At last! You’ve landed an interview for a job you really want. Let’s talk today about a guaranteed way to gain a huge advantage in the interviewing process: do your homework.
Performing research before an interview is one of the most important things you can do to stand out from other candidates. First, you’ll find information you can use to create questions to ask the interviewer. Second, your responses to the interviewer's questions will have more impact. Third, your preparation will shine through. It will show the interviewer that you’re detailed and enthusiastic about the opportunity, which is sure to help you move forward in the process.
What to Research
There are four main categories of research you need to cover: 1. yourself, 2. the company, 3. your interviewer, and 4. the position. Let’s take a look …
- Yourself – your job is to give the interviewer reasons why you’d be a valuable addition to their organization. Do you know what those reasons are? Take inventory of your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Spend time reflecting on what you have to offer and you’ll be more confident and impressive.
- The Company – the last thing you want to do in an interview (and believe us, this happens) is to ask, “what is it that you do here?” Here’s what you should know about the company you’re interviewing with:
- The organization’s primary mission or purpose
- Their services and/or products
- Company performance
- Organizational leadership (basic org chart)
- Latest annual sales information (and other financial highlights, if available)
- Biggest competitors
- Major customers
- News and recent events
- Company culture (vision, mission, values)
- Organizational style (management style, work environment)
- Industry trends and hot issues
- Your Interviewer – your research can uncover information that can help you make a personal connection. This is always an advantage. For instance, you might find that you both graduated from the same university. You might read articles they have written that you can bring up and compliment during the interview. Make note of anything that might be useful in your conversation. Look for awards, accomplishments, and mutual connections. Creating a sincere personal connection makes you memorable and helps you stand out from your competition.
- The Position – how closely have you really read the job posting? Do you have a solid grasp of the major position requirements, qualifications, and necessary skills? Does the position entail specific training and/or education? Go beyond the posting and learn about typical earnings, advancement/career path opportunities, and employment outlook for the role.
Research Tools and Resources
Pre-interview research is easier than ever to do. First, the Internet is your friend. Read the entire company website. Use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get more of a feel for the company. LinkedIn is the most important online tool in your research arsenal, for not only can you research the company; you can learn a lot about your interviewer. Google is another important tool, especially Google News. Finally, visit company review sites like Glassdoor to learn what people have to say about the organization.
Don’t just rely on the Internet – tap into your own “real-life” network, too. Do you know other people who do the role you want? Buy them a cup of coffee, listen, and learn. Use LinkedIn to uncover mutual connections who can lead you to people who work for your target company. It’s a small world and chances are, you’re a degree or two away from valuable research information.
How to Use Your Research in the Interview
There are three main ways you can leverage your homework. First, incorporate your research into your questions for the interviewer. For example: “I noticed in your financial report that sales went up 38% last quarter. What factors are driving that growth?”
Second, use your research in answering the interviewer’s questions. For instance, let’s say the interviewer asks you the common question, “what is one of your biggest strengths?” Your answer might sound something like, “one of my strengths is that I’m fluent in five languages, including French. This could be useful for this role, considering the press release I read about your company’s plans to expand into France later this year.”
Your research can make your responses to questions more impactful, showing that you'll be helpful to their goals and bottom line.
For more information on preparing for your interview, be sure to download Advanced Resources’ Interview Prep Guide, a complete resource for helping you put your best foot forward.