Traditional research methods
Check the company’s corporate website, especially the ‘About Us’ page. Find out when the company was founded and how much the company has grown over the years. It should also give an outline of the company’s senior figures, company values, practices and brands/products they own.
Google the company and check the news section to see if the company has done anything newsworthy recently, or if it’s in the news for other reasons (but make sure to avoid mentioning anything too controversial or negative!)
Using social media to prepare for an interview
Social channels are an easy and accessible way of getting insightful company information and an idea of their scale by ‘follower’ numbers and interaction. Where facebook and twitter will give you an idea of the company’s tone, values and culture, LinkedIn is where you can do some great research for interviews.
Look at the company’s LinkedIn page, this will give you:
The number of employees
Ability to see other job roles that are open/advertised to give you context about the company’s growth
View the profiles of the interviewers. By now, you should have the name of your interviewers (if not, ask the recruiter for both the Hiring Manager and any other interviewers, ie. Head of HR) and look them up! Their profiles should tell you what they do within the organisation, how they present themselves and their career history. Look for synergies with your own background and experience and don’t be afraid to mention these during the interviews – employers like to know you’ve done your research.
View profiles of similar people to you in the organisation. You’ll see their responsibilities along with their background and experience. Direct comparisons should be avoided in the interview, but this is a good way to gain insider information to help with your preparation.
How to tackle the ‘Tell us what you know about the company’ question
This isn’t a history exam, you don’t need to list key dates or reel off the Wikipedia overview. The key is to have an understanding of who the company are and its place within the market.
Demonstrate that you know the basics and incorporate what you’ve researched – how they operate, where they operate, how big they are.
Know the company & its context – when it was formed, how it’s evolved and its current place within the market
Focus on your specialism to impress the Hiring Manager. Ie. if you’re going for a marketing role, mention any marketing awards they’ve won or where you’ve seen their campaigns advertised.
Don’t forget company values/culture – acknowledgment of company values/aims will show the HR Manager that you not only understand how the company operates, but you have researched the company culture and vision.
The interviewer will undoubtedly ask you what you know about the company, but they could ask you what you know about the industry as well, therefore it’s important to do some basic preparation in order to demonstrate a good level of knowledge and understanding.
Use your own experience – if you already work in the industry, share your knowledge and opinions. Make sure not to share any sensitive information from your current/previous employers though! If you have a personal interest in the industry – share this too!
Chat to your contacts – if you know anyone in the prospective company or in rival companies – talk to them about the industry, job roles – everything!
Research competitors – see how their offerings differ
Check industry news per trade specific sites rather than a broad google search – ie. if you’re going for a job in online gaming, look at the EGR or iGaming websites – these sites serve specific online gaming related content
Check industry awards – who’s won what and why
Use your research to formulate questions for your interviewer
While doing your research, keep in mind questions to ask at the interview.
There are no set questions to ask, and they should largely depend on what you’d actually like to know (rather than what you think you have to ask), but you can gain a lot in the way you ask questions.
So rather than ask ‘what’s the company atmosphere like?’, expand this to: ‘I see the company has had a lot of growth this year, how has that contributed to the company atmosphere?’.
Instead of asking ‘Who are your main competitors?’ ask ‘I know that and operate within the same areas as you – would you consider them serious competitors?’.
You don’t want to come across as a know-it-all, but intelligent questions that subtly reference company/ industry information will help you to stand out.