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Researching a company before your job interview isn’t about standing out anymore. Today it’s about keeping up and staying on the short-list. Not so long ago, job seekers who wanted to stand out in an interview were advised to research the company and interviewer. You could use your research to determine which examples of your work you should share when answering questions and any sentence starting with ‘I saw on your website…’ was sure to impress.
The minimum expected
Today however, researching the organisation and interviewer sees you stand out for all the wrong reasons. In our information and social media age, where information is so readily available, there’s really no excuse for not doing your homework.
And don’t think you can bluff your way through an interview. Interviewers know when you’ve failed to do your research. It’s there for all to see in answers that are not personalised or in the work examples you cite that aren’t 100 per cent relevant to the role, the organisation or its clients.
Other tell-tale signs of a failure to research include asking a question you would already know the answer to if you’d looked into the organisation and team, not demonstrating how your skills could add value to the organisation, and not understanding the vacancy’s role in helping the organisation achieve its objectives.
So how can you research an organisation and what should you look for? Here’s our advice:
- Social media: At the very least you should search for the organisation and your interviewer on LinkedIn. Like the organisation on Facebook and follow them on Twitter so you are up-to-date with their latest news.
- Google: Search for the organisation and your interviewer online. Just like your social media research, you are looking for information about the organisation. This could include recent executive-level appointments, expansions or new products or services.
- The organisation’s website: An organisation’s website will give you more detailed news and – crucially – insight into its culture, recent projects and accolades.
- Glassdoor: Websites such as Glassdoor can provide further information about an organisation that can’t be discovered on their website or social media pages.
From this research you’ll gain a robust insight into the organisation’s culture. For example, its website may emphasise its meritocracy, in which case you could share examples of how you were promoted for consistently exceeding your objectives. If it emphasises teamwork, you should share examples that show you work well in a team.
You should come to understand the organisation’s products or services and its objectives. Find out which organisations are its main competitors and see if you can gain an understanding of what challenges the organisation is currently facing.
You’ll be able to see if you are connected to anyone who has worked at the organisation, in which case you can talk to them for more insights about the company.
And you’ll also be able to note interesting points you can ask about in the interview.
A word of warning
But while you want to use your research to inform your answers don’t overdo it. It’s perfectly acceptable to tell an interviewer you read about their recent product launch and thought it was done very well, but don’t start telling them what they could have done better, or encroach on their privacy too much. Critiquing the organisation won’t go down well in an interview!
Instead, use the information you uncovered to prepare appropriate examples of your work, previous performance and way you work that show your interviewer you are the very best fit for the organisation and role.