Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of asking and answering certain questions before you even set foot in the interview room. If you really want to gain an edge over the competition, you’ll need to do some serious research on your potential employer – and that means doing more than just skimming the company’s website.

The best kind of background research you, as a candidate, can conduct on a potential employer involves seeking answers to a highly targeted set of exploratory questions. The answers to these questions should provide crucial insights that can guide you in your interview preparation and help boost your performance during the interview itself.

In my previous piece, I offered four examples of questions you might want to ask before you head into your next interview. In today’s piece, I offer four more:

1. Who Makes the Hiring Decision?

Knowing who makes the decision – and how the decision is made – is crucial. This knowledge allows you to set your sights on the most influential person in the hiring process and tailor your efforts to them.

For example, if you learn that the decision-maker favors a certain business philosophy, you can weave that philosophy into your interview. This will make you appear much more attractive to the decision-maker.

How can you find out who makes the hiring decision? Talk to your recruiter or contact someone from the company who would know the answer, like an HR rep or a current employee.

2. What Is the Company’s Business Model and Commercial Strategy?

If you really want to understand a company, you need to know more than just what products the company sells.

When the interviewer asks, “What do you know about the company,” you need to show that you understand what makes the company tick. To that end you need to research:

- the company’s business model;

- the company’s typical customers;

- what differentiates the company from its competitors;

- where the company fits in the market landscape;

- and the company’s commercial strategy.

DecorateIf you walk into the interview with a detailed knowledge of the business, you’ll be able to more easily wow the interviewers. For example, say you know that the company is launching a new product in six months. When you are talking about your skills, you can describe how they might be applied to the launch of this new product. This is a great way to get the interviewer to visualize you in the role, which is the first step toward being offered the job.

3. Is There Any Way I Can Save Money or Increase Revenue for This Business?

To answer this question, you’ll need to see if you can find any weaknesses in the company’s existing approach or any opportunities for the company to tweak its operations in some (feasible) way.

How might you save the company money or increase its revenue? Perhaps you are aware of a new technology the company could leverage or a new market for the company’s products.

It’s vital to identify any ways you can add value to the business – and to make sure you let the employer know about them when you head into the interview.

4. What Will It Take for Me to Be a ‘Plug and Play’ Candidate?

Do you think you will be able to hit the ground running in the new role? If not, why not? Find out what you need to do to reduce your time-to-productivity. Will you need to brush up on certain skills or take a certain course?

Employers usually have a pressing need for help, and that means they tend to prefer a candidate who can start being productive right off the bat. Take some time to research how you can slash your time-to-productivity in this new role and share this information with the interviewer.


As the old adage goes, “Knowledge is power.” Nowhere is this more true than in the interviewing process. The more you know about the company ahead of time, the better you’ll be at winning the interviewer over to your side. All you have to do is ask the right questions.

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