Whether it’s a multi-million-pound corporation or a small business, researching a company before an interview can be a daunting task. But if you know where to look and what to look for, you can save a lot of time and energy during the preparation process.
Having a comprehensive knowledge of a potential employer is vital in getting you to the next step of the interview process because it shows that you are enthusiastic, proactive, and interested in the company and what it does. It will also help you present yourself as a good fit for the role and answer the inevitable question: ‘Why do you want to work here?’
To help you nail your interview, we’ve compiled a short guide to show you where to look and what to look for when researching a potential employer.
1. Explore the company website
One of the best places to begin your research journey is on the company website. Having a browse through a potential employer’s website will help you develop a good sense of the company’s services and products, as well as how the specific role you are interviewing for fits into the larger structure of the company.
A key section on a company’s website that interviewees should pay particular attention to is the ‘About us’ section (if you can’t find it, it’ll usually be called something similar). In this section, you can often find information about the history of the company, as well as its mission statement and core values.
It’s helpful to find out about the company’s past; especially information such as who founded it and when. It might seem obvious, but information like this will help you answer questions appropriately in your interview. For instance, if it’s a recently founded small business, you don’t want to tell the interviewer that you’re excited at the prospect of working at a large, well-established company.
The company’s mission statement and core values will also give you insight into what a company stands for. In other words, what are their goals and beliefs? Are they committed to causes like sustainability or diversity? Do they strive to provide unmatched customer service? Interviewers are looking for people who will help the company achieve its goals and uphold its standards and values – so it can be useful to use the company’s mission statement and core values to think about some ways in which you can match these criteria. For instance, what skills and attributes do you possess that will benefit the company and help them get closer to where they want to be?
Consider brainstorming some examples of when you’ve demonstrated or applied the company’s core values either in your work or personal life. Having examples of these – as well as examples of when you’ve previously demonstrated skills relevant to the role – will be invaluable in your interview, especially if an interviewer asks you any competency-based questions (which many employers do!). For tips and advice on how to answer these sorts of questions, consider having a look at our guide on how to answer competency-based questions with ease.
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2. Browse the company’s social media pages
An often overlooked part of the process of researching a company before an interview is taking a look at their social media pages, such as Facebook and Twitter. Browsing through a company’s social media posts can alert you to any company updates, such as new and upcoming products or services.
A company’s social media posts can also give insight into its branding and PR strategies. This will give you an idea of what kind of image the company wants to portray and, therefore, what kind of image they’ll want you to portray as a member of the team.
For some companies, social media pages can be used to raise awareness of (or campaign for) important causes. For instance, popular ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s often share information about civil rights issues on Facebook, while fashion companies like ASOS often use their social media feeds to promote body positivity. Again, you can use information such as this to your advantage in your interview.
By educating yourself about issues that the company is invested in, you can show them – in a knowledgeable and convincing way – that you share their interests and are therefore an ideal fit for the company’s culture. Plus, you’ll also portray yourself as an enthusiastic and engaged candidate.
3. Don’t forget to look up the company’s LinkedIn page
LinkedIn is another social media platform that a company is likely to have. However, unlike platforms like Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn is designed for professionals, for purposes such as networking and job searching – and it makes for another great way to gather information about a company before an interview.
Under the ‘About’ section of a company’s LinkedIn page, you can find out information such as how many people the company employs and when it was founded. It’s also worth taking a look at a company’s LinkedIn posts to find out about recent developments such as new hires, and new products and services.
You can also use LinkedIn to research individual people at the company under the ‘People’ tab. There are two types of individual that are worth researching:
Key players. This includes people in any senior positions, such as company founders, CEOs and managers. By looking at key players’ profiles, you might find out more information about what skills and values they respect and merit at the company.
