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The Importance of Researching a Company Before Your Interview

These days, the interview process generally includes a brief phone screen, in-person interview(s), and any job-related skills tests that may be required. The phone interview is an opportunity for the company to verify that applicants meet the basic requirements for the job opportunities they are looking to fill. General phone screenings typically include questions about an applicant’s work experience, basic information about the position to be filled, and perhaps a few questions about necessary knowledge, skills, abilities, or other attributes (KSAOs) needed to be successful in the role. If you’ve passed this screening, you’ll move to an in-person interview.

In my experience as a recruiter, I’ve seen a wide variety of candidate preparedness when it comes to the in-person interview. While it is certainly critical to prepare yourself for an interview in terms of your own interview responses, which is a topic we will cover in a later blog post, it is also very important to make sure you do appropriate research about a company before your interview. You may be thinking, well – the interview is about me, my skills, and my experience. While this may be true to some degree, the interview is really about you, how your skills fit the requirements of the role, and how your experience can benefit the organization.

Here’s an example of how lack of research can derail your interview:

One of my standard interview questions I ask in first round interviews is “What are your career objectives and how does this job opportunity align with your goals?” Generally, what I look for in a response is that the candidate has some kind of idea about what the want to do in the future and they can formulate a response to articulate how the job opportunity can help them get to where they want to go. A candidate once responded with a very detailed description of how they wanted to pursue global business and work for an organization working on a global scale. This candidate responded truthfully; however, the organization they were applying to work for focused only in the local area, so without any additional explanation, it seemed as if the candidate’s goals did not align with the company objectives. It is important to always be truthful in providing any responses given during the interview process, but had this candidate done any kind of research on the company they were interviewing for there is likely a way they could have provided additional information to connect the dots between the position and their long-term goals. Ultimately, the result was unsuccessful interview.

When preparing for an interview, in terms of researching the company, at the very least you should review the company website. Most company websites include information about the history of the company, their mission statement, products and services they offer, and other information that can give you an overview of what values are important to the organization. You may learn something unexpected about the organization, such as their community involvement, or other themes that can give you an idea about what the corporate culture is like and whether or not it fits with your work style.

You can also take a look at the company’s various social media platforms including, but not limited to, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. These are often platforms you may find links to media articles about successes in the company and reviews from current/former customers. These pages are often managed by the organization’s marketing department, so most of the content is controlled in terms of sharing mostly positive information, but they still provide helpful information to know before your interview. I will give you a word of advice – if you come across a negative article in your research it is best not to mention it in your interview. I’ve never been part of a successful interview that involved a candidate criticizing a business decision made by the company they were applying to work for.

You can also take LinkedIn a step further by using it to see if you already know anyone working for the company you are interviewing for. If you have a connection within the organization, you can use it as an opportunity to reach out prior to your interview to ask questions about the company, the interview process, and potentially get an existing employee to refer to you the hiring manager. It never hurts to have more people in your corner supporting you as a candidate! If you don’t already know anyone within the organization you can use LinkedIn as a tool to research who you might be meeting within the organization during your interview. What does their professional background look like? Did you go to the same school? Are you members of any of the same groups? You may be able to find connections between yourself and your interviewer that may help you establish rapport during the interview.

You can also look at reviews from websites like Glassdoor.com to find information such as salary ranges, reviews from current or former employees, and commonly asked interview questions. As with most sites that collect reviews, it is important to consider this information, but not necessarily take all information you find as fact. It is more common for people to leave anonymous reviews when they have negative opinions compared to when they have positive opinions. You may be able to see both positive and negative themes that could be present in the work environment, but again – its best to take this information with a grain of salt.

Now that you’ve done the research, how should you use it in the interview? Remember, the interview is more about showcasing how your skills and experience fit with the job opportunity available. The interview is NOT a test of your knowledge of the company for which you are interviewing. You can use the information you find in your research to shape your interview responses to support how you can help the company reach its strategic objectives. You can also utilize the research information in formulating your questions you choose to ask at the end of the interview. Doing this research allows you to show that you’ve taken the initiative to learn more about the company prior to the interview. An example might be sharing with the interviewer that you see the company is expanding their services into an area in which you are very passionate or that the company has been recognized by the industry or city for its work. At the end of the day, doing research can only expand your view of the company, the position you are interviewing to fill, and the ability to determine whether or not the opportunity is a good fit for your career goals.

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