How to Research a Company for an Interview
Ready to enter the job market, change employers, or change careers altogether? Whether you’re looking to work in business, health care, human services, or education, it’s more important than ever to make sure the company you choose to work for is a good fit for the long haul. Especially in today’s uncertain economy, knowing how to prepare for a job interview, how to research a company for an interview, and how to ace a job interview can be the difference between landing your dream job and looking for another opportunity a year down the road.
How to Prepare for a Job Interview
Before you sit down with a prospective employer, you will want to prepare for the interview in a number of ways so that you are confident and professional in how you present yourself. Some of the key steps in that process include:
- Preparing for Potential Interview Questions – It’s important to research common questions that you might be asked, as well as unusual ones, and develop answers that are founded on honesty, relevant work experience, concrete examples, industry knowledge, and what you’ve learned from past mistakes and failures.
- Devising Your Own Questions – Whether you’re given the opportunity to ask questions or you naturally insert inquiries into your interview, be prepared to ask about topics such as specifics of the job, how you would further the company’s goals, details of company culture, or any red flags you may have identified through your research.
- Conducting a Mock Interview – Find a friend, provide them with sample questions, and practice being interviewed until you feel comfortable with the process. Mix up the questions each time, throw in some uncommon questions, and have some bullet points and anecdotes that can be interjected at various points as the interview dictates.
- Reviewing Your Career History - Identify some specific work examples that you can highlight during an interview, whether it be accomplishments, your leadership style, skills and strengths, or a difficult decision you had to make. Be honest and genuine and find a way to show positive growth from any negative situation.
- Doing a Self-Assessment – Do some soul searching to define your values and goals, both personal and professional, so you can genuinely and honestly answer questions about yourself in the interview and determine if the company is a good fit.
- Identifying Your Selling Points – You will set yourself apart for a role if you can find a niche - ways your skills can uniquely meet specific needs of the organization. Use these to sell yourself in an interview to stand out from other applicants.
- Researching the Company – Find out as much as you can about the company so that you are equipped with information for answering or asking questions and so you can reference details about the organization and the position throughout the interview.
Because this last step is so important, let’s dive a bit deeper into how to research a company for an interview.
How to Research a Company for an Interview
Any time you spend researching the company will pay dividends when you’re face-to-face with your interviewer because the information you gain will provide a trove of interview material. So, how do you go about conducting that research? There are some obvious and not-so-obvious places to look.
- Company Website - Learn everything you can about the organization’s mission and vision, facility, services, products, corporate culture, strategic goals, and staff. Evaluate how it markets itself to the public, i.e., as a family-owned business that prides itself on service, a power hitting Fortune 500 company, or a leader in the global marketplace. Then highlight the values and experience you share during the interview.
- Marketing Materials – Gain access to brochures, publications, product or service descriptions, advertisements, videos, blogs, etc., that will give you greater insight into what the company does and how it sells itself. These may be available through their website, by doing a search online, or by stopping by to request them.
- The Competition – Becoming familiar with the industry, especially if it is a new one for you, and the players within it is good knowledge to have in determining how the company stacks up within the field and how it is unique among its competitors. Having these factoids in your back pocket to use during an interview could serve you well.
- Financial Records – Reviewing the financial history of an organization will give you the best picture of its success, both past and current. If it is a non-profit, you can review its 990 form that is publicly available through the IRS website. For public organizations, you can look for quarterly and annual reports, as well as company reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
- Social Media – The vast majority of companies have a presence on social media. Scrolling through the organization’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and other platform posts can give you a lot of insight into how the company wants to be perceived, how professional it is, and any trends it demonstrates.
- Employee and Customer Reviews – Job posting websites often include a section for employees to review or rate a company. This can provide a greater understanding of the organization’s work environment. Keep in mind, however, that it is often disgruntled employees that comment in these sections, so the reviews may not paint the most accurate picture. Customer reviews can also be highly informative regarding how well the company achieves its mission.
- Personal Contacts – Because so many people find jobs through word of mouth, it’s possible that you know someone who either works for the company or can put you in touch with someone who does. If so, get permission to ask them some questions about the organization and their personal experience there.
- LinkedIn – Most companies have a LinkedIn profile. From it, you can learn things like who its consumers are, other companies it is connected with, job postings, new hires, articles written or shared, company statistics, and announcements. You can also search for and glean information about the hiring manager in preparation for the interview, as well as find people employed by the company to review their experiences.
- Press – Whether press releases the company has issued or coverage in the media, searching for any press the company has received can be invaluable in identifying public perception and pitfalls.
- Job Description – Carefully reviewing the company’s job posting or description will give you critical information for an interview regarding duties you will be expected to perform, knowledge and skills you should have, experience required, and even values the company holds. You can leverage these by demonstrating how you are uniquely qualified. And if you need to gain additional education or skills to get the job you want, Ottawa University offers 36 online degree programs to set you on the path for career success.
How to Ace a Job Interview
Now that you’ve done the hard part by preparing for the interview and doing your research, let’s go over a few tips regarding how to ace a job interview.
- Dress Professionally - For women, a nice business suit, dress, or slacks and blouse can suffice. A tasteful amount of jewelry is okay but limit the bling. For men, a nice suit and tie, or business slacks, shirt/tie can do the trick. You will also want to have your hair and beard well-groomed, nails attended to, and make sure you are protected against unwanted perspiration without being overly perfumed.
- Arrive Early with Needed Documents – Give yourself plenty of time to find the location and park. Arriving in the reception area 5-10 minutes early is considered appropriate. You will also want to bring along a professional pad portfolio with extra copies of your resume, job application, job description, portfolio of work, or any other documents they have asked for.
- Master Your Body Language - Make sure your body language is communicating the right message by sitting up straight and leaning forward or sitting on the edge of your seat slightly. Maintain eye contact throughout the interview, listen closely, and avoid letting your mind drift to what you plan to say next. Also get a handle on any nervous tics, such as nail-biting or shifting in your seat, prior to the interview. Finally, make sure your handshake is firm but not overpowering.
- Be Authentic - Allow your personality to show through during the interview in a professional and appropriate manner, inserting your best YOU into your answers and discussion. Respectfully treat them like an individual, as well, making a personal connection when appropriate.
Interviews can be scary – that’s natural. But if you’ve done the homework, you can walk away knowing that you did all the right things to land the job. Now it’s go time – good luck on the job hunt!
Steps for Landing Your Dream Job
Top Questions for a Job Interview
10 Tips to a Successful Career Change in 2022
Tips for Starting a New Job
Mastering Your Virtual Interview
by OU Online