Research is a critical part of the interviewing process, as I've mentioned before. Without any prior research, you are left in the dark when interviewers start asking you about the company, what you think of the company's reputation and past, their history. You want to give the impression that you are savvy and a step ahead of your competition, not slow and uninformed.
You should begin your research with a simple Google search, if you have internet access. If your company has a website, there will likely be plenty to read through on their site. You can also try Wikipedia, or other independent sources around the web that may know about your company.
History & Major Accomplishments
Facts, figures, statements, financial goals set and achieved--these are all handy to know when speaking with a potential employer. The more you know about the company's history, the better off you are. If you've got a twinkle in your eye, a firm handshake, and a solid knowledge of the company, then you're far better off than 90% of your competition, with little additional effort. If you take this opportunity seriously, you will find it easy to remember the company's history and accomplishments (in a limited fashion, of course).
A company's mission statement is often of the utmost importance to them. It speaks of their values, their mission, and the very reason for their existence in the first place. You should not only know what the mission statement is, but you should understand the mission statement. A good mission statement can instill a sense of purpose and loyalty in you, even before you get to the interview. You know you're on the right track if you are taking things that seriously, because other candidates probably won't. Know the company's most crucial goals and they will appreciate the extra effort.
Analyze the position
To analyze the position you are applying for, delve as deeply as possible. The more detail you get from your research, the better. Know the specifics on this job, know all of the requirements and constraints of the position beforehand, if possible. Keep in mind, no one is completely prepared. Although it is important to prepare, do not let it overwhelm you.
Other things to know
» Type of organization
» Functions of the company
» Sales and earnings
» Location, including international locations
» Year company was established
» Business Model
» Key employees
Research can help you decide if you really do want to spend the next 2, 3 or 5 years of your life within a certain company. Some companies don't fit with certain employees, and you should accept that. If you find yourself disagreeing with some of the policies of the company, or you don't believe in their mission statement, you may as well move on before you waste your time. Don't let yourself become stuck in a company that's no good for you and vice versa.
Reasons for Research
1. You will be able to fully display your vigor and enthusiasm for the company.
2. You will be more prepared to demonstrate that your skills, abilities, talents, traits, etc are a perfect fit for the company.
3. You can find out beforehand if this company is the right one for you, or if you should pass this opportunity by.
4. You can never know too much about a company. Interviewers will always be impressed with a knowledgeable, genuinely enthusiastic candidate.
While researching, be sure to periodically test your own knowledge and true understanding of the company or organization you will be meeting with. Ask yourself – how does this industry work? What does the company really do? How do they make money? Is money even the primary concern, or is something bigger at stake? What are some of the qualities professionals working for the company have in common with each other? Do you share these values and qualities?
Research is sometimes time-consuming, therefore you should allow yourself enough time to do a thorough job. Research before you do your mock interview and practice your interview questions, that way you already have all the knowledge you need, and you get a practice scenario to use it in. Your goal is to be prepared when an employer asks you something like "What do you like about my company? What do you know? Why do you think you belong here"; these are the most common questions, and you will most likely be asked at least a few of them.
Where and how you research is up to you, but you can start in your local library if you are stumped. Use their computer, or a personal computer, to look up the company website. The site is a good place to start, but should not be your only source of information. You should definitely try a few other places, as well. If you know anyone who works on the inside of the company, take full advantage of this contact and grill him/her for information at any opportune time. There are plenty of websites out there that can help you find the information you need.
Before Your Interview
Before you are face to face with an interviewer, there are certain questions you must know the answers to before you step into that office. These answers can be acquired through some research, and some thought.
1. What are the organization's products and/or services (this includes nonprofit organizations such as libraries, education, publications, etc)?
3. What are the company's most prominent values? If you are meeting with a for-profit company, one of those values will be profit, but there are likely to be some other values as well. Innovation, social reinventing, team work, and public service are some values a company may possess in addition to profit.
4. If you are working in a specific branch of the company, what is the role of that branch and how does it relate to the organization as a whole?
When to Do Research
Most job seekers don't do any research until the third and final stage, right before the job interview. The sooner you get started, the more of an advantage you're bound to have. You can get started when you fill out the application; this way you can customize your cover letter and résumé to your employer. However, if you want to get even more of a kick-start, research companies that are known in your industry of interest or expertise. The sooner you get started, the more well-prepared you will be and the more you can show your potential employer.
Determine Which Info you Need
There is an unlimited amount of information available for certain, large companies. Therefore, you should decide exactly how much and what kind of information you need. The more specific you are in your wants and needs when it comes to information, the better you will retain any of the relevant information you happen to stumble across. Try making a list or chart of some kind to outline specifically what you want to know about the company. You may also jot down questions to ask your interviewer, if you are unable to find any information on that topic. You may also want to ask your interviewer more about the company, even if you feel you know enough. Don't ask any basic information; this will make you seem unprepared. However, it is perfectly acceptable to ask more in-depth questions of your interviewer, and it may even flatter him/her to know that you are so interested in the company.
Industry Specific Research
Industry specific research is not something you do just to impress your interviewer. Whichever industry you have chosen as your career path should receive plenty of attention simply because it's what you have chosen. When researching your industry, study the most influential companies, people, and anything you can wrap your mind around. This isn't just for the interview; the more you know about your industry, the better your job outlook, the more seriously you will take yourself and the more seriously others from your industry will take you. If you have no knowledge or direction and you act like you've been led astray instead of taking control of your own fate, who would want to hire you? You are in control here, not anyone else, and you can fully optimize your ability to research and get miles ahead of your competition.
If you can manage it, give each prominent company in your industry specific focus. This way, when you are deciding which positions to apply for, you can have all your options in front of you. Meet with people from inside the companies if possible.
1. Identify the industry
2. General research of the industry
3. Identify trade shows, publications, trading partners
4. Learn about the target market
5. Research legal issues surrounding the industry
6. Find information about specific, key companies
7. Determine and analyze the competition of the industry
8. Find out the best places for people of that particular industry
9. Research the history of the industry
10. International market
11. Interview/meet with people from the industry
News & Blogs
You may think of news as a good way to keep tabs on a particular company, but perhaps you never thought blogs would be handy for research. This isn't true; blogs are a great, interesting way to come across unexpected insider information. A company site may have a link to a blog for employees. Go there, take a look around and see what you find out.