Why Research the Company
Preparing for a job interview is hard work. Reviewing your STAR stories, confirming your Key Selling Points, customizing your resume to meet the job, and thoroughly assessing each of the job posting requirements are all part of the prep work needed to pull off a great interview.
In addition to all of these, there is one more vital pre-interview activity you must undertake and that is to Research the Company.
What you learn about the organization and how you use this information will greatly enhance your understanding of where you might end up working in the near future.
- Will you learn enough to impress the interviewer with your knowledge?
- Will you be able to ask questions that show how well prepared you are for the interview?
- Will the company be a good fit for you?
- Do you know enough about it going in to be comfortable that this may well be the next stop on your career path?
Mr. Simon wants you to know that not every item in the following guidelines will be a factor that you have to take into consideration.
You may certainly pick and choose which ones are the most relevant to you and to your job search. Just be confident we are offering the best information to prep you for your job interview experience, so let’s get started.
The company’s website may be the single most data-rich source to start your research. Most individual company websites will contain some, if not all of the items detailed below. The material provided on these websites will enable you to go into an interview armed with important information about the company, allowing you to ask important questions and provide you with useful conversation starters.
Mission Statement – Companies include mission statements on their websites to clearly demonstrate what is important to the organization. They succinctly tell the reader what the company is all about, usually covering in a brief paragraph that gives the what, the why and the how as it carries out its mission. Check out the mission statement.
Does it reflect your own ideas of a place you would want to work?
Company History – Knowing a bit of history of an organization should help you understand its background, growth, and current status. Like the mission statement, the history of the company may give you the insight into what kind of company it is, and may also help to answer the questions:
- Where did it start, what are its origins?
- Do I want to work here?
Products and Services – If you have applied for a position with the company, it is really a good idea to know all about its products and services.
- What types of projects and services does the company offer?
- Do they make something that you can easily get behind?
- Does it provide services that you believe in and understand?
Knowing all of this going into an interview will enable you to speak with understanding and authority.
You will find more details on how to experience these products and services if you continue reading this article.
Clients – It might be helpful to check them out and show the interviewer that you are knowledgeable and ready to work with them.
- Who does the company serve?
- Are you familiar with the names of the organization’s major customers?
Locations – You probably know where the job is located from the job posting, but you should become familiar with its other locations. Company travel and possible relocation may be a future part of the job, and you should know where you might someday be going.
So, where are the company’s major locations?
Company Size – The size of a company may not necessarily be important to you, but it does reflect its power and reach in the community and beyond, up to its place in the world at large. A smaller organization might be the best fit, or you may wish to work for a large, international firm. Knowing its size going in can be very helpful.
Job Postings – Websites often show current job postings – take a close look at the postings and job descriptions as they will often reflect the kind of employee the company is looking for.
If you see multiple vacancies on the website, it can mean active hiring in the company caused, for example, by opening a new office, location, or implementation of major Digital Transformation Initiatives.
Do you think you will fit in based on what you see there?
Corporate Working Philosophy – Stories, blogs, and other information on its website might show you whether the company is driven, laid back, or displays some other work philosophy.
- Does the way the company works matter to you?
- Can you fit in with their methods?
Core Values – Many companies post their core values right on their websites. These help to explain what the company finds to be the most important approaches to doing its work and ensuring that it continues to move forward in its mission.
You may see terms such as “Think Big” and "Live True” on AT & T’s website and the words “innovation, responsibility, teamwork and continuous improvement” on the General Motors site.
- Do the company’s core values sync up with yours, does their thinking meet your expectations?
- Will you be able to show the hiring manager that these values correspond with your own?
Charitable Interests and Social Responsibility – Just about every company contributes to charities and non-profits in ways that help the communities in which they are located, and beyond.
As noted in this Giving USA post, donations by U.S. corporations are estimated to have increased by 13.4% in 2019, totaling $21.09 billion. In addition, employees of the companies contributed many 1,000s of hours of volunteer time to charitable organizations.
Does the company you are applying to detail its giving and its social responsibility on its website?
These topics could be a springboard for more conversation with the hiring manager.
Bios of Company Leaders – Bios are often found on the “About Us” page where you may learn who the leadership is for the company you are applying to. It gives you the advantage to be familiar with the names and backgrounds of the leaders.
The hiring manager cannot help but be impressed that you know the names of key individuals and especially if you are knowledgeable about the senior executive who runs his/her own department.
In addition, you may find out that someone you know personally or professionally is a member of the management team and might be able to use this information to your advantage prior to the interview.
Reach out to that person either through LinkedIn or by email (if their email address is available through the company’s website).
Remind them of your connection to them and let them know that you are seeking a position within their company. Be sure to tell them which department you are applying to and the name of the hiring manager.
Press Releases and Other Company News – Many company sites have current news stories about the business that are a great source of information about where you might be working someday.
Scan the “News” menu to find out about the latest mergers and acquisitions, new and/or retired products, newly opened markets and other business items that could provide you with some good talking points during your interview.
Finances/Annual Reports – The financial and/or annual report page (often found on the “Investor Relations” page of publicly traded organizations) should have references to this type of information, in addition to the company news pages.
