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The Complete Guide to Researching a Company Before an Interview

If you're coming to do an interview with me, you should know about me. – WizKid

Jill is interviewing at a big social media company for the role of a backend developer. She's pumped, eager, and raring to go. She's taken mock interview sessions and knows her domain of work like the back of her hand.

She pretty much feels she can clinch the job pretty comfortably. 

When she gets to the interview, however, she is asked one question that throws her off guard. 

'So, Jill, tell us what you know about our company?'

Jill is visibly perturbed. She knows only the very basics, so she wings it and tells them what she knows about the organization. But the interviewer probes a little deeper. He wants to know the number of projects they have been involved in, and the latest steps they've taken to gather more advertisers. Jill is lost and begins to fumble. It's apparent she doesn't know jack about the company. 

To the interviewer, it shows a lack of interest and disrespect to the company itself.

The interview is as good as over. 

Jill should have researched the company as assiduously as possible. Why? When you go to work for someone, you should know everything about them so that you are confident your goals are aligned.

If only Jill had taken some interview prep courses where they would have taught her the importance of researching a company thoroughly, she wouldn't have had to go through the disappointment of losing a golden opportunity. 

Here's what you will find in this article!

  • Why is it a good idea to research a company before going for an interview?
  • Advantages of researching the company before going for an interview 
  • How to perform research on a company 
  • Final step: The complete checklist before you hit the interview
  • Tools for researching companies
  • How to prepare for technical interview 

Why is it a good idea to research a company before going for an interview?

Researching about the company should be a part of your pre-interview preparation. It shows commitment, eagerness and willingness to become part of the family, and that is something employers are seeking. 

As a person looking for employment, you should realize that the competition is cut-throat and only the very best of the crop are gleaned from working at prestigious companies. If you want to be a part of them, you must take pre-interview preparation very seriously. Google interview questions, along with doing your research on the company and practice answering these points at home. 

One of the rudiments of pre-interview preparation is to learn everything about the company at which you were going to interview. Doing so signals many more in-depth notions about you. 

Firstly, it shows that you want to work with them, not just gain employment. 

Next, you will try to fit into their work culture, and understand what that work culture is. 

Thirdly, you are interested in sticking around to build a career with them. 

Advantages of researching the company before going for an interview 

  1. It Shows Excitement for the Job and Company

When you are excited about something, you put your heart, mind and soul into knowing everything there is to know about it. It's the same with a job. 

Job research and intimately knowing the company could work in your favor even at a start-up, as the panel will be impressed that you took the time to learn whatever you could about them.

  1. It Allows You to Answer According to the Company's Needs

Take this as some career advice, which you should keep with you throughout your life:

Employers are looking to hire someone that will fit into their company, and a big part of the interview will be your trying to convince them that you can fit into their team without any hitches. 

So, know what you bring to the table and make sure that it is something they are looking for; otherwise, it is just the case of misaligned stars. 

For example, if their need is to make websites with a better user experience, then talk about your experience in that particular field. And how would you know that need unless you researched them beforehand? 

  1. It Shows That You Want A Long-Term Career With The Company

There is a significant difference between getting a job and having a career. If you are looking to work for the sake of 'working', it will show in your shoddy researching about the company. But if you want a long-term career with the company that translates into many years of service, then you will go in-depth into the research. 

Employers are looking for someone to stick around past the two-year mark. They spend a lot of money on training and hiring you, so they want their money's worth. They will keep a lookout for those who are just there to ride the high tide for a few years and then move on and immediately reject them. 

  1. It Helps You Answer 'Why Do You Want To Work For Us?'

At some level, this question is philosophical. It plumbs the very depths of your soul. Suppose you want to come up with an answer to this question, you have to do your interview preparation. Identify some pain points of the company that you can help to solve. 

If it is a web design company that hasn't been doing too well, then say that you can help to design the front end-user experience better so that they perform in this aspect. Remember, the employer knows you need the money, but he or she wants to know how hiring you can help solve their need. They are hiring because they have a big vacuum somewhere in their structure. If you can help fill the vacuum, then it's a date!

That is why researching about the company provides you with information about the various roles they need someone to play and how you can fill that role. 

  1. It Lets You Ask Probing Questions

There comes a time in the interview when the floor is opened to you to ask questions. Do not jeopardize this time. Ask such vital and probing questions that get them to sit up and take notice of you. 

Here is where knowing how to research a company comes in handy. If you have done a meticulous study on the company, then you can air the knowledge you have gathered through pertinent, short questions that cut to the heart of the matter. 

  1. It Helps You Know Your Interviewer

As a part of your pre-interview preparation, do some research on the person who will be conducting the interview. That will help you to break the ice and have some common ground on which you can build the interview. 

