You may have heard the advice that it’s important to have some questions for the hiring manager when you’re interviewing for a job. It’s true that interviewers will expect you to be curious and interested in their organization, and they'll expect to show that by asking questions, but it’s also true that you should come to the interview with a good baseline of knowledge about the company.
Hopefully, you’ll learn a lot about the company during the interview—like whether the organization and the company culture are a good fit for you, for example. But during the interview is not the time to learn basic information about the company. You should know all that before you set foot in corporate HQ.
The good news is that it’s easier than ever before to learn about an employer before the job interview. Take some time, in advance, to learn as much as you can online. Then, tap into your real-world network to see who you know who can help give you an interview edge over the other candidates. Do your research, and you’ll make a much better impression on the hiring manager. Here are tips for researching companies before the interview.
Visit the Company Website
Start by visiting the company website. There, you can review the organization's mission statement and history, products and services, and management, as well as information about the company culture. The information is usually available in the "About Us" section of the site. If there's a Press section of the website, read through the featured links there.
Pay attention to themes that come up repeatedly on the site. As much as any stated corporate values, the words companies choose to describe themselves are telling. Do you want to work at a place where people are “driven to excellence,” or does that make you feel tired? Do you like the idea of working with people who consider their coworkers family, or do you need more distance between your job and your personal life? Of course, organizations use hyperbole when talking about themselves... but it’s often pretty telling hyperbole.
Browse Social Media
Next, check the company's social media accounts. Visit their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. This will give you a good sense of how the company wants its consumers to see it. Like or follow the company to get updates. You'll find some information you may not have found otherwise.
You may also uncover some red flags. If the organization doesn’t have a professionally managed social media presence, for example, or if it’s updated sporadically and inconsistently, they might not be totally in control of their public image.
LinkedIn company profiles are a good way to find, at a glance, more information on a company you're interested in. You'll be able to see your connections at the company, new hires, promotions, jobs posted, related companies, and company statistics. If you have connections at the company, consider reaching out to them. Not only can they put in a good word for you, but they may also share their perspective on the company and give you tips that will help you ace the interview.
Take a look at your interviewer's LinkedIn profile to get insight into their job and their background, as well. Look for any common links between you. Do you know the same people? Did you go to the same school? Are you part of the same groups, online or off? Those common links could help you establish rapport during the interview process.
Get an Interview Edge
You can find out what candidates for the positions you are interviewing for were asked and get advice on how tough the interview was. Use reviews to help get a sense of company culture. That said, take them with a grain of salt—employees are often most likely to leave reviews when they are unhappy. As you read reviews, look for repeated themes. The more mentions a given subject gets (whether it's praise for flexible hours or frustration with senior management) the more likely it is to be accurate.
Use Google and Google News
Search both Google and Google News for the company name. This can be invaluable. You may find out that the company is expanding into Asia, for instance, or recently received a round of start-up funding. Or, you may find out that a recent product underperformed or had to be recalled. This knowledge can help shape your responses to interview questions.
Tap Your Connections
Do you know someone who works at the company? Ask them if they can help.
Get to Know the Industry and Competitors
As well as researching the company, it makes sense to review the overall industry. If you're interviewing for a job at a mortgage company, for instance, it's helpful to be informed about current homeownership trends. Get to know the company's biggest competitors and identify their successes and flaws, too. Insight into the company's industry and rivals are bound to impress interviewers.
How to Use This Research During Interviews
During a job interview, interviewers ask questions to get to know candidates. But their main goal is to determine if a candidate will be a good fit for the position and company.
Your company research will make your responses to questions compelling and show that you'll be helpful to their goals and bottom line.
Plus, your knowledge will help you give a specific answer if you're asked why you'd like to work for the company. You can share details about things you find admirable about the company, its mission, or its culture.