- How is the company doing?
- Is it strong financially?
- What are the plans and prospects?
This information not only gives you some insight into how the company is doing but also may provide you useful talking points when you meet with the hiring manager.
Blog Pages – Not all websites will have a blog page, but if they do, it could be a good source of information on what the company’s key contributors are thinking about the business, its goals, new ideas, its place in the world, etc. This is especially true for newer companies and start-ups where their philosophy of business is often spelled out.
LinkedIn is probably the second richest source of research information about the company you are interviewing with. It may also offer connections that will help you to move forward in the hiring process.
Company’s LinkedIn Profile – There is a great deal of information about the company in its "Profile". Although much of it is similar to what is on the website, you may find it to be more focused and sometimes it provides other insights into its culture, direction, hiring preferences, etc.
Many company profiles also have features about their employees and what they are doing at work and in their communities that may prove helpful in gathering information about the company.
LinkedIn Identifies Possible Connections – LinkedIn is an excellent source for connecting with people who you can speak to about the organization.
Do you know someone who works at your target company or can introduce you to the right person at that company?
Search for their name right in the app to make the connection. You might also put the company name in the search and discover that you have 1st, 2nd or 3rd connections that work there.
Once identified, do not hesitate to reach out. Let them know about your upcoming job interview and ask for information about the hiring manager and helpful insights into the company and its operations. There are several crucial points to be aware of when reaching out to these people:
- It’s best to reach out to those people you actually know. If you’ve worked with them in the past, served on a committee together, spent time at a conference, and got to know them fairly well, they would be good connections.
- You may have received and accepted an invitation from a complete stranger to join your network. Although you will not be able to ask them for an endorsement (since you really don’t know each other), if they are connected with your target company or perhaps know someone that is, they may be able to provide you with information about the company that you can use.
- Any 2nd or even 3rd connections that you identify are best reached through your 1st one. Ask them to introduce you to these connections. In that way, you are seen as a credible person and not just someone dropping in on them out of the blue.
College Alumni – The company profile page indicates if any of your fellow college alumni work for the company, and a click of the mouse will reveal their names and profiles. Perhaps you know one or more of them.
Reaching out to an alum may give you an insider’s perspective on the job. They may even know the person you will be interviewing with and be willing to share some insights about them.
Potential Interviewer/Interviewers – If you know the name of the person who will be interviewing you, LinkedIn might be able to provide useful information on them (work background, interests, hobbies, etc.) that you can call on during the interview. If you are facing multiple interviewers, this feature may also be very helpful.
Reaching Out to Connections
Just who are your connections?
After LinkedIn, they are the people in your network, everyone from current and former coworkers, casual acquaintances, members of networking groups, neighbors, friends, relatives, and so on. When you are seeking a new position, your contacts may well be one of the most valuable assets.
Identifying those people who are the right connections for your situation at the moment might be a challenge, but don’t worry, keep reading to see how!
These folks may know someone or be able to put you in touch with right people at your target company. These things really do happen, so be ready to take advantage of a situation where a conversation with any one of these connections might lead to a job opportunity.
You may also want to reach out to networking groups such as Friends of Mr. Simon Meetup Group. Members of the Group may have direct knowledge about the company or may know someone who works for the organization you are interested in learning about. In our meetings we learn how to analyze job descriptions, especially those things that may not be so obvious or are hidden between the lines. Learning how to present yourself and crafting your message to your target employer is an important part of what we do.
OK, you’ve found some possible connections, now what?
If you know those people quite well, and they are familiar with your work and abilities, don’t hesitate to ask them for help. They may actually know the hiring manager and be able to endorse your candidacy, or at least provide some influence on your behalf.
If they are a casual acquaintance, they might be able to provide insight into the company or, hopefully, connect you with someone you can speak to about the organization. All of this is good for your candidacy.
Please keep in mind, however, not to expect too much from connections, and certainly, do not presume upon their friendship to help you get the job. They should help you to the extent that they are able, but do not push too hard. You don’t want your request for their help to backfire.
Although LinkedIn is probably the premier social media site for business issues, don’t forget that other social media will undoubtedly contain great information and insight into your company. Whether social media comes from inside or outside the organization, you will find it helpful in your research.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – Many companies maintain accounts on these sites. Check what is currently being featured and/or discussed on your company’s social media accounts before your interview. These are also good places to find out more about the company’s mission and culture.
In addition, you might find responses to company posts by customers as well as employees (both positive and negative) that will provide you with additional information about how the company operates and its attitude towards customer service and employee relations.
Business Review Websites – Such as Yelp, Better Business Bureau, Expresit and Foursquare – show what the company is thought of on the internet – both good and bad.
Many organizations like to post reviews (especially positive ones) on their own internet page. These other forums offer independent (and sometimes scathing) responses to company products and services. Although they should be read with a certain amount of skepticism, they do provide you with another perspective on the company with which you will be interviewing.
Salary Information – Check out Glassdoor, Indeed, Salary.com, etc. to research what the company is paying along with industry rate comparisons. Armed with this information will put you in a better position when salary discussions and negotiations take place.
