Jobseekers, be Interview-Ready: Company Research 101
A question was posted on LinkedIn recently asking hiring managers what their pet peeves were when it comes to interviewing job candidates. Over and over again, respondents indicated that their pet peeve is candidates who come to the interview and don’t know anything about the company.
Jobseekers, there is no excuse. When you go into the interview, you should know the company’s products, its mission, its history, its industry, its competitors, its strategic goals, and any big projects/products/announcements that have made it in the news.
“But I Don’t Know How To Research a Company!” you say? Here’s how:
- Start with the company’s website. Look for an “About Us“, “News & Press“, “Our Team” sections. Look for an “Our Services” or“Our Clients” section. Basically, read everything you possibly can on the company website.
- Look at what the company says about itself on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to check out new hire listings.
- Go back to the team list you found in step one. Now search each of these names in LinkedIn. How long have they been in the position? Where were they before that? Do they mention any projects they’ve been involved in? What groups do they belong to? Have they asked or answered any questions in LinkedIn Q&A? Have they contributed to any group discussions? Do they have a blog?
- Google the company name and click through to some of the links. This is a scavenger hunt, of sorts. You won’t know what’s good until you find it. Skip through to the third, fifth, seventh and tenth pages. Look for articles that mention the company in terms of industry trends and developments, new products, customer service experiences. If you have more time, read more articles.
- Go back to the google search page, and toggle on the NEWS tab. Search the company again. Look for press releases, industry analyses, financial analyst reports, controversies, praise, mentions by journalists. Often you’ll find more illuminating information from the financial and industry analysts who talk about an annual report than you will from the report itself.
- Reset the time parameters, and look for news articles about the company from a year ago, two years ago, five years ago.
- Search the company name together with “merger” or “acquisition”. Has the company acquired other companies or been acquired? Is there any news about how smoothly (or not so smoothly) this went?
- Search the company name together with the title of your target position. You may be able to find out who the incumbent was before you, some of the projects they were involved in, any PR (negative or positive) that they attracted.
- Do it again, using the title of the person you will be reporting to. Is your soon-to-be-supervisor new in the position, or was there somebody in the position before him/her? How recent was the change? This search should be done both in Google and in LinkedIn.
- Search the company name together with the word “convention”, or “trade show”, or “conference”. Look for any presentations, keynote speeches, whitepapers. At a minimum, you will learn which industry associations and events the hiring company deems valuable.
- Search the company name together with keywords from the job description. Use one keyword at a time: Research. Marketing. Project Manager. ISP. This is a great way to find clues to the goals and challenges that you will be facing that are specific to your target position.
- Search the company name together with the word “case study”. IT companies love to create case studies of their success stories. Check out what problems these vendors helped your target company to solve. Match this information against press releases announcing a different vendor for the same solution, which is often a clue that a mega-project went bust.
- Use http://www.wefollow.com to search for the company and any of its employees on twitter. Check out their twitter streams. What are they talking about? What are they excited about?
- Google “who are COMPANY’s main competitors“. Look for entries from sites such www.finance.yahoo.com, wikinvest.com, www.hoover.com, and www.corporatewatch.com.
- Use www.glassdoor.com to research the company culture.
Organize Your Information
The amount of information you will uncover will vary depending on the company’s size and years in business. For smaller firms, you might not get much more than their stated business goal and the names of its founders and executives. That’s fine, that’s more than you knew before. Try other search engines like bing. Pipl is a great tool for doing a deep search on people’s names. For most mid to large-sized companies, the information will be so voluminous that it will be overwhelming. Organize your findings by the questions you want answered:
- What is the company’s product/service and target clientele?
- Where does the company say it is heading in the next five years? What are its goals, values, mission?
- Has there been any events recently that confirm or contradict those values, mission, goals?
- Who are its main competitors? How does the company stack up against these competitors?
- Has there been a lot of staffing changes recently? Is this because the company is growing, or is it an indication of potential trouble?
- What are the company’s main challenges? Pain points? Risk exposures?
- What are the company’s main competitive advantages?
If you want to position yourself as the solution to their problem, think like a marketer. Do your market research. Understand who the company is, what its challenges and pain points are, where they are going, and how you can contribute. Then, be ready to demonstrate your insights in your interview.