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You’ve made it to the interview. Congrats!
You have done the majority of the prep work—from practicing behavioral and situational questions to picking a killer attire. But there’s one problem — you don’t know much about the company.
Interviewers are impressed when candidates show enthusiasm and knowledge about the company. Unsurprisingly, 47% of hiring professionals would readily dismiss a candidate with zero company knowledge.
Several things could cross your mind when thinking about company research. That could include “What should I know about the company before the interview?”. Or “How should I compile a company research report?” Well, worry not.
This post aims to explain how to do research on a company before an interview. It covers the importance of company research before an interview, key things to learn about a company before an interview, and how to study the information.
Sounds great? Let’s dive right in!
Why Research a Company Before a Job Interview?
Company research is an integral part of interview preparation for the following reasons:
- You can answer questions about the company and its industry
- You can answer questions about the company culture and mission
- You can demonstrate you’re a good fit for the role and organization
- You can prepare thought-provoking questions about the role and company
You can answer questions about the company and its industry
An interviewer might ask, “What do you know about our company?” Or “How do we stack up against our competitors?” If your answer consists of “Um…,” it isn’t likely to earn you many points with your interviewer.
Doing your homework beforehand is an excellent way to impress the interviewer with an in-depth understanding of who they are and what they do.
You can answer questions about the company’s culture and mission
We can summarize company culture as employees’ collective values, beliefs, and attitudes.
It pays to understand how your personality and values match the organization’s beliefs and values.
Often, interviewers want to know what candidates find appealing about their company’s mission statement or business model. With proper company research, such a question will hardly catch you off-guard.
You can show you are a good fit
Employers want candidates ready for a long commitment. In this vein, they’ll look for candidates interested in the organization and its mission.
Use the opportunity to impress your interviewer by mentioning specific attractive things about the company. You can also brag (a little) about how you line up with the company’s culture.
You can prepare thought-provoking questions about the role and company
It’s always recommended to have some questions ready during an interview. But if a quick Google search could answer your questions, they might not make the best impression.
Researching a company before an interview allows you to prepare more thoughtful questions— tailored to the role and organization rather than generic queries.
Next, let’s dive into things to look for when researching a company before an interview.
What Do You Need to Know About a Company Before Your Job Interview
Your company research doesn’t have to be exhaustive — there’s only so much time in a day. But learning a bit about your potential employer is an excellent way to demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm for the open role.
With that, below are several things to know about a company before an interview, including:
- The company’s line of business
- The company’s primary competitors
- News about the company and/or its industry
- Your prospective department
- The organization’s culture
- The company’s performance
- What employees think about the company
The company’s line of business
It’s important to know what type of company you are interviewing with. For example, if applying for a job at an advertising agency, you should know that ad agencies work on behalf of client companies to market their products or services.
Knowing trends and challenges of your employer’s industry can help bolster your credibility in an interview and set yourself apart from your competition.
All the better if you have some personal experience with their products or services. That can give you valuable insight into the organization’s strengths and weaknesses.
How they make revenue
Every organization somehow makes money- even non-profits. However, “the how” can be different for each company.
Does the potential employer sell a product or service? Or do they make money through investors? And how are they planning on staying competitive?
If it’s an established business, consider looking at past annual reports (called 10-Ks) to see where they’ve been excelling in the past few years (and what they’ve been struggling with). If they’re new, try to find articles about them in reputable publications that cover their industry.
Their current standing in the industry
Figure out where the company stands compared to others in its industry. What is their market share? Are they new or old? Are they growing or shrinking? The answers to these questions will help you better understand the company and its trajectory for future growth.
Who are the company’s main competitors?
Take a look at whom your potential new employer competes with, and investigate how they compare to others in their field. That demonstrates your understanding of the company’s industry and who it needs to beat to maintain a competitive edge.
Impress the interviewer with some knowledge of the rivals’ flaws, wins, differences and similarities.
You can find the potential employer’s competitors on the “Pages People Also Viewed” section of the company’s LinkedIn page.
Alternatively, visit similarweb.com, enter the company’s name or website URL in the search bar, and scroll down to the “Competitors & Similar Sites” section.
You can use a competitor research report in a few ways during the interview.
