You’ve heard it over and over again: You need to do your research before an interview.
- When you do your research, you’re more prepared.
- When you’re more prepared, you’ll be more confident.
- When you’re more confident, you’ll do better.
The last thing you want to do is wing it in an interview. You’ll fail, especially if the interviewer is good at their job.
What, exactly, should you research before your interview? Here are four areas the interview will likely cover:
1. The Position
This should go without saying. Most of the questions an interviewer poses will address the position, so you’d better know your stuff.
The most obvious resource here is the job description. A well-written job description should provide valuable information like the skills and experience required for the position. Descriptions will often list these things in order of priority.
Go to the “Required Experience” section of the job description first. Note the list of skills and experience and the order of priority.
You can take your research on the position further by talking with someone who works in the company to which you’re applying. Ask if there are any additional requirements not listed in the job description. You may uncover key requirements that were not mentioned in the listing.
2. The Company
One of the top pet peeves of interviewers is when candidates do not know much about the company. Interviewers want to know you’ve taken the time to research the company, and they want to know you’re truly interested in working for the organization.
The very least you can do is visit the company website. Most company websites will feature an “About Us” page. Read this first. The site will also likely have a “Products” and/or “Services” page. Read these, too. If the company is global, it may list its locations and the functions each performs.
The problem with company websites, however, is that the content they feature is all marketing content, engineered to paint the organization in the most positive light possible. You’ll never get the whole truth about a company through its website, unless the company is publicly traded. In this case, the website will have annual reports that will reveal more objective information on financials, shareholder information, etc.
It’s a good idea to reach out to people you know in the company for more information about it, particularly the culture.
3. The Industry and Competition
Top candidates will know about the industry in which the company operates. This is information you can gather from labor market research websites, such as Glassdoor, Salary.com, and O*Net OnLine. You can always turn to Google, too.
With sites like these, you can gather information on occupations, salaries, the skills employers are looking for, and available positions in your area. Glassdoor is a particular favorite among job seekers, as it features employees’ reviews of their own employers.
You can also check out SpyFu to learn about how an employer advertises and its intended audience. Social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are also useful as well.
As mentioned earlier, public companies are required to share press releases and annual reports. Read the documents of your potential employer’s competitors. If you can cite your desired company’s competition’s statistics, you will impress the interviewer very much.
Once again, it’s important to reach out to people who work in the company to which you’re applying. They will probably have a good sense of who the relevant competitors are based on the department you’re targeting.
4. The Interviewers
Finally, you’ll want to research the people who will be interviewing you.
If you have the names of said people ahead of time, the best tool is LinkedIn. Even if you don’t know the names of the people who will interview you, you can use the site’s “Companies” feature to find people in various departments. For example, if you are applying for an accountant position, search the company using the keywords “accountant, manager.” You will see the company’s accountant managers.
Read through their profiles to see what you have in common with them. It could be that you attended the same school, you enjoy the same activities, you volunteered at similar organizations, or something else. During the interview, try to talk about what you learned about the interviewers when given the opportunity.
Not to sound like a broken record, but you really should reach out to someone you might know in the company to ask about the person or people who will be interviewing you. They may be able to give you great information about your interviewer’s likes and dislikes.
Researching the mentioned areas will put you an advantage over the other candidates. to show off your research, mention it explicitly. Begin sentences by saying, “While I was researching the competition, I learned …”.
Remember, when you’re prepared, you’ll do well in the interview.
Check out part four, where I discuss the importance of practicing for your interview.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.