Researching for a Job Interview
As part of your preparation for a job interview, research is one of the most crucial and important elements. The Why, Who, What, Where & How of this research can be a confusing and daunting matter. This leaflet aims to offer guidance for you, as a job seeker, on how best to carry out your job interview research.
Why should we research for our job interview? To gather information to help us answer the interviewers questions? Or to help us be the best candidate for the job? It is important that you have your own answer for this question; without a reason or goal, your research will become aimless. For best effect and preparation, a focused and structured research plan will bring the greatest benefit, properly prepare you to answer the questions effectively and help you position yourself to be the most suitable candidate for the job.
The Who and What of your research can be planned and tackled under six main headings:
The Company - Values, Key Staff, News
The Industry - General Overview, Competition
The Clients - Services, Products
The Interviewer - Career, Interests
The Job - Qualifications, Skills, Requirements
Their Problem - Company’s major concerns
Let’s now look at each of these in more detail.
- Culture, Mission, and Values. You can learn a lot about the company culture from reading about its culture and values from the company website, and, by following the organisation on its social media platforms. The information is usually available in the "About Us" section of the site. Take time to read the Press section of the website, and browse through the featured links there. Pay attention to themes that come up repeatedly on the company site. As much as any stated corporate values, the words companies choose to describe themselves are telling.
LinkedIn company profiles are a good way to find, at a glance, more information on a company you're interested in. You'll be able to see your connections at the company, new hires, promotions, jobs posted, related companies, and company statistics.
- Key Players and Staff in the Company. These will include managers, department directors, and especially the CEO/President of the company. Focus upon (but do not limit yourself to) the department within which the job application applies. The Company website (About Us or Staff pages) will be a good start. Once a name is known, check the individuals’ Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn pages. Use Recruit’em for X-Ray LinkedIn searching.
- News and Recent Events. Most companies have a page on their website dedicated to press releases and events. You can also set up a Google Alert (or alternative news alert service) for the latest news from the company or about individual staff members (How to use Google Alerts article)
- Tap Your Connections. Do you know someone who works at the company? If you have connections at the company, consider reaching out to them. They might also be able to offer you advice or guidance.
- That Little Bit Extra. For that extra edge that will make you a better prepared candidate, look for the inside details of a company that can’t be found on the employer’s website. In addition, you can look at sites like Glassdoor.com for reviews by current or former employees. Their Interview Questions and Reviews section has a goldmine of information for job seekers.
When using websites like Glassdoor, you can typically find information such as salary figures, employee functions and duties, company reviews, details about the hiring process, and more.
As well as researching the company, it makes sense to review the overall industry. If you're interviewing for a job at a mortgage company, for instance, it's helpful to be informed about current homeownership trends. Get to know the company's biggest competitors and identify their successes and flaws, too. Insight into the company's industry and rivals are bound to impress interviewers.
The Enterprise Ireland website has some very good information and links to various industry specific databases. However, not all information is available to the public, as only client companies have access to all areas.
- Clients, Products, and Services. As a potential employee, you need to have an idea of the type of work you’d be doing once hired. By having a general idea of who the company’s clients are and the types of products and services that are offered, you’ll be more prepared for the interview, too.
To find out the company’s offerings, you can usually find them on the company’s website. You can also read through the company’s blog, case studies, and white papers to give you a better idea of their accomplishments.
It might prove to be a little challenging to find out who the interviewer is. Firstly, try locating the person’s name from any email regarding the interview. If you can’t find any information, reply to the email politely requesting the name of the person who will be interviewing you.
Once you acquire the interviewer’s name, do some research on LinkedIn and Twitter. This will help you learn about the interviewer’s background, their position with the company, and even some common interests you both share. Look for any common links between you. Do you know the same people? Did you go to the same school? Are you part of the same groups, online or off? Those common links could help you establish rapport during the interview process.
An important part of interview preparation is to take the time to analyze the job posting, if you have it. As you review the job description, consider what the company is seeking in a candidate.
Make a list of the skills, knowledge, and professional and personal qualities that are required by the employer and are critical for success in the job.
Once you have created a list of the qualifications for the job, make a list of your assets and match them to each of the job requirements.
Create a list of up to 10 of your assets that match the requirements of the job. These might include skills, qualities, certifications, experiences, professional qualifications, abilities, computer skills, and knowledge bases. You can bring up some of these assets when you explain to the employer why you are a great fit for the job.
Also, think of examples from past work experiences that show you have these qualities. This way, if the interviewer asks you to describe a time when you demonstrated a particular skill or ability, you will be ready.
All of the above areas are important to interview research, however there is another area to consider. Interviews are not just about “You and your CV.” Interviews are also about “Them and their Problem.”
To give you a simple example; if a company advertises for a Credit Controller, their job spec might mention skills with Accounting packages, ability to talk with customers, etc. However their problem is most likely that they need to “Collect the money that is owed to them!”
You need to put some of your research effort into working out what their problem might be. In particular, what problem there might be within the area of the job for which you are applying. Think it through from first principles, ask your contacts, read what the company says about themselves. You can then call upon this knowledge at the interview, to demonstrate your understanding of the problem and the effort you have put into your preparation. One of our clients, when being interviewed for a credit control job, asked the interviewers; “Am I right in thinking that the core of this role can be expressed as; Collect the Money, without annoying the Customers?”
What could you say about the next job you apply for?
Review the job requirements, your list of assets, and your examples prior to the interview so that you are fully prepared to share them during the interview.
This preparation will help you be ready to answer job-specific interview questions and behavioural interview questions designed to determine if you have the knowledge, skills, qualities needed to perform the job; and to have an understanding of what problems the company has.
During a job interview, interviewers ask questions to get to know candidates. But their main goals are to determine if a candidate will be a good fit for the position and company, and will contribute to solving their problems.
Your company research will make your responses to questions compelling and show that you'll be helpful to their goals, a solution to their problem and make a contribution to the bottom line.
Plus, your knowledge will help you give a specific answer if you're asked why you'd like to work for the company. You can share details about things you find admirable about the company, its mission, its culture, and your interest in solving their problems.
My thanks to Tom Mitchell (Management Consultant) for his experience, knowledge and advice in writing this blog. Text for this blog was taken from various sources, including: The Balance Careers - Alison Doyle - Glassdoor - Heather Huhman.
I wish you all every success as you prepare for your interviews. The very best of fortune to you