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How to Research a Company Before Your Interview

By Mary Beth Barrett-Newman

Mary Beth Barrett-Newman is President of 2nd Career Consulting, She spent almost 30 years in the corporate world and brings her experience, expertise and enthusiasm as she coaches clients on their journey to a new position. Mary Beth is a frequent contributor to the iRelaunch blog and podcast and is a moderator of the iRelaunch Return to Work Forum on Facebook.

As much as it might feel it took a lot of effort to land that job interview, there’s more work ahead! So, what do you need to do to research a company prior to an interview? There are two major questions for you to consider:

  • What is it that I want to learn about the company?
  • How do I find this information?

Company History, Office Locations, Mission & Values

  • What to learn:
    Start by finding out the basics. Is the company public, private, non-profit, etc. How large is the company? How long has it been in existence? Has there been a name change over the years? Are they local, national or global? Many companies will include a mission statement and outline their core values. Do these resonate with you?
  • How to find it:
    Start with the company’s website. Most websites have an “About” or “History” tab. Larger companies frequently also have a “Press Kit” section or tab. This is where you can get a quick synopsis of the company and its leadership team. You might also look at the “Careers” section of the website as some companies will have information on what makes someone successful at the organization and/or testimonials from current employees about their experience.

Products, Services, Clients & Competitors

  • What to learn:
    What does the company produce? Who buys the products/services? Are they B2C (business to consumer) or B2B (business to business) or possibly both? If B2C, have you used the products/services either directly (you flew on a United Airlines flight) or indirectly (your laptop has an Intel processor)? Has your personal experience been favorable? If B2B, what types of companies are their clients? Who is the competition? Are there many competitors, or only a few? Looking into who the competition is, can show that you’ve done more than surface level research.
  • How to find it:
    The company website is best place to start to learn about the company’s various types of products or services. It is not unusual for companies to also include either a partial list of clients, partners or even testimonials from clients. Have you worked at any of these companies, used the products or services, previously worked with the company’s clients at another organization? To find the competition, you can do an internet search for “Who are XYZ’s competitors." look at a Dun & Bradstreet report where they may be listed or use the website www.similarweb.com which allows you to enter the company’s website and find “similar sites."

People

  • What to learn:
    Who are is the leadership team and board of directors? Does it seem diverse – age, gender, ethnicity, etc.? Have they worked at the company a long time, or do they have a short tenure? What about the people you will be interviewing with and those that are in leadership in the division or function you’re focused on? Do you know anyone at the company?
  • How to find it:
    For larger organizations, the names of the leadership team and department heads may be all you’re able to find on the website. For smaller organizations, they may list all employees. Even if you find the names, you want to know more; LinkedIn is the place to go! Start by going to the company’s LinkedIn page, and it will share how many current and former employees are on LinkedIn. Who do you know that might give you some insights into the company, its culture, what they look for in successful hires, etc.? You will also want to discover what you have in common with the interviewers. Did you attend the same university, previously both work at another company, are you connected to any of the same people? Any time you can find something in common with anyone involved in the hiring process, it’s a plus.

Recent News

  • What to learn:
    A company’s website will not have all the information you need to know to research that company. What has the stock price done recently, are they in merger talks, was there a recent hostile takeover attempt, will the business be impacted by pending legislation, do they have issues with environmental groups, did a major drug just get FDA approval? And how do current and former employees view the current company and CEO?
  • How to find it:
    There are a myriad of sources to find this information including national and local media sources as well as social media – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Other sources include news.google.com and Glassdoor.

You can never be too prepared for an interview, but it’s important to focus on areas or issues that will have the most impact on the department, division or role you are interviewing for. By doing this you’ll provide an informed answer to the question ... “Tell me what you know about XYZ company?”