The Ultimate Interview Research Checklist

The Ultimate Interview Research Checklist

If you want to shine out from the competition and are serious about securing the job, then you must research the company before your interview.

In some format or another I can almost guarantee you will be asked:

“What do you know about our organisation?”

It’s usually posed near the beginning of the interview and a good answer could get off on the right foot. However, a bad answer could be something you never quite recover from. It’s a question you can ensure you have an answer for.

Yet unbelievably, many candidates don’t. That speaks volumes. Sure it’s just one question of many and not the focus of the interview, yet your answer can make or break you.

Preparation at the very least shows effort on your part. The way you approach and prepare for the interview can also demonstrate your attitude to work in general. Good, solid research can allow you to show that you are already thinking about how you would fit into the culture and how you could add value once working there.

There really is no excuse. The internet offers up a world of information to you.

One quick word of caution however, is that the way you present your findings are as key as the data itself. Utilising some of the social media tools below you may uncover some harsh company / product criticism. View everything pragmatically, there are always two sides and sometimes people are more motivated to report bad news than good online. Although your findings may give you food for thought on whether you wish to join that organisation, they do not make the whole picture. Your interview should not turn into a platform to attack the brand, remember what you are there to do.

So in no particular order, let’s get started:

  • The Company Website

o    Start at the ‘About Us’ page

o    Look at any jobs / careers section

o    If an International group make sure you search and focus on the country / division/unit you are looking to join

o    News and Events, any posted press releases

o    Quick tip printing off a couple of pages and taking them with you physically demonstrates your effort but not a substitute for actually reading that info

  • The Annual Report

o    Maybe online or offline. Look at the CEO statement, summaries and half year reports

  • Other Financial

o    For stock listed companies visit The London Stock Exchange or for American firms Nasdaq and NYSE

o    More user friendly sites are Digital Look and The Financial Times

o    For smaller or non listed for a small fee you can look at their Statutory Accounts from Companies House. Particularly useful if you are applying for a finance or senior commercial position

  • External Information sites

o and Vault are American sites in which former or current employees post information about working in their organisations. Can give a unique slant

o    Google them

o    The BBC local sites hold a wealth of details and worth a search on local businesses

o    Press Release sites such as PR Newswire

  • Industry specific websites

o    This is completely specific to the area / industry / practice you are applying for. For a start look at professional bodies e.g accounts in the UK : CIMA, ACCA, ACA

o    Look at specific magazine style sites e.g HR : Personnel Today, People Management

o    Search for the company / product within these sites and see what work they are doing specifically in your area

o    Use twitter search to look at what people are talking about right now in regard to the company or product. Search people for twitter accounts from the organisation itself and check out their streams

o    Post a direct question to your following and ask for relevant information, articles or thoughts on brand

o    Visit fanpages for the company and its products / division/services

o    Look in your own network for anyone who may work there and again ask your friends for any information

o    View the company profile

o    Look at those who have recently joined or left. Is there any pattern?

o    Who do you know that works there?

o    Look up specifically the people who will be interviewing you

o    Search for anyone who works or has worked at the organisation in the position you are applying for and compare backgrounds

o    Check out Managers and Directors in the department you wish to join

o    Search the groups section to see if they have any specific groups in operation, where relevant join these groups. Investigate Industry groups again join where relevant and search the discussions for mentions of the company / product

  • People You Know Working There

o    If you do have a connection you can talk to ask them what they are currently working on? Are there any large projects coming up, or current issues facing the business? Do they like working there and why? What’s the culture like and the personality of the hiring manager and / or potential line manager?

  • Recruiters

o    If you have a strong relationship or a Recruiter you can trust it’s always worth a call to ask them what they know about a company and its hiring processes.

That’s a lot to be going on with and how much you want the job will determine how much you do. Have any more tips, resources or suggestions I’ve missed off please share in the comments I’d love to hear them.

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Sarah Cooper has over 14 years Recruitment experience gained in both an internal and agency environment. As one of the founding Directors of McGinnis Loy Ltd, specialist Finance and HR Recruiters, she is still actively recruiting in the marketplace today. Follow her tweets @approachmarket