Whether you’re looking for a first graduate appointment or further along your own career path, the key to impressing at interview is knowing your market well. When you’re pitching for what could well be a jobs match made in heaven, it is even more important to do a thorough job of researching, and ideally, make a great impression with your attitude and aptitude before you even cross the interview threshold. Here’s how…
The world of work is hyper-networked, and with tools such as LinkedIn, there is really no excuse for missing out on this crucial stage of research. Needless to say, talk to any friends or family members who know the business well, or any trusted current or previous colleagues who might have a relevant connection.
But don’t stop there - take a quick look through your contacts, and reach out to some employees of your dream employer who may be connected already or via others in your network. Take time to research some of the common careers trajectories of current employees, looking at qualifications or background areas which seem to fit in well with the company ethos. If your own CV shows any relevant similarities, be sure to include them in your application.
Talk to recruiters and head hunters about their views of the company if you can - you will often get a personal insight from recruitment agents who have worked closely with the business, but who retain the independence to see the company from the outside as well.
The other mainstay of great research is hours reviewing the information available on the web - start with corporate webpages, and work outwards, looking for blogs, industry commentary in reputable publications, investor insights and articles by industry insiders. Set up alerts to bring the news directly to your inbox as it arises, using as many relevant key words as you can think of.
Follow business leaders on twitter, and think a little out of the box too - if you’re moving industry then seek out the best twitter feeds from web based magazines, commentators and individual employees. If you’re looking at a large organisation, then check if there are biographies or autobiographies of previous or current leaders of the business - these often say as much about the roots of the company and the culture there, as they do about the organisation. Think about Sheryl Sandberg’s famous book, ’Lean In’, particularly if you’re a woman moving in into tech, or Richard Branson’s recently released book, ’The Virgin Way’ as examples - many leaders of larger businesses will have had biographies published to great acclaim.
Volunteer or visit
Whilst your opportunities to get under the skin of a company before employment may be limited, it is well worth trying. Think about internships if this fits your current career stage, or volunteering opportunities if you’re moving into the charity sector. Visit the business if they’re a customer facing service provider - you will be expected to have strong opinions on both this business and the competition if you are to get an interview, so get knocking on doors.
Explaining that you’re looking to join the company is a flattering conversation with any current employee, and you may find people willing to share their view on the business, show you around or give you the inside track, especially if you can be open, honest, and charming in your approach. Ask about the experience of working for the business - not only is this useful information, it will show your commitment at interview stage as you are already mulling over the prospect of your permanent move. Also ask about the current business priorities, as your views on this will doubtless be a question asked when you get to a face to face interview.
Looking for your dream job can be tricky - especially if you are already in full time employment. However, finding the time to invest in research before you apply, and certainly before interview, will pay dividends as you network your way into a great new role.