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Most interviewers expect you have a good base level of knowledge about their company before your job interview.
If you've done your research, you'll stand out from other job seekers who can't provide relevant answers to the hiring manager's questions.
Company research also helps you not waste time asking questions about information you can find online. Instead, you'll be able to ask the interviewer questions that will help you assess whether the company culture, mission statement, and values are a good fit for you.
The good news is it's never been simpler to research a potential employer, and the time you invest will dramatically increase your chances of making a great impression.
The importance of research before a job interview
Researching a prospective employer is the best way to stand out during the hiring process as it:
- Demonstrates your interest in the company and role: Researching the company (and position) before your interview ensures you make a good impression on the hiring manager.
- Helps you assess the company's strengths (and weaknesses): A great way to stand out in an interview is to articulate to the interviewer what makes the company unique and where it's falling behind its competitors. If you want to stand out, focus on the areas relating to the role.
- Teaches you about the company's culture, mission, and values: Beyond understanding what the company does, it's equally important to understand if their culture, mission, and values align with your career goals and personal values.
- Helps you answer interview questions: The main goal of an interview is to show the interviewer that you're the best candidate. Research enables you to tailor your answers to focus on what is vital to the company and hiring manager.
- Allows you to ask better questions: As your interview comes to a close, most interviewers will ask you if you have any questions for them. If you've done your research, you'll be able to skip the surface-level queries and focus on questions that show why you're the best fit for the role.
- Helps you determine if there is a mutual fit: Job interviews are a two-way street. You are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. If you do your research, you'll be able to determine if you want to work there! You have 80,000 hours in your career. It's essential to use that time wisely.
- Understand if compensation meets your expectations: Researching the salary range of the role you're applying for can help you understand if going through the interview process is worth your time.
- Reduces stress and improves performance: Researching the company helps you prepare for tricky interview questions, reduce stress, and increases your chances of landing a job offer.
Read the job description
Start your research by reading the job description. The job description contains the position's duties, responsibilities, and purpose. Think of this information as everything the hiring manager would want in an ideal candidate.
Don't worry if you don't meet every criterion. Most hiring managers use the job description as a wish list. As you read, note any skills, abilities, responsibilities, or expectations where you have relevant experience.
In general, what hiring managers and recruiters are looking for falls into one of three categories:
- Technical skills: The actionable knowledge the company wants like programming languages, experience with SaaS products, or specialized certifications. If you don't have the exact experience they call for, consider talking about relevant experiences or skills. For example, an experienced programmer can pick up a new language on the job.
- Nontechnical skills: Cognitive, social, and personal abilities that make you successful in their unique work environment.
- Traits and values: If you're applying for a startup, they might value people who are adaptable and comfortable in ambiguity. If you're applying to fully remote companies, they might appreciate writing, the ability to work across timezones, and experience with asyncronous communication.
Once you understand what they're looking for, you can highlight your relevant attributes and experience in your answers to their interview questions to emphasize your research and why you're the best fit.
An excellent way to ensure you have compelling answers is to use the STAR method to structure your answers. You can also use the STAR method to tailor your resume.
Visit the company website
After reading the job description, head over to the company's website. You'll be able to find a link in the job description or by googling their name.
The company's website companies loads of valuable information that you should keep an eye out for:
- Mission statement: A company's mission statement is a summary of their values and goals. If you understand a company's mission statement, you can assess whether your career goals and values align with what the business values. The mission statement can also inform how you frame your answers.
- Team biographies: Most companies include information about their team on their website. You can use this information to understand if your professional and educational background aligns with their team members and goals.
- About us page: The about us page gives context on the company's history, culture, products, and services. It can also include the company's values, press mentions, and links to other important pages.
- Customer testimonials: Reading customer testimonials is a fantastic way to understand how its customers feel about them and their position in the market. If you're going into a customer-facing job, it's also a good way for you to understand whether you'd enjoy interacting with their customers day-to-day.
- Product pages: If you know about the company's products before your interview, you'll stand out from other job seekers. Passionate candidates always do their research on the company's products before starting the hiring process.
- Press page: Reading the featured links on their press page will show you what accomplishments the company is most proud of, as well as what the media thinks about them.
- Blog: A company's blog can be a goldmine for information about the company culture, recent hires, product updates, and insight into how they market and sell their products and services.
- Investor relations page: If you're applying to publicly listed companies or large companies about to go public, reading the information provided by their investor relations teams can help you stand out. The job of their investor relations team is to provide investors with an accurate account of company affairs. Listen to a few earnings calls, read an annual report, or scroll through their latest investor presentation. You'll learn about new products, key risks, growth projects, revenue, profit and loss, and margins, which can be the source of great questions.
- The employee handbook: You've struck gold if the company has a public employee handbook. An employee handbook (or company handbook) is a written document outlining a company's mission, culture, core values, policies, procedures, teams, best practices, and any other information employees need to do their work.
Don't skip this step! As a potential employer, you'll be investing your time into the company and you should determine if the time invested will provide a good ROI.
Look at social media
Check the company's social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. These are the most popular social media networks and will give you a good sense of how they want to be perceived by customers.
Try to find the social media accounts of their executives too. This homework may help uncover red flags or areas you can focus on in your interview. For example, if you're applying for a marketing manager position at the company, but they don't currently have much of a social media presence, that's valuable information to know before your interview.
