You absolutely have to research the company before you stroll into the office for an interview. It’s job hunting advice you hear time and time again. So, as soon as you get that coveted meeting with the hiring manager on the calendar, you plop down in front of your computer with your notepad and get ready to collect all of the important facts and tidbits you need to have in your back pocket. But, after a quick search you begin to wonder, “Uhhh, what exactly do I need to know?” It’s a common question. After all, you want to be armed with enough information to seem prepared and qualified. But, you don’t want to go so CSI that you walk in knowing the hiring manager’s coffee order and able to recite the company’s latest press release totally from memory—backwards. Researching for an interview might seem like a daunting task. But, I promise, it doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Make sure you have a solid handle on the following things, and you’re one step closer to acing that interview!
1. What They Do
Let’s start with the most painfully obvious first. Before meeting with the hiring manager, you absolutely need to know the ins and outs of what a company does. “Well, duh,” you’re probably thinking. But, knowing what a company does goes beyond just the surface. You should be prepared to dig in deeper. Let’s say you’re interviewing with an advertising agency, for example. You already know what an agency like this does—they help other businesses promote themselves. However, what different services do they offer, such as website development, video production, and copywriting? Do they focus their energy and attention on certain services over others? What types of customers do they serve? Do they cater to one specific industry, or are they more general? Make sure that you’re prepared with some in-depth knowledge about what exactly the company does before ever opening that office door.
2. Their Mission Statement
Sure, you need to know what the company does. But, if you can’t answer why they do it, you’re not adequately prepared for your interview. A company’s mission statement is the driving force behind everything they do—after all, we all do things with a purpose or end goal in mind. So, knowing the reasoning and justification behind the organization’s work is crucial. Many companies actually post a formal mission statement on their website. But, if you can’t find that, poke around a little more to see what else you can discover. Read through their web copy, blog posts, and social media accounts to familiarize yourself with the company’s overall objectives. Not only will this mean you’re adequately informed for your interview, but it will also help you to see how you fit in with their overarching mission and goals.
3. Who You’re Meeting With
When you have an interview on the calendar, you likely already have the first and last name of the person or people you’ll be meeting with. So, make sure you do at least a little bit of research into his or her background before you shake hands. No, you don’t need to know all of those nitty gritty details—like her relationship status, the breed of her dog, and the fact that she live-tweets The Bachelor every Monday night. But, you should do a little poking around on LinkedIn and the company’s website to get a sense of her role and overall job duties. Plus, if you can find a common thread between the two of you—like the same alma mater or a shared passion for photography—that’ll come in handy during those inevitably awkward interview silences.
4. Their Company Culture
Does the company have a more rigid and formal corporate culture—including a lunch break schedule and a strict dress code? Or, are they one of those offices that has a foosball table and a keg in the breakroom? Are they big believers in decisions coming from the top? Or, do they foster a more collaborative environment? Being informed about the company’s culture is not only important for nailing your interview, but also for ensuring that you’ll be a good fit together. But, where on earth can you find out all of those insider details—without slapping on a fedora and fake mustache and going undercover? I don’t recommend that, by the way. You can glean a lot of information about culture online. In their website copy and blog posts, do they use more direct and proper language? Or, do they crack jokes and have a more conversational tone? Do their social media accounts share friendly photos of their staff members and employee outings? Or, is it all about company announcements and product launches? You can also read reviews of companies on sites like Glassdoor. However, remember to proceed with caution and take those remarks with a grain of salt—not everything you read is the absolute truth. No one company culture is inherently better than the other. The important part is to get a feel for what the organization is all about, and determine if you think you’d mesh well!
5. News and Recent Happenings
Maybe the company just named a brand new CEO. Perhaps they just released a new product or service. Or, maybe they recently moved to a brand new office. Companies are constantly evolving and changing. And, being in the know about their current events and happenings is important for demonstrating to the employer that you’re in-the-know about what they have going on. Even though you aren’t currently employed there, you’re still invested and interested in their success and changes. That’s enough to impress any hiring manager.
6. What You Bring to the Table
Alright, so maybe this is a bit of a cheater as a last tip, as it’s not something you need to know about the actual company. But, once you discover all of the information outlined above, the most important part is to think about how you fit in with all of those things. How can you contribute to pushing the company to their goals and mission? How will you complement the company culture? Remember that the main purpose of your interview is to demonstrate to the employer that you’re someone who will add value to their organization. So, don’t conduct all of this research just so that you’re able to spew out the company’s founding date at a moment’s notice. Instead, put your research to work and use it to present yourself as the relevant, qualified candidate you are. Interviews are nerve-wracking. Even sitting down to research for them is enough to send your stomach leaping into your throat. It’s easy to feel like there’s so much to know, and that you need to be prepared on the off-chance that the hiring manager fires off a pop quiz question asking you to recite the name of the entire leadership team—and their shoe sizes. Take a deep breath, that likely won’t happen. Just make sure that you have a decent handle on these six things before strolling into your next interview, and you’re sure to knock it out of the park!
Kristen Hamilton is the Co-Founder and CEO of Koru, the leader in predictive hiring. As a technology entrepreneur and executive with a passion for impact, Kristen has a successful track record driving value for customers and investors. She co-founded e-commerce pioneer Onvia and took it public in 2000. Kristen built the organization to 500 people, raised over $300 million of investment capital, and led the M&A team to acquire and integrate four private companies in two years. Kristen then shifted focus to education and talent acquisition, as head of educator strategy at Microsoft, and COO of World Learning, where she ran operations in 66 countries.More from Kristen Hamilton