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How to Research a Company for a Job Interview

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You put the time and effort into creating a tailored resume and cover letter. You submitted your application and waited patiently to hear back. Now, you’ve landed a job interview. Alright! 

It goes without saying that you want to A) make a good impression on the hiring manager and B) wind up with a job offer. This requires preparation, and one of the major steps in preparing for a job interview is researching your prospective employer. 

We’ll explain why this pre-interview step can make or break your chances of getting a job offer and share a list of things to do when researching a company to give you the best chance for success. 

Why research a company before a job interview?

A hiring manager wants to learn more about you and your skills to see if you’re the right fit for the job, so why should you spend time learning about the company? Well…

You might be asked directly about it

It’s very common for hiring managers to ask point-blank, ‘what do you know about the company?’ The last thing you want is to be sitting there with a blank look on your face or respond with some half-baked answer like ‘that you have an open job.’ Instead, show them that you’re invested enough in the position that you’ve taken the time to learn more about the place you’d be working. 

It’ll help you craft the best answers

Coming armed with intel about the company will help you phrase your answers in a way that’s most appealing and choose details that the hiring manager is likely to find most impressive. But shouldn’t I just be myself? Well, yes, but you’re also there with a motive in mind: to get a job. So you want to give yourself the best chance of carrying out that motive. 

You want to make sure you’ll be happy there

Employment is a two-way street. Just as the hiring manager is vetting you for your credentials as a candidate, you should be vetting the company for their selling points as an employer. If you’re going to be logging 40 hours a week at this place, you want to make sure it’s somewhere you’re likely to feel happy and fulfilled. Doing research ahead of time will help you spot potential red flags and things you want to learn more about during your interview. 

9 steps to research an organization prior to your interview

1. Visit the company website

You can learn so much from what a company puts on the world wide web. Most organizations have, at a minimum, an explanation of their products and services, and most also share a bit of company information like the mission statement or bios of the founders. Take a look at the home page as well as all of the main menu pages to learn as much firsthand information as you can, namely, more about their business operations and the driving force or vision behind their activities. 

One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that a company’s website is a carefully curated presentation of the image it wants to put forth. It may only tell one side of the story. That’s why it’s important to take the next step and…

2. Google the company

What is the rest of the world saying about the organization? For small companies, you may only find a few entries on Google, but large organizations may return dozens or even hundreds of results. These can contain rich information about public perceptions of the company, customer experiences with the brand, the company’s involvement with the community, and more. Since Google results come from third-party publishers, they’ll give you a more objective account than the company’s own website. 

3. Research recent company news

In addition to looking at the first one to two pages of Google results on the company, click the ‘News’ tab to see recent media articles that mention the organization. This will tell you about any major company developments, like new product releases, mergers, acquisitions, layoffs, and so on. These results can provide great material for the inevitable ‘do you have any questions for me?’ question that typically comes at the end of a job interview. 

4. Scroll the company’s social media accounts

Social media is great for getting a feel for a company’s “voice,” which can tell you some things about its culture. For example, do they use casual, personal language in their posts, or are they more formal? While the former might suggest a more laid-back culture, the latter might indicate a culture that’s more businesslike. 

Also, look at how frequently the company posts and interacts with followers. Their level of activity on social media can (sometimes, but not always) be indicative of the larger use of technology within the organization.

5. Look up your interviewer on LinkedIn

You probably wouldn’t show up to a first date without at least attempting to look the other person up online. So why would you go into an interview without knowing who you’re speaking with? 

First, confirm who your interviewer will be. This is a standard question to ask the person who contacted you to coordinate the interview. Then, look them up on LinkedIn. Their profile should give you a good idea of their position in the company and their job history, which are useful data points to use when formulating your interview answers and the questions you’ll ask. 

For example, if the person is the senior manager you’d be working under, they can answer more nuanced questions about the job than if you’re interviewing with someone from HR. 

6. …And the top executives

In addition to researching the person who will be interviewing you, look up the head of the company and your would-be department. Their profiles may shed light on the qualities they value when hiring. For example, if you see lots of words like creative, passion, innovation, drive, then you know it’s probably a good idea to speak with enthusiasm and talk about the creative ideas you can bring to the table.

You can also use LinkedIn to find the person who is leaving the position you’re interviewing for. Their past work history will help you understand what skills they used in the role. If they’ve already moved on from the company, their new position may help you understand whether they left for a better opportunity, changed careers, etc. 

7. Check Glassdoor

Glassdoor compiles reviews from real employees, which can be a gold mine of information when you’re deciding if you want to work somewhere. Users can give their employers a star rating and list the pros and cons of their jobs. These are useful for spotting patterns that may indicate red flags, like if a lot of reviewers rate the company poorly on work-life balance. 

In addition to employee reviews, for some companies, Glassdoor also has intel from candidates–both those who got jobs and those who did not–about their interview experience. These can give you a sneak peek into the interview process and help you prepare for any curve balls that might be thrown your way. 

8. Scope out the competition

Research who the company’s key competitors are, both in their local area and in the overall market. Try to understand how they compare and how they differ. Knowledge of the competitive landscape may be more useful for some positions than others, but can really impress a hiring manager if you’re able to speak about it with confidence. It’s especially important to prepare for if you’re interviewing for a leadership role. 

9. Read up on the industry 

Finally, use news sources, blogs, and trade publications to make sure you’re up to speed on what’s happening in the broader industry. What new techniques or tools are being developed? Is the traditional business model shifting, or staying the same? Is the industry on the upswing, or is it experiencing challenges? This is important context to have going into a job interview.

Interview questions to prepare for

Using the information you gleaned, think about how you might answer some of the most common company-related interview questions:

  • What do you know about [company]?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What part of our mission appeals to you?
  • Why do you think you’d be a good fit on our team?
  • Based on what you know about our company and our market, what could we improve on?
  • What questions do you have for me?