The person or people who are interviewing you. If you know the name of the person interviewing you, it can be incredibly valuable to look at their LinkedIn profile. Not only can you find out what skills and values are important to them, but you can also research their professional background and achievements. Researching a person’s background may help you to find some common ground that you can use to your advantage in the interview. Maybe you went to the same school or university? Perhaps you have an existing connection, or have previously worked for the same company? Establishing common interests can help you build a connection during the interview process.
If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, or you’re looking to improve your existing one, check out our tips on how to get the most out of your LinkedIn experience.
4. Search the news for insight into a company’s upcoming and recent developments
Although social media and LinkedIn pages will give you an insight into a company’s upcoming and recent developments, it’s also helpful to get an external perspective on such matters. One of the most effective ways you can do this is by looking at news sites.
By using a search engine such as Google News, you can explore a large assortment of different sources for recent news stories about a potential employer. For instance, has the company just been bought by another? Or, has the company recently expanded its operations to a new country? Showing knowledge of up to date developments such as these will help you come across as having a genuine interest in the company. It’s also a great way to showcase your proactive research skills.
Not only is it worth searching news sites for recent developments regarding the company you are interviewing for, but it is also helpful to read recent news regarding its competitors, and the wider industry. This is especially important if you are entering a new field. Demonstrating a good understanding of a company’s competitors’ strengths and weaknesses can go a long way in convincing your interviewer that you have an awareness of similar companies that are out there – but are particularly enthusiastic about the prospect of joining their company.
5. Read user and employee reviews
Providing an excellent product or service for their clients and customers is often a company’s primary concern – and looking at user reviews is an excellent way to find out what people like about the product or service that a company offers. For instance, do they provide top notch customer service? Or, is the product or service they provide particularly good value for money? This kind of information is invaluable in helping you to find out what’s important to the company about their product or service. Because if it’s important to the customer, then it’s usually important to the company!
One helpful thing to focus on when looking at customer reviews is determining a company’s unique selling point (UPS). A company’s unique selling point is what makes its product or service stand out from its competitors. Therefore, it’s vital to the company’s identity, and both its current and future success. Having a good understanding of what a company’s unique selling point is can help you present yourself as a candidate who is in perfect alignment with the company’s goals and objectives.
It’s not only user reviews that can help you gain insight into a company. Websites like Glassdoor allow employees to write a public review of the company they work for, and having a look at these employee reviews can give you the inside scoop on a company’s culture, everyday operations, and what sort of people work there.
Finding out what employees have to say about a company can help to give you a clearer idea about whether it’s somewhere you would like to work. If it is, it’s worth jotting down why you think you’d be happy there, and what you admire about reviews you’ve read – as these are points that potential employers will often appreciate hearing.
6. Try out a company’s products or services yourself
There’s no better experience than first-hand experience, so if you can, it’s great to try out some of the products and services that the company provides for yourself.
If you’re interviewing with a company that runs brick and mortar shops, then why not go and visit one? If it’s a company that sells food products, consider having a taster. If they sell a product or service that is relatively cheap or offers a free trial, then perhaps you could give it a whirl and see what you think.
Interviewers are always looking for proactive candidates who consistently go above and beyond. Testing the product or service for yourself is a perfect way to showcase this and give yourself a better understanding of the product. Plus, telling your interviewer what you like (or love) about their product adds a nice personal touch!
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While it’s important to gather as much information as you can about a company, it’s equally important to make sure of this information, by showing your interviewer what you know. So once you’ve completed your research, the goal is to work out how you can use it to your advantage in your interview. Consider taking a look at our piece on common interview questions to get a sense of how you might do this, and to practice answering some of the questions with all of the information that you’ve gathered about a company.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that the research process is not only an opportunity for you to brush up on information that will help you in your interview. It’s also a chance to learn more about the role and the company, and to consider whether you want to work there. Try to use this part of the process to be honest with yourself. Does this company look like a good fit for you? Do its mission and values line up with your own? Could you see yourself working there?
For more interview advice, you might find it helpful to visit the job interview tips section of our website.