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July 18, 2017

Deep-Dive Company Research:
The Secret Weapon for Interviews

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 kick-off a conversation, but not sustain it. Gaining in-depth knowledge not only conveys your level of interest in the position, it also influences what conversations you’ll have with interviewers.

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 from multiple perspectives. Deep-dive company research involves:

  • Reading about 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 equips you with a broad base to draw from as you connect your experience and expertise to the company’s needs.
  • Looking up 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.
  • Reviewing social media channels and website announcements vis-a-vis what other sources (e.g., the media, industry-related sites, social media and elsewhere) say about the company. If the messages do not align, you can address this during your interview or discuss it with people in your network who may have some insight.

Where To Begin

Draw from a variety of sources, including:

Company Website

Read a company’s website in full and pay close attention to recent news and announcements. Older news may still hold relevance too, so don’t overlook posts from 6+ months ago, for example. Aim 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.

Professional Network

Reach out to current or former employees, strategic partners, vendors, customers and clients – essentially, anyone whom you trust and can speak with confidentially – that has a connection or can give reliable insight into the job, company, leadership, hiring manager, department, competitors, industry etc. Sometimes this requires thinking outside of the box. Perhaps a family member or friend can put you in touch with someone directly connected to the company. Gaining an “inside scoop” provides a unique and invaluable perspective that’s likely unavailable elsewhere.

LinkedIn

You can glean helpful information by reviewing profiles of current and past employees of the prospective employer, especially the management team and leaders/members of the functional area or department that you’re targeting. Any commonalities you uncover, like alma mater, industry association membership or volunteer experience, can give you a leg up in conversation.

Company Newsletter

Many firms publish a newsletter or blog featuring content about company and industry-relevant insights, as well as information about their leadership, clients, events, staff, services etc. Subscribe to receive new issues and read through recent publications to enhance your knowledge of the company’s perspective.

Financial Websites

No one wants to start a new job only to find out that the company has financial problems that derail promised budgets, product launches, staff expansion and job security. While much harder and sometimes impossible to assess for private companies (particularly small 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. For public companies and financial firms, the SEC (EDGAR database) and self-regulatory organizations (e.g., FINRA) are reliable information sources too.

Social Media

Look at all of a company's social media presence: LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. Do they target different audiences and, if so, who? What type of content do they share and is the messaging consistent? Look at engagement across accounts to see who interacts with what content.

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 to uncover other highly relevant and helpful information referring to a company. Also explore “Searches related to [query phrase],” located at the bottom of the search results (available in desktop view), for search query variants that may yield different results.

Look at Competitors and Market Climate, Too

While diving into details about the company 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 by the media, industry and professional associations, 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. (One executive recruiter recommends candidates spend at least two hours researching and preparing for each new company they’re meeting with.) If you try to wing it and fake your way through a discussion, the interviewer will soon 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 – to make the interview a more useful process on both sides.

More Insights.
CTA - Company LinkedIn Assessment | Point Road Group
CTA Team Impressions | Point Road Group
Looking for a board seat? | Point Road Group

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