In one of our Five on Friday articles, we asked our Hiring Manager Advisory Council about things that impressed them about interviewees. More than one of the answers, not surprisingly, was about how much the person had researched and prepared for the interview. Research in your job search about the company and those interviewing you is one of the key components of the job of looking for work.
Why is Research in so Important in a Job Search?
In the interview, both parties are trying to assess the fit of the other. You will be a lot more successful at convincing them that you are right for them if you’ve done your research. You’ll have shown initiative, and you’ll be able to better answer why you want to work there. And, hopefully, you’ll have a better idea if you really want to!
Knowing the people and interview style of the company helps you better prepare
The easiest thing to research before an interview is information about the company you are applying to. It’s much harder to research the people doing the interviewing, but if you know their names, it could help you be more successful. I recently watched a movie where a high school graduate was trying to get into an Ivy League school. He found out what the admission’s person was interested in and pretended to be interested in the same thing. As with lying on your resume, that’s a bad idea.
But even if you don’t share anything in common, finding out about the people you are interviewing with can help you better prepare. How?
While it might not be about the specific person you will be talking to, understanding the interview style of the company will help you prepare. Do they ask oddball questions? Do they use one of the many styles of interviewing? Will they have group interviews (either with more than 1 interviewer, or more than one person on your side of the table)? Do they use an informal process where you go out for coffee or lunch with the team?
If you know these things, you won’t be surprised in the process. You will be able to research the kinds of questions asked in specific interview styles. Just as importantly, knowing the interview style might help you decide if you want to work for a company or not. Most recruiters and HR people would be cautious (to put it mildly) about going to work for a company that is big on group interviews, for example.
Second, knowing things about the people you are interviewing with allows you to do two things: you can find things you have in common to discuss; you might learn good (or bad) things about the hiring manager or coworkers during your research. Everyone finds it easier to have a conversation with people if they can find common ground early in the process. So, sure, find out that the person you are interviewing with loves cats (or dog, or not) and if you have a similar interest, break the ice with that, or mention your pet in one of your answers.
More importantly than helping you in your interview, though, researching the individuals you will interview or work with, will help you decide if you want to work at the company or not (or for that individual hiring manager). In that same Five on Friday article, I talked about how someone researched my management style before an interview. I was impressed that they did that, which helped them in the interview. And, they knew my style so they were fairly confident they could work with me!
How and What to Research In Your Job Search:
1. Google and Bing are Your Friends.
Type in the company name and visit their website first. Read everything related to the job you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a marketing position, read anything on the pages about their brand or messaging.
But, take it further than that. A marketing person should also look at the site, and the copy, and find something interesting to ask about or comment on in the interview. Numbers types should read their financial results and ask one or more questions about how the company is doing what it is doing. Salespeople and others should know the company products, and maybe ask about that. If the company has statements about culture, or charitable giving, those are safe ways to ask questions that show you’ve given some thought to whether or not you want to work at the company.
Another way to learn about a company when visiting their site is to look for common themes. Does the company talk about hard work and going the extra mile? Would you want to work for that kind of company (many would)? Does that fit your work-life balance goals? Maybe they talk about customers a lot on the site, rather than themselves. That might indicate a focus on others that appeals to you. Look for themes, maybe even think of a question that arises from those. But don’t make it too specific or too hard to answer (especially in a first interview).
Next, go back to the search results, and read 3-5 more pages/articles/posts about the company. You might find out that their values and yours closely aligned, by reading about things they’ve done (or not done). You will most likely be able to find out something about the company’s reputation in the community. Make sure you read any recent news about them. Something that just happened is an easy thing to ask about in interview.
2. Go Back to the Job Posting.
It’s obvious that knowing a lot about the job posting will help you prepare for the interview, but what can the job posting tell you about the company? Lots!
Some job postings are written in formal ways, some in more fun, interesting ways. That probably tells you a bit about the culture the company has (or wants to have). Some postings include salary ranges or other information that others don’t. Would you rather work at a more, or less, transparent company? Is the job description pretty informative, or open ended? Which of those is likely to come with clear goals and instructions once you start working there?
The job posting words and phrases also probably indicate what the company looks for in successful employees. Not just the experience, but also the kind of worker that a person is. Read between the lines and try to figure out what they are really looking for. This helps you answer questions better, but again, also helps you understand if this is really a role you are interested in.
3. Go to LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is one of the best and easiest ways to gather information about the people you are going to interact with. Hopefully you have one or more contacts at the company, but if you don’t, maybe one of your contacts does. Ask anyone you know in the company about the hiring manager (or who that is) and what it’s like to work with them. Ask about the work environment and culture. Make sure the company and you are a good fit.
If you aren’t connected with anyone at the company already, reach out to some of your contacts and ask them if they know anyone in the company. If not, you may still be able to find people that work there. If so, reach out on LinkedIn and ask to be connected. When you do so, make sure you include a note about how you are reaching out to them because you are applying at the company they work for, and you’d like some information about the company. Don’t ask for a recommendation from someone you don’t know, but lots of people will talk about what it’s like to work at their employer.
4. Visit the Company’s Social Media Sites.
One way to learn a lot about a company is to visit their Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. sites. Do they have those at all? If not, or if they are not updated often, is the company managing its public profile well enough? Some companies do a great job of replying to negative reviews on Yelp or Google, some don’t.
Putting all that aside, you should be able to get a sense of their communication style and culture from the content on social media. Make sure those things align with your style, especially if you are going into marketing or sales or other customer facing roles.
5. Visit Glassdoor or Other Sites That Rate Companies.
Glassdoor and other sites do more than just compile how people feel about their employers. You can sign up for Glassdoor and get access to posts about what interviews are like. Yup, people often go on Glassdoor and post what kinds of questions were asked in interviews. They post about the process, and how long it took (or is still taking). These are all good things to know, but nothing will help you prepare more than knowing the questions in advance!
Don’t over rehearse, sound natural, but knowing the questions is a good thing. Remember, those visiting Glassdoor or other sites often do so after negative experiences. So, if you do find a company with a lot of negative reviews, do what you can to figure out how true that view is by talking to people that work there, or have worked there, or know people that do work there.
What You Should be Researching About in Your Job Search, Re-Visited:
Those are five ways to do the research, but a lot of what you should be looking for was buried in the how. So, here is a summary of what you should be looking for when doing research in your job search:
- Skills and experience needed for the job you are applying for
- The kinds of people that will be successful in the role
- Company values, goals, and culture
- Information about the people you are interviewing with
- The hiring manager’s style and reputation
- The company’s reputation
- How the company handles negative interactions on social media
- How the company handles positive reviews on social media
- What the company does, it’s products and services
- Any recent news about the company
- Unstated themes you can discover on their site, or social media
- Common links between you and the interviewer(s)
- Basic industry and competitor information (not mentioned earlier, just know enough of this, don’t deep dive into this unless you are applying for a job that requires this kind of deep knowledge)
Hopefully that gives you some information about how to research before your next interview.
Concentrate on two things in doing research in your job search:
Knowing if you want to work there.
Finding ways to convince them you are the right person for this role.
Good luck in your job search!