Interview Prep – Research

Success, especially when it comes to your job search, is about being able to get the details right. I could go on at length about the need to make sure you iron your clothes, practice your hand shake etc., but most people do actually get those things right. However, in all the years I have been interviewing, candidates seem to consistently overlook three things. This article is about the first.

#1 Research the company you are interviewing with.

Often, if your interview is with a large organization, say McCain Foods, this may seem like an unnecessary step since most of us have heard of McCain. And, in the case of smaller companies, immediately available information might be limited. Neither of these scenarios is an excuse for not doing your homework before an interview. Knowing as much as possible about the interviewing company is important for two reasons:

  1. It gives you a better insight into whether the organization is actually a good fit for you. If you are a technician with a passion to focus on one product area, and the company just sold that division, then that isn’t a good sign. Similarly if there is no evidence of growth, and you are an ambitious corporate climber – is this opportunity right for you?
  2. It makes you stand out against 95% of all the other candidates who won’t have done their homework and therefore don’t seem as passionate about the organization as you. Companies want to hire candidates who demonstrate their desire to work for them.

Interviewers may ask you directly what you know about the company. If so, keep it brief but relevant. Practice in advance what you will say if you are asked this question. Alternatively, you can use this information to add credibility to your answers to other interview questions.

A wonderful example of this was in an interview to hire a sales analyst for an organization that had just announced a significant corporate acquisition within their market sector. The successful candidate knew about the acquisition through her research. She then figured out that acquisitions often result in the need to consolidate information from reporting systems that exist at the current company, as well as the newly acquired one until both systems have become fully integrated. When we asked “What particular skills do you bring that sets you apart from other candidates”, she talked about a research project she had done that required her to assimilate data from a number of different places to draw conclusions about her thesis. She went on to relate this experience to the need our company would have for someone who was good working with different systems, given the recent acquisition. Bingo.

Places to look for this information include (everyone’s favourite) Google, but there are other sources. Read the organization’s social media posts so to see what they are talking about and search articles in relevant industry magazines. Is the company a member of an association and can you find news about the company’s activities with that association? If you are particularly brave, there is absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out to a current employee at the organization (as long as it isn’t an interviewer, or the recruiter managing your file) and asking a few non-controversial questions (current corporate priorities, new products, new markets, new production techniques etc.).Be curious about the senior people at these organizations, find out who the CEO, COO, VP Marketing and CIO is. Where did they work before, what advances have they made at the company, how long have they been there? If you know who is interviewing you, and you can find information about them, so much the better.

When the FoodGrads website is fully functional, you will be able to use this is a major component of your research because it will provide a platform for candidates and employers to network and communicate. However, until then, make sure you do your homework. Remember, knowledge is power.