If you want to create a memorable interview, and differentiate yourself from all other applicants, your research needs to go much much deeper than you think.
When I used to conduct up to six interviews a day, I could always tell how much research a candidate did before meeting with me. Research isn’t about checking off a box that you prepared for your interview, or about knowing the basics about a company from browsing their website. Thorough research before an interview allows you to speak in way that demonstrates that you are knowledgeable, current, and serious about the work you do.
The INDUSTRY– read a few articles about the industry that you are interviewing in. At a minimum, know the top companies and how the company you are talking with compares. Check the news for recent mergers and acquisitions, as well as new regulations and how they could affect your prospective company.
Go Deeper: Research the current trends in the industry, and then ask the interviewer what their opinion is about a particular trend, and how they think it will impact their business. This one question alone demonstrates that you are knowledgeable outside of your job function, you understand the big picture, and you think strategically. If the interviewer can’t give you a solid answer, you may not want to work for them.
The COMPANY – read at least 30% of the company’s website. Make sure you know the company history (who founded it, when, and why). Have a good idea of their products and services, as well as how they relate to your job function. If the company is public, use Yahoo Finance to review the organization’s financials. If their stock value has been in a steady decline for the past year, you will want to find out more about that.
Most importantly, look up the people who work at the company. This is where LinkedIn has become a game changer. See if you know anyone who works there currently or in the past, and contact them to see if you can gather any inside information. Glassdoor.com is also a great resource for getting an honest look at a organization, because you can read company reviews written by former employees.
Don’t just look for the positive; see what dirt you can dig up on the company. I was about to accept a job at Ameriprise Financial a few years back, until I googled “working at Ameriprise,” and found an entire website dedicated to warning potential hires that it was hell. You probably don’t want to work at a pharmaceutical company if they have had multiple citations or warnings from the FDA.
Go Deeper: Try to figure out what challenges the company is currently facing. Reading the company annual report can be a good place to locate this type of information. It won’t be spelled out in plain english, but if you read between the lines, you will be able to tell where their pain points are. During the interview, you will want to show you are aware of their problems, and that you are part of the solution.
The DEPARTMENT– It can be tough to find good information about a specific department within a company. Start with people – are you interviewing with the head of the department? If not, find out who the head is, and review their background. Chances are good you will meet with them at some point in the interview process.
See if you can find other employees on LinkedIn who work in the department. Do they all have a similar background, or a similar degree? This will give you insight into how your experience compares. If you have more experience than the average person in the department, you can leverage that information during salary negotiations. If you have less experience than the average employee, you know that may be one hurdle you have to clear, and you can be prepared to do exactly that.
Go Deeper: Look at employee turnover within the department you are looking to join. You can do this by searching on LinkedIn and looking at how long past employees worked at the company before moving on. Are there a handful of people who were there for less than 6 months? That could be a red flag, and you can tactfully look into it further.
The INTERVIEWER– look up the person who will be conducting the interview. It should be easy to find out how long they have been at the company, where they worked previously, and what their degree is in.
Go Deeper: With some extra digging on Facebook and other sites, you may be able to find out other seemingly inconsequential things, like their favorite music, causes they are involved in, and favorite inspirational quotes. The goal here is to find something that you have in common. If you see they are passionate about Adele and she is one of your favorite musicians, you can find a way to casually mention it during the interview and thus create rapport. Our genes make us like people like us, and 86% of managers say they hire people they like rather than what the job requires.
We live in a world where there is an unlimited amount of information at our fingertips. Use it to your advantage by going deeper than everyone else, and you may just land your dream job.