You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: never go into a job interview without doing your research first. But what exactly is it that you need to know, and where should you look to find it? Here are my favorite tips for doing pre-interview research.
While you’re researching:
- Write down questions. One of the best parts about researching is that it will help you generate insightful, relevant questions, so remember to write them down along the way.
- Compile a document with your research and questions so that if you’re invited back for a second round you’ll have a quick way to refresh your memory about the company.
The Basics: These are the absolute musts to research before your interview.
1. Website – Start with the company website and go through it thoroughly, because it will tell you most of what you need to know. Some things you’ll want to look for:
– Company Culture – What are the company’s values? Sometimes the company’s PR on its culture is pure fluff, but other times it actually informs who they’re looking to hire. Make sure that the culture is a good fit for you, and if it is, think of ways you exemplify these ideals.
– Clients – If the company has clients, who are they? What excites you about working with them?
– Relevant work – Take a look at any of the recent work that is prominently featured on the company’s website, as well as some of its older work. Be prepared to speak about which things stood out to you and why. Pay the most attention to work that relates to the position you’re interviewing for.
– Leadership – Looking at a company’s leadership can tell you a little bit about the qualities and experience that the company values. Check to see if anyone in a leadership role graduated from your university – you may be able to reach out! Plus, it never hurts to know the name of the CEO.
– Internal Programs – Sometimes a company will describe internal benefits and programs such as health and wellness programs, affinity groups, community service opportunities, and mentorship programs. If there is anything that interests you, you can ask about it!
– Company Blog – If the company has an up-to-date blog, it’s worth checking to see what the hot topics are, and if there is any relevant company news.
– Press – If the company has a Press page, this is a great place to see newsworthy press releases, events, and other updates. However, this page isn’t always comprehensive or kept up to date, so next you should do a Google search.
2. Google search – Do a search for the company and see what comes up – check Google news as well.
3. Industry publications – This can be a great way to find out more detail on what’s going on at the company. I’ve used these sites to learn about a company’s latest work, changes in leadership, and who they are pitching for new business. Not every industry publication has a high Google search ranking, so proceed directly to the publication websites and search for your company and/or client there.
4. Social Media – Take a quick look at whatever social media channels the company is on. You may find more examples of their latest work and news. Everything here may be a repeat of what you’ve seen elsewhere, but it doesn’t hurt to check!
5. LinkedIn – Look up your interviewers on LinkedIn. You can always change your privacy settings if you’re worried about them seeing you looking, but in this case it’s not a bad thing—they’ll just see that you’re doing your research! Check out how long they’ve been at the company, in what roles, and what projects they’ve worked on. This can help you formulate questions.
6. Wikipedia – Wikipedia can give you an overview of the company’s history and milestones. Also, if there’s any controversy in the company’s past, you’ll find it here.
7. Clients – If you’ll be working on a particular client, do a little research on the client as well (website, Google, and industry publications). Asking questions about the client’s business shows you’re ready to join the team.
Pro tip: No matter how far in advance you do your research, the morning of the interview, skim through Google news, industry publications, and the company’s social media pages. I once had a company announce a new CEO the morning of the interview! It doesn’t hurt to refresh your memory with a quick look, and if major changes are happening at that very moment, you’ll have a great question to ask.
The Extras: If you have some more time, research these areas as well.
1. “Stalk” your interviewers on social media. Not to get a sense of their personal lives, but to see if they post anything job-related. See if they tweet or blog about the industry, post their favorite accomplishments on Facebook, or are in YouTube clips discussing the industry or their work. You’ll learn more specifics about their team and their thoughts on what’s noteworthy or up-and-coming. At this point in the evolution of social media, you may not want to bring what you find up in the interview, but it can give you a better sense of the job as well as what topics are relevant to the team right now.
2. See if you know anyone at the company on LinkedIn. If you feel comfortable, reach out to them. They can give you the inside scoop on the interview process, what to expect in the interview itself, and possibly even some intel on your interviewers. You should also take the opportunity to ask what they do and don’t like about the company. Then, if your interviewer asks why you are interested in the company, you can always tell them that you spoke with this person and reference what they said. It shows that you are interested in the company enough to speak with employees, and that you have a realistic sense of why you want to be there.
How do you prepare for an interview? Share your tips below!