For example, suppose the hiring manager asks why you’re interested in working for their company. You can mention that it was attractive to you because it seems to have a strong foothold in its industry — and that you admire X about its competition (but think what your potential employer does is more interesting).
News or current events with the company and industry
You might have to talk about current events during your interview, so prepare for that discussion beforehand.
Read articles or press releases about the company to see if they are making new acquisitions or expanding their product line. You can also see if they were recently honored with an award or lost a big client.
Some companies post news releases on their website. Many share company and industry news and updates and discuss relevant topics on their Twitter accounts or Facebook pages. Google News will serve the purpose too.
Find out which team you are interviewing for and how that team fits within the entire company
Check out the LinkedIn profiles of people in your prospective department.
Look at the projects the team has handled and are working on now. Are there any gaps between their current work and your skillset? If so, you can address this during your interview by providing concrete examples of how your skills could benefit the team’s future projects.
You also want to identify the team leader. That person is likely to ask you questions and influence whether you’re hired. Look up their LinkedIn profile and read their bio. That will give you an idea of their interests, perspective, and personality.
These details will help you better understand your potential coworkers and how you might fit in with them.
Research the company’s culture
What is the corporate culture like? Is it relaxed and informal or formal and buttoned up? Is it highly regulated or loosey-goosey? What are their core values?
Get a sense of their short-term goals (like a new product release) and long-term objectives (like expanding into international markets). You want to know if the organization is a good fit for you. That’s where company reviews on Glassdoor suffice to reveal a corporate culture in an unfiltered way.
You may also review the company’s website and social media page for clues, including videos of employees. If possible, ask your connection at the company about their personal experience with the culture.
Find out about the company’s performance
To get a sense of its financial health, do some research to see how successful the company has been in recent years — primarily if it’s publicly traded.
If they’ve been around a while, that’s a good sign that they’ve built a solid customer base and know-how to make money. If they’re new, that could mean that there’s lots of opportunity for upward mobility or that the company is struggling to get going.
Usually, you’ll have some idea of how well-funded the company is by reading about major funding announcements or — if it’s very public — checking its stock price trend. As for long-term prospects and growth rates, you’ll need to dig around for press releases and see what you can piece together from them.
Check out reports from various rating agencies, such as Moody’s Analytics or S&P Global, which rate an organization’s creditworthiness based on its financial statements.
You can also search the company in a public documents database like SEC EDGAR. You’ll likely find the organization’s quarterly earnings reports and 10-K filings.
Analyze employee reviews
Nearly 9 out of 10 (86%) job seekers base their job application decisions on company reviews and ratings. In addition, 50% of job applicants would decline an offer from a company with a bad reputation, even if the job came with a promotion and raise.
There are many sites where current and former employees anonymously review their employers. Think Glassdoor or Indeed. Some reviews are more trustworthy than others, but they can give an idea of what it’s like to work there.
Of course, not all reviews are glowing. That includes fake reviews from competitors or disgruntled former employees with an ax to grind. So, consider the testimonials with an open mind.
How to Study Company Information
You’ve compiled a comprehensive company research report, but how do you study it all?
Instead of just rehearsing your answers, try using flashcards. They are an excellent tool for locking information into your mind.
Here’s how to use them for company research before an interview:
On one side of the card, list a potential question about the company on one side. On the other side, write down the answer.
Next, quiz yourself on the facts, ensuring all responses are complete and coherent.
The last step is to print out your flashcards and practice them wherever you go. Whether standing in line at Starbucks or sitting in an Uber, whip out your cards and study your heart out!
Rather than handwrite physical flashcards, I prefer creating mine on Quizlet. It’s a free web-based platform that allows you to create and organize custom sets of flashcards for any topic you want to study.
There’s incredible value to researching a company before an interview. You can quickly learn about the organization, impress your interviewer with your knowledge and enthusiasm, and optimize your chances of getting your dream job.
I recommend conducting “open-ended” research. Try a few searches on Google and reach out to company insider sources. Read historical Quarterly reports, press releases, and other important documents related to a company’s operations. And check their website and social media channels, too.
With the above guidelines, it’s up to you to make this process fun and let it be known you’re eager to be a part of the organization. Please check out these additional interview preparation tips from our team.