Researching a company before an interview is a crucial part of the interview process and can be the difference between landing a job and remaining a jobseeker. A job isn’t just about the role itself. The company you work for has an important part to play in whether you feel happy in your job and how you are expected to work. The same role in two different companies can vary hugely in terms of how the role is structured, the office culture, working hours, mission and ethos.
The way an organization works and what they stand for is what sets them apart and it’s vital that you prepare before an interview by researching a company, so you can better understand their employee requirements and whether it will be a suitable role for you personally.
In this article, we’ll cover why you should research a company, what to look for, and how to research a company properly before an interview.
Why you should research a company
There are several reasons why researching a company before an interview will be beneficial. Job searching can be tedious, so the first thing you should consider when preparing for an interview is the ethos and culture of an organization. This will have a big impact on your job search in general, as it’s important to determine whether you will be a good fit and will save you wasting time applying for jobs that aren’t right.
Researching a company will allow you to see whether you feel aligned with their values. This is important for you to feel motivated and passionate about your job. It will also allow you to be sure that the company culture is suited to you, as the last thing you want to do is make a mistake in your job search and end up in a job that makes you miserable.
Secondly, researching the company is the first level of interview preparation you should be doing. In order to tailor your résumé correctly, you need to understand what the company is looking for in a candidate. In your cover letter, résumé, and job application letter, you need to be showing the recruiter what you can offer the organization, and in order to do this, you need to know what they value.
Leading on from this, at the interview stage, there is a high chance you will be asked about your knowledge of the company. This might be directly through questions like: “What do you know about [company name]?”, or more subtly through questions, such as, “Why do you think you will be a good fit for [company name]?”
To answer these questions well, you need to be able to tailor your experience to the needs of the company you are interviewing for, and you’ll only be able to do this effectively by researching their policies, values and aims beforehand.
What to look for
When conducting your research, there are some important things you need to look for in order to determine whether the company is for you and to gather all the information you need for your interview.
- Company reputation: Check customer and employee reviews online to determine the overall opinion of the company and whether people enjoy working there.
- Company values: What the company stands for and their values is important. Each company should have a mission statement, which will explain their main purpose.
- Company culture: Make sure you are aligned with company culture and working conditions, because this is going to have a big impact on whether you are happy in the role.
- Pay and benefits: If this isn’t clear from the role you’re applying for, check out other job descriptions, job ads and employee reviews to get a better understanding of the pay range.
- Opportunities for growth and promotion: If professional growth is important to you, do your research to ensure that the company supports employee development.
How to research a company
Now that you are clear on what you need to find out about a company and why it’s important, let’s go through some top tips on how to conduct your research.
Step 1: Check the company website
This is the first place to start your research. The company website will give you the best idea of how the company wants to portray themselves and what their aims are as a brand. Head to the “about” section to understand the roots of the organization, their values, and overall aims.
You should be able to find a mission statement that will help you to understand everything the company stands for, and overall, you will get a feel for company culture. You can check for things like whether the company has a focus on work-life balance and wellbeing, whether they are hot on developing employees, and whether they pay competitive salaries, for example.
The company website is also the best place to learn about the company’s products and services, which is essential reading to make sure you know exactly what the company does and offers for their clients.
Step 2: Read the news
If the company website has a press page, start there. You can also use Google news to see if the company has appeared in the news recently. This will allow you to find out more about positive and negative aspects, as well as knowing about any awards and accolades they may have gained. You can set up Google alerts to notify you if the company is mentioned in the press or any news sites.
Taking this approach will give you more knowledge than simply reading the company website. It might also give you the edge in an interview if you can relate your answer to a recent event or news coverage about the company.
Step 3: Check out company review sites
Review sites give an excellent independent view from consumers on what they think of the company. You can also check out employee review sites to find out what employees think. This will help you see if there are any red flags and will give you an insight into whether the company is fulfilling its mission and promises.
Step 4: Review the company’s social media accounts
Social media is a great place to find out about news items and public opinion. It is also excellent for understanding the company from a more personal, intimate point of view.
While websites can be very official, social media is far more relaxed, and is likely to give you insights into work culture, accounts from employees, and even photos and details of events and team outings. You’ll also be able to see how the company interacts with customers through their comments and “stories”.
It’s a good time to note that if you’re still trying to get interviews, then searching for jobs on social media is also worth considering.
Step 5: Research employees on LinkedIn
LinkedIn will allow you to search for the company and profiles of the people who work there. Looking at people in similar roles (or better yet, the role you’re applying for) will give you insights into their background and what the organization may be looking for. You can also see how long they stay with the organization, how quickly they progress and a trend in the type of person the company hires.
You can even use LinkedIn to find a job and make connections in companies you’re interested in, which makes it a brilliant job search tool to consider, along with the other job search apps available out there. Remember to make sure you have a professional LinkedIn profile if you decide to go down this route.
Step 6: Research the hiring manager
LinkedIn will also give you a good opportunity to research the hiring manager. Knowing a bit more about the person interviewing you could be an advantage. You may find something you have in common that you can bring up in your interview, or at least get an idea of their background within the company and beyond.
Connecting with the hiring manager will also give you an opportunity to ask any questions you may have and allows you to follow up after your interview.
Step 7: Check out their competitors
Research competitors in the same way that you research the company you’re applying for. Being able to show your knowledge of competitors and the industry as a whole, including similarities and differences, will impress the interviewer.
If you’re unsure which companies are competitors, you can use websites like Ahrefs or Semrush, where you can type in the organization in question and it will show you their competitors based on keyword use.
Step 8: Tap into your connections
Do you know people who work for the company you’re interviewing for? Do you know anyone who has worked there previously? Or even someone who has done business with them? Networking has many benefits, and your existing connections are useful for finding out things about the organization from all sorts of perspectives. You may even know someone who knows someone who can help you by making an introduction.
Step 9: Contact a current employee
You may have identified a current employee that you can contact via your connections. If not, LinkedIn is the best place to make inroads. Invite current company employees to connect, or ask a mutual connection for an introduction. This will give you the opportunity to ask questions, or to meet the people in the right places, prior to attending your interview.
Step 10: Ask your recruitment consultant
If you are applying via a recruitment agency, information about a company can be scarce. Often the name of the company isn’t even released. This makes research difficult, but don’t give up. Be one step ahead of other applicants who simply don’t know and ask your recruitment consultant for details.
If they don’t tell you the name of the organization, they will be able to give you clues as to who they are, what they do, and what they stand for, as well as what you need to know about pay and benefits.
Being prepared for your interview goes a long way and researching the company you’re applying to is key to this. Really understanding the company, including their values and work culture as well as their products and services mean you can tailor your answers to what they are looking for and demonstrate your knowledge of the company. Go one step further and dig deep for news items and snippets on social media that tell a story of their achievements and future plans.
Research on a company will also allow you to decide whether they are for you. How much you enjoy a job will be impacted by the company and whether you align with their values, opportunities and working conditions.
And there you have it. Now you know how to research a company before an interview!
What did you find out about the company you researched for an interview? Did it help you in the interview itself? Let us know what happened in the comments. We’re dying to know!
This is an updated version of an article originally published on 31 October 2017.