Empower Yourself to Win the Job
Perhaps the worst thing you can do in an Interview is ask question you should already know the answer to. If the employer lists their product range online, you will only embarrass yourself by asking “What products do you sell?” Our bullet proof pre-interview research checklist will prevent such embarrassment and boost your confidence. Your aim is to demonstrate excellent background knowledge, so your interviewer sees you care about the company and is impressed you’ve taken the initiative to properly prepare.
Essential Research Checklist
At a minimum, your pre-interview research should involve reviewing publicly available information about the Company. For an extra advantage at the interview, expand your efforts to research important people and also the industry. Use the following checklist to guide you.
Most information you need will be available on the Company’s website, but don’t stop there. Make sure you Google the company name to uncover any press or articles you should know about.
- Products and Services. What are the Company’s key products and services? What are they called? What problems do they solve?
- Mission Statement. Have you read and understood the Company’s mission statement? How do your own values align with the Company’s?
- Key Customers. Who are the Company’s main customers? Have contracts been secured with key customers?
- Main Competitors. What other companies are direct competitors and what threat to do they pose?
- Recent history. What changes has the Company undergone in the last 12 months? Were new products released? Have there been significant changes in management or company structure?
- Challenges. What challenges is the business currently facing?
- Forecasts. Can you find information about the Company’s short term and long term outlook? What are their plans for the next 12 months?
- Financial Information. Can you find the Company’s annual report? (Note: If your role is financial or managerial, you should read the most recent quarterly report.)
- Press. Have you read all press releases or news articles relating to the Company? Make sure you know as much current information about the Company as anyone who has been watching them in the news.
Your next step is to research important people on Google, Facebook and Linked In. It is completely appropriate to research people and gather background information before an interview. In particular, investigate your interviewers and the Company’s management personnel.
- Your Interviewers. Ask in advance who you will be interviewing with. If possible, learn the names of the interviewers and what their roles are. Aim to understand how your role relates to theirs. Will they be your boss or co-worker? Will you be reporting to them?
- Other people in the room. If other people will be present in the interview room, find out their names and roles too. Although they might not be the ones asking the questions, they may have a significant say in the decision whether or not to hire you. Review our article on Panel Interviews if you interview with more than one person.
- Company Management. Always research the Company’s management personnel. If an interviewer mentions the name of the Company CEO, you don’t want to be caught asking “who’s that?” Use the company website to research who founded the Company, who is the current CEO and who you will most likely be your boss in the new role.
As well as understanding the titles and roles of these people, use websites such as Linked In and Facebook to look for connections you may already have. Do you share a common connection? Have you worked in a similar industry or for a common employer? Did you go to the same university?
It’s important you have at least a broad understanding of the Company’s industry. Read current news articles and browse the websites of key players in the industry. Here’s what to look for:
- Recent events and breaking news. What are the significant events affecting your industry right now? How do the events directly affect the Company? What are your opinions about breaking news?
- Historical timeline. It’s good to have a high level overview of your industry’s timeline. When was the industry born? What were the catalysts for change? When were the boom and bust periods? Is the industry currently in a period of growth or decline?
- Current technology. What technologies the Company uses on a day to day basis? Do background reading so you have at least a basic understanding of technologies you’re not familiar with.
- Industry jargon. Make sure you’re up to speed with industry jargon, including product names, software, tools, technologies and procedures. If you find a word on the Company website you’re not familiar with, be sure to look it up and memorise its meaning.
Effective Research Tools
The Internet makes pre-interview research easy. A quick Google search will reveal news stories, social media profiles, articles, industry discussion forums and more. Of course, there’s no better place to begin than the Company’s website. Make sure you read through every page of the website, taking time to understand every piece of information they have decided to make public.
To supplement your online research, pick up the phone and tap into people-power. Here’s where to start:
- Your professional network. Have you ever worked with someone who knows people within the hiring company? Do you know someone who has worked in a similar role, or similar industry? Talking to an experienced person can give you quick answers and ex-colleagues are usually more than happy to chat. Think over your extended network and get in touch with people who can help.
- Your recruitment agency. If you can’t find information about your interviewers on the Company’s website, try asking your recruitment agency. Agency personnel often work in one industry for many years and may be able to answer your questions about people – including the names and roles of interviewers and management personnel.
- The employer’s HR department. Don’t be afraid to call the HR department of the hiring company. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask about people within the organization, especially with respect to the advertised position. You might like to ask who will be your boss, or how many people will be in your team.
Besides the Internet and telephone, traditional research is still an excellent way to harvest information for your interview. Use the public library, industry publications, journals, magazines and newspapers.
In today’s Internet-driven environment, it has become necessary to Google yourself as part of your pre-interview research. Always assume the employer will be researching your name online. It’s up to you to leave a positive digital footprint online. First, double-check there is nothing negative to be found. Second, create a solid professional image using your chosen social media platforms. For more information read our article about How Recruiters Use Social Media.
Follow the above checklist to save yourself potential embarrassment, while empowering yourself for a successful interview. Careful and thorough pre-interview research will help you feel less nervous and more confident. Don’t leave it to chance. Walk into the interview room equipped with background knowledge. It won’t go unnoticed. You’ll stand head and shoulders above other less prepared candidates.
Visit The Job interview section for more articles related to your job preparation.