A successful interview depends on how well you prepare for it, including how and what you research. A cursory review of topline information about a company may help you to kick-off a conversation, but it won’t sustain it. Spending time to gain in-depth knowledge not only conveys your degree of interest in the position, but it also influences the types of conversations you’ll have with interviewers.
So what is deep-dive research and how can the information help during an interview?
When you research a company in-depth – whether for a potential job, board role or even business opportunity – you take a comprehensive look at the organization and what’s happening there right now from multiple perspectives.
With deep-dive research, you may investigate:
- A company’s new products, strategic partnerships, sponsorships, acquisitions, events, latest financials (if available), ad campaigns, regulatory approvals, litigation, layoffs etc. Going into an interview with a solid, detailed picture of the firm overall will benefit you with a broad knowledge base to draw from as you connect your experience and expertise to the company’s needs.
- Company leadership and select staff to learn about their roles, experience, career progression and education, as well as get a sense of overall employee success and hiring trends. Look for commonalities with those you’re interviewing with, which can help break the ice and improve connection, setting the stage for a better impression.
- What the company communicates about itself on social media channels and its website, in comparison with what other sources (e.g., the media, industry-related sites, social media and elsewhere) say about the company. If the messages are noticeably different, you can address this during your interview, or at minimum, discuss it with people in your network who may have some insight as to the reasoning for this.
Some Places To Get Started
Comprehensive research draws from a variety of sources, including:
When you check out a company’s website, read it in full and pay close attention to recent news and announcements. Older news may still hold relevance too, so don’t overlook posts from six months prior, for example. Also be sure to gain a solid understanding of the organization’s products and services. No interviewer wants to meet a candidate who doesn’t have a good picture of the company’s offerings. By extension, review the company’s history to get a sense of how they got to where they are today.
Reach out to current or former employees, strategic partners, vendors, customers and clients – essentially, anyone you trust and can speak with confidentially – who has a connection to or can give reliable insight into the job, company, leadership, hiring manager, department, competitors, industry etc. Think outside of the box – perhaps a family member or friend can put you in touch with someone directly connected to the company. The “inside scoop” you’ll gain will provide a unique and invaluable perspective that’s likely not available elsewhere.
Remember too that it’s important to keep up with people in your network regularly — not just before a job interview. If you’ve neglected your network, here are tips to get back on track.
You can glean very helpful information by reviewing profiles of current and past employees of your potential employer – especially the management team and leaders/members of the functional area or department in which you’re interested. Any commonalities you uncover can give you a leg up in conversation. (And if you’re a hiring manager, remember that prospective talent is looking at your team on LinkedIn!)
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Look at all of a company’s social media accounts, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Do they target different audiences and, if so, who are they? What type of content do they share and again, is the messaging consistent? Also look at engagement across accounts to see who interacts with their content.
No one wants to start a new job only to find out that the company has financial problems that detrimentally affect promised budgets, product launches, staff expansion and job security. While much harder and sometimes impossible to assess for private companies (particularly smaller ones), you should endeavor to evaluate the overall financial health of a company.
Review any available information from sources like Bloomberg, D&B Hoovers, The Wall Street Journal and other business-oriented media. If published, check out the company’s Annual Report, including the Management Discussion & Analysis section, which covers key events from the past year that influenced earnings and the overall direction of the firm.
Regulatory agencies may also have notable information on the company as well, like the SEC’s EDGAR database and FINRA’s BrokerCheck, both of which provide free access.
Other Sites (and, of course, Google)
Industry-specific and professional associations can provide another perspective about an organization and its people. On Google, look beyond the first several pages of results, as there is often highly relevant and helpful information about a company when you look further in. Also explore “Searches related to [query phrase],” located at the bottom of the search results in desktop view (it’s not available on mobile), for variants of your search query that may yield different results.
Research Competitors and Market Climate, Too
While diving into details about the company itself is critical, so is taking an in-depth look at the industry, market climate and competitors. Make sure you’re aware of current industry trends, especially those covered in the media, by industry and professional associations, on social media etc., and how they may affect the company. If a direct competitor has just made headlines – due to a merger, IPO or game-changing product release, for instance – that also can impact your prospective employer’s bottom line and may be top of mind when the interviewer meets with you.
Set Aside Time
Developing a robust and nuanced understanding of a potential job and the company behind it takes time. This isn’t a project to undertake the night before a breakfast meeting or while traveling to an interview. If you try to wing it and fake your way through a discussion topic that you should’ve researched beforehand, the person on the other side of the table will take notice. When hiring mangers suspect you’re unprepared, this poor impression may lead them to question if you’re really interested in the job, which ultimately can take you out of the running for it.
When you go into an interview armed with in-depth research, it’s a positive reflection of your personal brand and gives you a competitive advantage over other candidates. Demonstrating that you’ve really done your homework conveys to the interviewer a serious level of interest in the job opportunity and enhances the quality of your conversations. This leads to more thoughtful questions – and answers – which will benefit the outcome of the interview.