How to Research an Employer Before an Interview
When it comes to job interviews, most of us get simultaneously nervous and excited about the opportunity. But you know the old saying—knowledge is power. And it’s never been truer than when it comes to preparing for a job interview.
Knowing about the company ahead of time gives you confidence, and that is an attractive quality to employers. Here are some tips to guide you as you research a potential employer before you walk into the interview.
What makes their company unique?
Knowing the answer to this is a great way to show your interviewer that you’ve done your research. Their website is a great place to start, because companies want their customers to know what makes them special and why they should do business with them. This is often called the unique selling proposition (USP), and it’s all about how a company differentiates their product or service from the many other offerings in their industry. A company’s USP can usually be found in their mission statement or list of company values, both of which are typically in the “About Us” section.
What are their basic product offerings and/or services?
Before your interview, thoroughly comb through their website—it’s never a good idea to ask your interviewer questions that could be answered by perusing the website. So, in addition to knowing their USP, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with basic information like their most popular products and services. The more you know about the company, the more you’ll be able to avoid any potentially embarrassing moments that could make you look clueless or disinterested in the position.
How is the company doing?
You’ll want to know things like company size, where headquarters is based, its history, and how they are doing financially. Glassdoor is an excellent resource for this. Many larger companies have quarterly earnings and annual reports that are available to the public. If it’s a nonprofit organization, you can find loads of financial information that they are required by law to disclose.
Obviously, you don’t need to commit every single detail to memory, but draw your own conclusions about where you think the company is headed in the future based on the facts you’re presented with—and then be able to articulate those thoughts to your interviewer. This will show that you’re already thinking of ways that will help them succeed as a business.
Are they active on social media?
In addition to studying their website, you should also check up on their social media activity. Find the company on LinkedIn and read the featured updates. LinkedIn is a great resource for determining the type of information they want people to know. (As a bonus, they will be able to see that you’ve viewed their profile, which shows that you did your research and are taking the upcoming interview seriously.)
In addition to LinkedIn, check their Twitter and Facebook pages, and note the tone (professional or casual?), the topics they post about, whether there’s any interaction from their followers, and how they deal with complaints or negative comments. Tuck away the information you glean to use as talking points during the interview process.
What’s unique about their industry?
Of course, you want to know all you can about the specific company you’re interviewing with, but you also want to familiarize yourself with the field in general. It’s impressive to potential employers when you can hold an intelligent conversation about the industry, their competitors, and where they fit in the grand scheme of things.
You can find competitors using LinkedIn; scroll down until you see the section called “Other Companies People Viewed.” This is usually a list of companies who provide the same or similar services. And when you’re researching competitors, you want to focus on big-picture things, not details about specific projects.
If possible, research the interviewer
If you know who is going to be interviewing you, it’s a good idea to look up their LinkedIn profile and find out more about their position at the company. Obviously, you should avoid saying anything specific in the interview that would come off as intrusive (such as any personal information), but knowing more about their role within the company as well as their job responsibilities can help you tailor your responses to address things that are important to them.
Learn what other candidates were asked
Another benefit of using Glassdoor to research an employer is that it often allows you to see what questions were asked of other candidates. You can also learn about the overall interview process and read the impressions that people had of the company and the whole experience. This could be valuable “insider information” that could help you find ways to stand out. You’ll be learning from other candidates’ mistakes, and you’ll have the opportunity to formulate answers to specific questions before the interview takes place.
If you’ve done your research ahead of time, you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll sound as a potential candidate. With an awesome resume and a few key points from your research in hand, you’re bound to perform much better. In the end, the main thing you want to remember is to just be yourself. It pays off. By pretending to be someone you’re not you could land a job that you never really cared about in the first place, making it a bad experience for both you and the people you work for. Be resourceful, be adaptable, be smart—and most of all, be you.
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