You could leverage this knowledge to ask about which company's social media presence they admire, or you could talk about what you'd do if the company hired you to kickstart their growth.
Outside of specific information for your interview, keep an eye out for how their customers feel about them and how they interact on social media. You can learn a lot about how a company is going based on customer interactions.
Leverage job websites
Job boards are one of the best ways for employers to find candidates, which is why they are often the source of valuable information about a potential employer. On some of these sites, you'll be able to see if you have any connections working at the company, new jobs, and company announcements.
You can research companies on:
- Himalayas: A remote job board with in-depth company profiles on thousands of remote companies. Our company profiles outline what each company does, its tech stack, and employee benefits.
- AngelList: The world's #1 startup community specialized in remote & local technical talent and opportunities. AngelList has thousands of company profiles that provide information on what the company does and its employees, culture, and investors.
- Crunchbase: A leading destination for finding business information about private and public companies. Crunchbase includes investments and funding information, founding members and functional leaders, mergers and acquisitions, news, and industry trends.
- Glassdoor: A website where current and former employees can anonymously review companies and their leadership. Glassdoor users also submit salary information and questions asked during job interviews.
- LinkedIn: The world's largest professional network with over 750 million members. LinkedIn is a great place to see if you have connections working at the company who you can contact. Not only can people you know put in a good word with the hiring manager, but they can also provide insight into the company and give you tips to ace your interview.
Prepare for common interview questions
One of the easiest ways to ace an interview is to prepare for common questions. Most common interview questions assess whether you're a good fit for the position and whether you've done your research. A lot of them will be behavioral interview questions, so be sure to read our guides on how to prepare for behavioral interviews and answer behavioral interview questions.
Below are a list of common interview questions you should prepare for:
- Why do you want to work here?
- Why are you interested in this position?
- Why do you want to work remotely?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Tell me about yourself
- What makes you unique?
- What are your career goals?
- Describe your work ethic
- When can you start?
- What is your work style?
- How do you define success?
- Why are you the best person for the job?
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake
- What is your greatest weakness?
- What can you bring to the company?
- Why did you leave your last job?
- Why do you deserve this job?
- How do you handle stress?
- Why do you want to work from home?
- Why do you want this job?
- How would you describe yourself?
- Do you work well with others?
- What can you contribute to this company?
- What are your salary expectations?
- Why are you looking for a new job?
- What motivates you?
- What is your greatest strength?
- How do you handle conflict?
Beyond these common interview questions, it's a good idea to leverage the research you are doing into the company and job description to think up questions specific to the position. These questions break down into two types:
- Job-specific interview questions: Outside of common interview questions, there will be a set of job-specific questions the interviewer will ask. Suppose you're applying for a Customer Success job. In that case, you can expect the interviewer to ask questions about how you deal with difficult customers.
- Company-specific interview questions: Some companies also favor specific questions, for example, Google was famous for its brain teaser interview questions in the past. Use Glassdoor to find company-specific interview questions.
If you know someone working at the company, you can also ask them for advice on how to ace the interview.
Talk to existing or former employees
One of the best ways to research a company is to talk to former or existing employees. While it's tempting to jump straight to this step, putting in the effort to research the company beforehand is essential as the research will allow you to ask smarter questions.
Even if you don't know the person, a good cold email that outlines your excitement for the company and desire to work there can help. If you're enrolled in university or college or a graduate, then reach out to your Careers Center to get a list of alumni who work at the company. Chances are they'll be willing to help out fellow alumni.
Check the news
It's always a good idea to check the news on a company before your job interview. Most companies have a press page dedicated to press releases and mentions. However, these pages aren't continuously updated and may only mention good news.
Search Google News to find the latest news article and read through a couple. The knowledge you gain can help shape your responses to interview questions. For example, if you find out the company is expanding into another country, you could ask the interviewer how that would impact your position if the company hired you.
Understand the industry and competitors
After researching the company, it's a good idea to get a sense of the overall industry and their competitors and alternatives. There are a few ways you can find competitors:
- Google: Take the company's name and append "alternatives" or "vs" to your search and look at what Google suggests. These are the company's competitors! Repeat the steps outlined above to research those companies!
- LinkedIn: You can also find related companies on LinkedIn by looking at the "Pages people also viewed" section on their company profile.
- Reviews: Check review sites like G2, Gartner, or Product Hunt and look out for company names that people mention as alternatives or competitors.
- Similarweb: Similarweb is a digital intelligence provider that can help you find similar websites. Type in the company name or website, click on it then scroll down to "Competitors and Similar Sties".
Once you have a list of competitors, follow the steps outlined above but focus on topics relevant to your prospective employer. Understanding how a company stacks up to its competitors and alternatives is a great way to identify if you have skills that can contribute to the company's growth. It's also a great source of questions to ask in your interview that are bound to impress your interviewer.
Investigate your interviewer
Your interviewer will Google you before your interview to get a sense of your Internet presence. You should do the same as it'll increase your chances of connecting with them during the interview.
If you've been sent a calendar invite for the interview, it should include your interviewer's name. If it doesn't, send the company an email to politely request their name.
Once you've got their name, pop it into Google and look out for their LinkedIn, Twitter, and any other public social media accounts. This will help you learn about their professional background, education, and if you have any common interests.
If they have a personal blog, be sure to read a few posts, as it'll give you insight into how they think. You can also use what you learn to establish rapport during the interview process.
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