You’ve heard this interview tip time and time before: do company research before an interview and customize your replies around your findings. But what type of information should you be mining? And even more importantly — where do you need to start digging?
If want to walk into your interview as if you have known about the company for years, here’s how to research a company for an interview:
- Peruse the company website
- Review the corporate blog
- Get on social media (LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter)
- Identify the main competitors
- Determine the company’s main differentiators
- Review corporate finance
- Look for ‘red flags’ on review websites
- Check salary data.
Now let’s put each tip under the microscope!
1. Check The Corporate Website
Take some time to read through the company website to familiarize yourself with every aspect of what they do. Read through the latest press releases and media information (usually filed under Media/Press tab) to see what sort of image they are portraying to the general public or their peers if they are a B2B company.
When you browse the website pay attention to:
- Any major product/services launches
- Strategic changes e.g. M&A activity, new management, new board members
- Main corporate values and overall missions
- Numbers around corporate social responsibility and related initiatives.
As you look through the company website, check out a few of the basics that you should know before attending your interview – such as the history of the company, the size, and location of other bases if they have any, how many people they employ, and their plans for the future.
Jot down all of these tidbits. They’ll be useful for preparing replies to the common job interview questions such as “why do you want to work here?” or “what motivates you?”.
2. Browse the Blog
Does the company have a blog? If so, read through the posts and learn about the company culture and recent events.
In particular, skim for any information related to:
- Social initiatives such as any charities they may support or sponsor.
- Industry events they’ve participated in or promoted/sponsored.
- Products/services launches
Also, many employers these days run separate department or division blogs. For example, Netflix has a tech blog where they share updated on their infrastructure. GE runs separate blogs for healthcare, manufacturing, and aviation leaders, where they share business insights and thought leadership pieces. You can learn plenty from them around the employer’s recent projects or goals and bring those up in your conversation with HR.
3. Review Social Media Profiles
LinkedIn is a great place to check to see if there are profiles for the people you will be interviewed by. It is always good to be prepared so getting an idea about the interviewers, their role at the company, how long they have been there, etc. can give you an advantage at your interview.
Next, you might also want to check the employer’s Facebook and Instagram profiles. Both are usually used by HRs to providing more insights into the company’s inner-works, day-to-day life, and regular people. Browsing recent content should give you a better sense of the company’s overall culture and vibe.
Depending on your industry and role, Twitter can also be a nice way to pre-network with some of the current employees. Unlike other social media networks, you don’t have to be ‘friends’ with someone to ask questions or get into discussions. So it may be easier to build up some level of rapport with the company or particular members of staff on Twitter. Such casual networking can be a way to break the ice and n get some insider information that could prove very useful for your job application (or subsequent decision to take or refuse the job offer).
4. Study the Competition
It is also useful to be able to learn more about the industry or business sector as a whole (especially if it’s new-ish to you). Knowing a little about the competition and how the company fits better into their niche will always impress at the interview.
The easiest way to understand who’s the employer is rubbing elbows with is by looking on LinkedIn. Check the ‘Other Companies People Viewed’ section in the right sidebar.
You will see a few competitors listed there. You don’t need to do much research here, just pick up on the ‘big picture’ information about them so you can talk with confidence about the competition if needed.
5. Identify The Company’s Strong Points
Now that you know the company’s main competition, you’d also want to figure out how they are different. Doing so is important to avoid the awkward ‘faux pas’ of prompting that company A is just like company B, C, and D — when they are actually working quite hard on their unique positionings.
Thus, when researching companies before an interview pay attention to their strongest ‘selling points’ and brand differentiators. Typically, you can find some good info snippets by reviewing:
- The company’s marketing collateral: media kits, product/brand presentations, etc.
- Recent announcements around its achievements.
- The ethos shared in the mission statement.
Then use these strategically in your interview replies. For example, if you are looking for a job with an energy company. They may claim that they are a leading company for investing in sustainable green energy. That is a good thing to know.
At the interview, you can mention that you are passionate about protecting the environment and support the use of green energy. You could add that this is one of the main reasons you are attracted to their company.
6. Check Out The Company Financial Performance
You will want to win a job with some security, so it makes sense to look at the health of the company’s financial situation. Check to see what corporate sponsors or business partnerships they have. Larger companies will post their annual reports so you can get an idea of their revenue growth.
If you are applying for a position with a new start-up company, then check them out on Crunchbase to see what recent funding they have had, recent hires, and read press releases and news about them.
Although this information may be really useful to reassure you about the stability of the company, it is not something that you would normally bring up in conversation during your interview. However, it will enable you to speak confidently about where you believe the company is heading, and that can be very impressive at an interview.
7. Scan For “Red Flags” Online
Let’s keep it real: not every organization will be an amazing place to work. In some places, the managerial attitude towards lower-level employees may not be great. Others might be consistently underpaying their staff.
You’d definitely want to know such things in advance and gently bring some up during the interview if you find them particularly concerning.
Specifically, do the following:
- Check the employer reviews on Glassdoor or other industry websites where former/current employees can provide anonymous reviews.
- Review their scores on consumer rating websites (Google Reviews, Yelp, Trust Pilot) to glean into the overall brand perception.
- Get on Google News and use [company name] + scam (or similar) query to get a scoop on the employer’s overall reputation.
8. Check Salary Information
If the interview goes well, high chances are that HR will want to discuss your salary expectation. Also, this is a common second interview question. So you’d want to have some real figures in mind.
Granted, you can now find up-to-date salary information for an array of employers and roles on websites such as PayScale and Glassdoor among others. Get some ballpark estimates to have an upper hand when it comes to salary negotiation.
Final tip: Hone In On The Job Requirements
What is expected of an employee in a certain role can differ greatly from company to company. Knowing that you can actually do the work required of you once you land a job with the company is going to be very important.
As you prepare for the job interview, take another look at the original job posting. Review the main skills requirements. Then think if you have good examples of your accomplishments or quick stories to illustrate these during the interview!
This article has been originally published on October 5, 2016 and has been extensively revised and updated on January 21, 2021.