Online Reviews – Glassdoor, Indeed, Vault and other websites should be checked for employee comments (both good and bad) about the company you will be interviewing with. Their reviews might give you an insight into company practices that would be helpful going into an interview.
Employees on Social Media – Find out what they post and what they like. This will give you a better idea of company culture than company-generated social media. It can also give you an idea about the culture of the team you're joining. You could get an idea of what you're going to take on as a challenge.
“Google” the Company
Apart from the company’s own website, a Google search of the company’s name may provide information (good or bad) that you should know about.
Both Google and Google News are valuable sources for knowledge about the company’s plans and how they might affect you and your candidacy.
You may discover that they plan to close their plant in Arizona, and you were thinking of possibly relocating there someday. Or they just bought a new boutique marketing company in Manhattan that will bring in several important new clients, one of which you are already very familiar with.
The kind of information available from these sources may go beyond that published on the company’s website and could help you during the interview process.
The individuals who you interview with will vary depending on the position, number of candidates, physical locations and other factors. In general, you should expect to deal with a recruiter, a hiring manager and possibly a team of 2 or more other interviewers based on company hiring standards.
Let’s look at the recruiter and the hiring manager for the purposes of this article.
Recruiter – The first person you will probably speak with is the recruiter. In addition to being prepared to respond to the usual questions, there are two things you need to ask the recruiter for:
- the name of the hiring manager or the next person that you will be interviewing with
- any helpful information or materials about the company they would recommend you read (e.g. books, articles, brochures, etc.) prior to your next interview.
Explain that you would like to be well prepared with a full understanding of how the organization works.
Hiring Manager – Once you have the name of the hiring manager from the recruiter, you should review their social media activity to give you a good idea of the topics to talk about during the interview.
Knowing the hiring manager’s interests (especially outside of business) will help to break the ice and make the interview more like a conversation which should be one of your goals for the interview.
For example, you have learned that the hiring manager coaches his son’s little league baseball team. Since you’ve coached your niece’s softball team, you have an outside interest in common that will create a favorable atmosphere at the interview.
The Industry and the Competitors
Knowing as much as possible about the industry the company is part of is vital to your research. Just as important is your knowledge of the company’s principal competitors.
If, for example, the position is with a telecom company like Comcast and you are new to this sector, it would be essential for you to learn the key factors, trends and innovations in this industry before the interview. In the same way, you should study the company’s competitors to see what they are doing and where they expect to be in the next several years.
Knowing the industry and the competition will greatly enhance your standing in the eyes of the hiring manager.
Experience the Company Before the Interview
Is the job that you are interviewing for part of the consumer product industry, online or in-person retail services, or other forms of consumer services?
Many job openings are in these areas of the marketplace.
Mr. Simon recommends that if you are a candidate in one of these fields, and if it is possible, you should adopt the company’s product offering, visit one of their stores, or otherwise attempt to interact in a way that will allow you to observe firsthand how things operate and/or what state the product is in.
You can stop by a Macy’s to see how employees interact with customers; take a ride in an Uber and ask the driver a few questions about his experience working for the company; purchase and test out a product made by your prospective employer. This approach may give you an excellent insight into what the company is offering, and if it meets with your expectations.
Showing to the interviewer that you are enthusiastic about the company's products and services will play to your advantage.
If it is possible for you to have this type of experience, it will give you an edge when discussing the company and your role in it.
How to Leverage This Information in the Interview
As noted in Mr. Simon’s article on Interviewing the Interviewer, an essential part of your preparation is to be ready to ask the right kinds of questions, those that will help you determine if the company is a good match for you.
Some of your questions will have come directly from the research you do. Asking them makes you look both smart and well prepared, and in the eyes of the interviewer, these are excellent qualities to have.
The questions you ask, however, should not be those that you can answer for yourself through your own research. Don’t ask things that you should obviously know, going in.
Asking questions like “How many employees does the company have?” or “What is the company’s annual revenue?” might lead the hiring manager to wonder why you are asking about things you should probably know beforehand.
If you want to shine at the interview, you can practice answering the questions each company has. Luckily, Mr. Simon will help you with this.
For example, if you are applying to companies like Target or Walmart, you just need to click on the company list and choose the one you are interested in.
The same is with positions. Choose a position you are going to work at, and see questions hiring managers will ask you during your interview. Besides, you will have guidance on how to answer those questions.
If, by chance, you don’t find your required company or position in our lists, please, let us know, and we will gladly add it.
This article has shown you how to do thorough research and what to look for prior to the interview, thereby providing you with the kind of information that will help you ace it.
We would be glad to hear from you, whether you found this guide useful or have something to add to this topic. Feel free to join our Work Search Buddy Network where you can give us your feedback, share your experience and establish meaningful connections.
Let’s go pro together!
About the Author: Stuart Weiner has over 25 years of experience as a compliance officer and auditor, primarily in the healthcare field, and is currently the Principal of Integrated Compliance, a compliance consulting firm. He also serves as the registrar for the training committee at the Professional Service Group of Central New Jersey (PSGCNJ) – a U.S.-based organization that helps job seekers in their career transition.