual and whether the profiles are non-stop promotion or if they interact with other users.
You may also be able to spot red flags on the company’s social media profiles. For example, if the profiles are sporadically updated and not professionally managed, it’s usually not a good sign. Also, keep an eye out for customer complaints.
Get the Behind-The-Scenes Details
You’ll learn a bit about the company and its culture from its website and social media profiles. But you’ll also want to check for information that hasn’t been polished by a public relations professional.
Glassdoor is a good site that provides information on companies, such as reviews by current and former employees, openings for jobs, salary and benefits information, and even information about the interview process.
Empire Resume recommends taking the company reviews on Glassdoor and other sites with a grain of salt, though. Many times, employees will only leave a review if they’re upset about something. However, if there’s a definite pattern of negative reviews, that’s a big red flag.
Like other parts of the research we’ve mentioned, you won’t necessarily be able to use this information during the interview. But knowing these behind-the-scenes details will leave you more informed about the company beyond what they tell you.
What’s the Company’s Financial Health?
Knowing the company’s financial wellbeing is another bit of research that’s good to obtain, even if it won’t necessarily come up during the interview.
If the company is publicly traded, it’ll be easy to find financial information about it on websites such as Yahoo! Finance or Edgar Online. Many large, publicly-traded companies also have Investor Relations pages on their websites. If the company is small and not publicly traded, you’ll have to do a little more digging online to find financial information about it.
What you discover is valuable intel, so don’t skip over this part of the interview preparation. It makes sense that you’d want to work for a company with a bright future, instead of one that’s been struggling financially and has just cut jobs.
You shouldn’t grill the interviewer with questions about the company’s finances, of course. But knowing about the financial health of the company will provide useful context during the interview.
How to Use Your Research Knowledge
After spending time on all that research, you may be wondering, “Now what should I do with this information?”
The more research you do, the more you can approach the interview with confidence. But remember to use what you learned strategically and not just spout off facts in long-winded answers.
The goal is to take what you learned and connect it with how you fit well into the job, the company, and its vision for the future.
Remember that some information you found may be outdated, so don’t act like a know-it-all. And if you found any sensitive information, it’s wise not to bring that up in the interview.
The hiring manager will most likely ask you, “So why do you want to work here?” After doing extensive research, you’ll be in a much better position to answer that question.
Finally, remember you’re interviewing the company as much as they’re interviewing you. Doing good research is one step in the interview process that’ll help you make a more informed decision about whether you want to work at the company.
Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.