You snagged the interview. Congratulations! Now what? Don’t head into it unprepared. One of the best ways to get ready for an interview is to do your research about the company. Nearly half of all employers lean on Google or other search engines to dig up digital dirt on the candidates they’re interviewing. It’s only fair you do some digging, too.
For a great leg-up take these five steps:
- Check out the website. While this step may be obvious, many job seekers are confused about what exactly it is they’re looking for on the company’s site. First, be sure to uncover clues about the company’s mission, values and culture. Then, take a look at their latest news and blog posts. Understand the history of the company as well as the leadership, including where the person interviewing you fits into the organizational structure.
- Get into the numbers. Dive deeper into the company’s website for clues (like annual reports) on the financial health of the company. For a third-party perspective on how the company operates—including its financials and competitors—look it up on Hoover’s directory. If it’s a nonprofit, search for it on Charity Navigator, which scores nonprofit organizations on such factors as financial responsibility, accountability and transparency.
- Check review sites…but don’t get distracted. Sites like Glassdoor and Yelp can be great tools, but remember to use the information wisely. A happy “customer” will tell three people about their experience, but an unhappy “customer” will tell far more. The same holds true for former (and sometimes current) employees. Be prepared to see a few rotten eggs. You want to see a preponderance of good reviews. Perhaps more telling is how the company responds to negative reviews and criticism on these review sites, and in social media interactions as well. See if you can find out information about benefits, perks and other offerings that may make the company a desirable work place. Glassdoor also has an interview review tab for each company. You may find interview questions specific to your interview.
- Ask friends of friends. This is where LinkedIn comes in handy. If you’ve been keeping up with your connections on LinkedIn, you may be able to find at least one connection in common with someone at the company in which you’re interviewing. Simply type the employer’s name into the search category. The employees who have shared connections with you will appear first. Clicking on “shared connections” will show you who—in your own network—may be able to provide you an introduction. Your objective is to simply find out what it’s like to work at the company and if the employee has any tips for you as you navigate the hiring process. You can often get great information about hiring managers from LinkedIn, too, like where they went to school and what companies they worked at previously. Also, be sure to look at the recommendations for each hiring manager. Using these tools may help you find commonalties with the hiring manager and others at the company.
- Study up. Be well informed about the interviewing process and research common interview questions so that you will be prepared. Knowing how to answer good behavioral interview questions is one of the best ways to prepare for an interview. Behavioral interviewing is a method that employers use to find out about specific past behavior and how it may relate to their job. Here are some great questions to get you prepared.
Once you’ve completed your research, what do you do with the information?
This next step can surprisingly make or break your interview. As Careercast points out, “If you want to point to research you’ve done, say something like ‘I saw this and I love it.’ But, you don’t ever want to say ‘I would do this differently.’” Instead, keep the information close to your chest. Use it to frame your interview answers and to find commonalities that might help you be remembered. If you do uncover information that warrants discussion, save it for the appropriate stage in the interview process—most likely near the end.
Now we’d love to know: Have you ever done your research before an interview and found out something that either changed your opinion of the company, or gave you an advantage during the hiring process? Share your stories with us!
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