Your interviewer has probably already googled you, so it is all right for you to do the same. Do not, at any cost, sound like a crazy stalker that knows what their favorite breed of dog is or where their children go to school. 

Learn something light about them like their alma mater or their favorite football team Keep your pre-interview preparation meticulous but do not border on crazy. 

Trivia

Here are three wacky interview questions meant to tease the interviewee!

  • How would you solve this problem if you were from Mars?
  • What do you think of garden gnomes?
  • Why are maintenance holes round?

How to perform research on a company 

Want to find the right job for yourself? A large part of being safely ensconced in a job that you love is to look for the right organization.

You won't fit in everywhere, so look out for those companies that match your goals and outlook. 

Here are some tips on how to research a company before you apply for a job there. 

  • Look for companies that share your values

It is sound career advice to work for people who share the same values as you, as later, during work, there won't be any clashes on morality or ethical issues. 

Also, the nature of the work you do should be meaningful to you. If you are not creatively onboard, the job is probably a waste of time for you as your end games do not coincide. 

Read the About Us pages of the company and go through the section on goals and outlook. These should give you an idea into what makes them tick, and your interview preparation will become that much easier.

  • Look into the employee benefits the company provides

What makes a workplace better than its competitors? It is when the company offers perks and various benefits like flexible work schedules or stock options. 

Even something small like a gym or a cafeteria can significantly boost employee retention and make working for them a dream. So do considerable research into the company and find out its various perks and benefits.  

  • Learn about how the company makes its money

One of the items to check off your list while researching how to prepare for job interview is to learn how the company of your choice stays in business. 

What are they making? Who is buying what they are making? These two are the main questions you should ask. 

Following this, there are other questions like: is the company a start-up or an established company? Who are the company's investors, and how does it plan to stay in business in the future? 

You will get this information from the public documents that the company releases. Their annual reports are a great source of data as well. Go through these documents and glean as much information you can about their finances. 

  • Look into the company's leadership

You might have taken technical interview prep mock classes to work in the same company where your coding idols are working. But during your how to research a company, you failed to research the various leaders in that organization adequately. And now find yourself working under a boss that is quite unlike the pioneer that helped to found your company. 

To avoid disappointments such as this, research those who hold the top leadership positions in the agency. Visit their social media pages and LinkedIn profiles to see what they post and how they help the field they work in advance 

if you are wary, back off immediately. If you are smitten, however, then take the plunge. 

  • Research the Company's YouTube and Research Employees on LinkedIn

For a better shot at how to research a company, have a look at their YouTube posts. You will know the latest news and updates that the organization has posted. It will help to broaden your view of the set-up and be updated regarding their work. 

Even employees' LinkedIn profiles have a great way of giving you clues into the company's social life and work ethic. So before interviewing, check out the firm on LinkedIn and especially check the suggestions. The suggestions are most likely to be the employees. 

  • Research into news and recent events, local news stories, forums and business journals

A great tip on how to prepare for job interview is to scour the social media handles and the blogs, websites of the organization. Doing so gives you an idea into what the company is recently working on, as well as what their achievements, awards, and latest innovations are. 

In addition to this, follow the regular news and find out what others are writing about the company. Read product reviews on forums. With a fine-toothed comb go through the news and see what the most recent developments on the organization are. All this will keep you updated on the happenings. 

  • Know the company's strong points

You should know how the company stands out among its competitors. Why? Every company looks to be fulfilling a unique market need. If you do not know that, you do not know them. 

What are its USPs? What makes it able to withstand the test of time? Read the company's About Us page and understand how well they have managed to stick to their mission and goals. 

Sometimes you may even be pointedly asked: Tell us why we are the best cloud computing firm around? At times like this, you must not wonder whether they are the best cloud computing firm or not. You should know

  • Check the financial health of the organization

The financial health profile of every company is out there on their website. All you have to do is access it and draw intelligent conclusions. While no one expects you to know the stock prices, it does help if you know how much money they are bringing in and how much they are spending. Where do they rank on wealth? How much are they projected to grow? Where do their assets stand?

For a start-up use Crunchbase to find out the company's latest stocks and figures, which will help you to speak intelligently on their finances. 

  • Keep an eye out on  community interaction

To understand the company's tenor, it is best to scour their social media platforms and find out if they are a very professional or quirky in their approach when it comes to interacting with others. 

During the interview you can mention that their World Environment's Day greeting was very on point or their opinion on the presidential election was a refreshing viewpoint. Either way, study how they interact and follow suit. Also, learn if the company addresses any complaints made to it or do they flub. Observe and bring it up in the interview. 

