Three Must-Learn Things During Pre-Interview Research
Your thorough preparation will provide you both the confidence and information needed to do your best in the interview process. Simply winging it will identify you as someone who is unprepared and especially dull compared to those job seekers who have prepared.
Learn About the Employer. The first place to consult is the employer’s website. Look to see if there is a site map to help you identify all the pages available to visit. Make sure you visit all the pages on the site, especially those pertaining to the department for which you might work. You should print out pages of specific interest to you which could be helpful when interviewing for the position. Career services, career coaches, military transition, and government employment departments may know about the employer (and interviewers). Another good source of information can be current and former employees of the organization, who can provide an insider’s perspective. You can set up a free Google Alert (with a free Gmail account) to have Google monitor the company’s name and alert you whenever information about it appears anywhere on the internet.
A job search best practice is to obtain a clear understanding of:
a. The organization interviewing you.
b. Its business and industry (their marketplace and the issues and opportunities being faced here).
c. The products and services it sells or the work it does.
d. Its competitors and its differentiators (what specifically sets it apart from its competitors).
e. Its management structure (this may be available through the organization’s website or annual report).
f. Its culture (best learned from insiders).
g. Its financial performance (generally only available for public companies).
A great source of information about specific employers is www.glassdoor.com, to view profiles on listed companies, learn about the pros and cons of working there, get salary information for specific positions, and receive valuable career search advice. Visit twitter.com and do a company search, as well as use Twitter-associated tools. Facebook is another site where you can obtain opinions about employers. Yahoo Finance is another great site to perform company research.
Finally, confirm the date, time, and specific location of your interview. Obtain directions to the location where you will be interviewing so you can plan your route to arrive approximately 15 minutes early. Check local traffic to spot accidents, road construction, and other factors that will cause travel delays. If you haven’t planned to arrive early, then you have planned to arrive late.
Research Your Interviewers and the Employer’s Key Leaders. When the interview is scheduled, ask for the names and titles of everyone with whom you will be interviewing. Ask for help with correct pronunciation of names, even those that seem straightforward (ex: John St. John Smyth is pronounced “John sin-jin smythe” if the individual is from the UK). Ask the individual who set up the interview to provide you with information about the person’s role within the organization and their history with the company.
Next, begin researching each individual on LinkedIn. In the Search field, use the People drop down and enter the person’s name. You may need to use several variations of the name, or use the Advanced Search function and enter the person’s name and company. Once you locate the individual’s profile, read it thoroughly and see where there might be any connections you could leverage. For example, the individual attended the same school as you did or worked for the same employer you did. Look at the recommendations the individual has received, but remember that only positive recommendations are posted, as controlled by the profile owner. In addition to researching them through LinkedIn, Google their name to see if they have been published, appeared in a news story, or have written articles and blogs.
Additional Research Areas. Go the extra mile and learn about these things:
a. Customer research. Something that will set you apart from other candidates is to speak to customers (or patients) of the employer to learn what they like most and least, in order to share this experience with the interviewer. Use what you learn to better help you prepared for the interview itself, such as:
1. Your experiences and examples that might be most meaningful to the employer.
2. The specific questions to ask at the interview.
3. The questions to prepare for from the interviewer.
4. Information to provide the interviewer about your research.
b. Compensation research. Learn the appropriate compensation range for the position(s) for which you are interviewing. As a rule of thumb, discuss compensation only after the interviewer introduces the topic.
An employer hires people to help it solve problems, build its brand, and increase its revenues. Interviewers hire people they believe will work harder and achieve more than the people they interview and don’t hire. Thorough research will give you the insights needed to express why you are the best candidate to help both employers and interviewers achieve their hiring goals.
This article was in part excerpted from the seventh edition of the textbook included with the Job Search Readiness Assessment.
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