  • Try some new ways to find information

If the traditional spying routes are not yielding any information, then it is time to go undercover. Ask former employees or else the current employees what the work culture is like at that ecommerce set-up. Glassdoor.com is the go-to place to get any news on an organization. 

Stories on the work culture are what you are trying to gain, and while it may not come up in the interview, it will be useful for you to know. One of the vital clues it may throw up are the flaws of the company which you can discuss post-interview. 

  • Find out about the other competitors in the field

When it comes to how to prepare for job interview, one tip is you want to sound more knowledgeable. How can you do that?

It would help if you studied up on the industry as a whole and learnt about their archrivals and upcoming competition. If you can sound like a specialist, then you can convincingly answer the question "why do you want to work at our company and not at so-and-so?" 

When they ask you this question, you can accurately rattle off why you think they are better than their competitors and it what ways. 

  • Ask your network for opinions

The best way to get accurate discernment into the workplace you hope to join is through people who are already working there. Friends, college alumni and other online contacts can help you to understand the behind-the-scenes of your chosen workplace. Their insider's knowledge can prove invaluable to you. 

  • Scan the news headlines

Keep a weather eye on the news for any layoffs or mergers that the company might be inking soon. These red flags will help you take a call on whether you want to join them during this period of unrest. Google interview questions but do not forget to check the news!

  • Set aside the time necessary to research properly

Researching about the company takes time, and you may not have time to do it. So set aside time before you go to sleep or 20 minutes while on the commute. Here are some details that you should research:

  • The company history
  • The department for which you want to work
  • Leadership
  • Work culture
  • Business model
  • Figure out the type of company you want to work for

Are you interested in social media companies or hardcore tech and network solutions companies or ecommerce firms? Before you learn how to prepare for job interview, you should take time to understand the domain in which you want to specialize. The rest of your career trajectory depends on the choices you make today, so choose wisely. 

  • Air your knowledge at strategic points

While you may have done a lot of research, there are specific moments in the interview when you should air this knowledge. Usually, when they ask you: "do you have any questions for us?" is an excellent time to ask your questions. Another strategic time to ask questions is when they ask you your strengths or why they should hire you. Cleverly weave in some projects they are working on, and say that you are an expert in those subjects, so the fit is just right. 

Image Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/KdeqA3aTnBY 

Final step: The complete checklist before you hit the interview

Here is a final checklist you should tick off before you head out to any interview.

  • Who is the company's CEO?

Can you answer this one before heading out the door? If you cannot, please take a moment. You need to recheck the company's LinkedIn profile or its Twitter account. If the company is a start-up, then ask the person who introduced you to the job to tell you this piece of information.

  • When and why was the company founded?

While this may not be such an essential question for start-ups, it is a pretty important question for those big boys you want to play with. They have been around longer, and it is quite a logical segue to know how many years they have been in the business. Also, find out what was their philosophy before starting up.

  • Do they have global or countrywide locations? If so, where. 

This tidbit is vital to know so that you are aware of how many countries they are presently working in. 

  • For which location are you interviewing?

Many times it happens that the interview is being held at one place for a different location. To avoid this misunderstanding, be aware of which branch you are interviewing.

  • How do they make their income? Are they selling products or services? What's their target audience?

To easily answer this question, you should be able to know the company's business model and how they make their money. Also, know these questions : What are they selling? Services or products? Who is their target customer?

  • Why do their customers like them?

If you can answer this question, you will have a happy board of interviewers. They'd like to know that you have gone through the extra bit of effort to find out why they have satisfied customers and repeat clients. 

  • How is the company different from its competitors? 

Knowing how a company stands out from its competitors proves that you have researched the whole field of work and are eager to take your place as a worthy foot soldier. 

Tools for researching companies

There are several tools to research companies. They include a variety of online and offline tools. Here is a quick guide:

  • Use social media handles like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
  • LinkedIn profile of their employees
  • Reviews on Glassdoor.com
  • Check the company's website
  • Google News
  • Similarweb.com
  • YouTube

How to prepare for technical interview 

Take any interview preparation seriously. You have got only one shot, so make it matter. You should know that you have done the best preparation possible and are giving it your 100%. 

For the technical round though, you may have to take additional coding interview preparation to really be at the top of the game. 

For your convenience, you may also Google interview questions that are commonly asked and prepare those.

But for the class-leading FAANG companies, you should consider technical interview prep mock classes. 

These classes will polish you off, and that will help you to stand out among your competitors. Such interview prep courses have a sharp insight into the type of questions that are commonly asked at these interviews. Knowing the questions in advance will boost your chances of answering better.