On a cold December morning in Philadelphia, I prepared to tackle what would be my first “real” job interview. Having gone straight from undergraduate to graduate school, and then accepting a full time position at the hospital where I had completed my graduate school practicum, I had not accrued the interviewing knowledge or experience that may have prevented me from making what ended up being a major interview blunder.
Attired in my spiffiest suit, my make-up tastefully applied and my hair expertly styled, I studied my interview notes on the train ride to the intersection of 8th and Market Streets in downtown Philadelphia. I climbed the staircase exiting the train station at my location with plenty of time to spare – or so I thought. The street address I had jotted down from the human resources recruiter I worked with was nowhere to be found among the stores and businesses I passed. I circled each block in the vicinity, frigid wind blowing my hair out of place and causing a bright red hue to appear on my cheeks. I called the recruiter I spoke to a few days prior, but there was no answer – after all, she was on the west coast and it was early morning in Philadelphia. At that point, I determined my mistake. The recruiter must have given me the street address of their San Francisco location by mistake – just about every major city has a Market Street, right? Unfortunately, it never occurred to me to verify the city! By the time I determined the correct location and walked several blocks to get there, I had arrived 45 minutes late looking rather flustered and dejected.
Spoiler alert – I did not get the job.
In hindsight, I realized that if I had done enough research to know that the company had multiple locations nationwide, I likely would have realized that the address I was given was incorrect. At best, conducting thorough research of a company prior to each interview can help you land your dream position. Failing to thoroughly research a company during your interview preparation can cost you an opportunity, and in my case, a good deal of pride.
Here at the UGA Career Center, employers report on surveys that our students could do a better job in conducting research on their companies prior to the job interview. Employers perceive students who demonstrate a thorough understanding of the company during the interview in a very positive light. It demonstrates that you value preparation, have a genuine interest in the company and industry, and respect the employer’s time. The following list includes a few questions for you to answer as you begin your company research, and can likely be found on the company’s website or by conducting a simple Google search.
What is the organization’s mission, values and goals?
What types of products and/or services do they provide?
What are the company’s key competitors? What sets them apart from the competition?
Who are the company’s customers (i.e., other businesses, consumers)?
Is the organization publicly-held, privately-owned, or a government organization?
Who are the leaders in the company?
After answering the above questions, you will need to delve a bit deeper. Find any recent news articles or press releases from the company’s website or from conducting an internet search and assess how that new information fits in with what you have already learned. Search for the company on LinkedIn to get a sense of their employee population and what skill sets they seem to value when hiring. For instance, if a large proportion of the employees have reached expert level proficiency in a particular software package, you should be prepared to talk about that software package in your interview. Another useful resource is Glassdoor.com, which provides the “inside scoop” of what it may be like to work for that organization based upon employee reviews.
Now that you have collected this great information, you will need to know how to put it to good use. Often during an interview, employers will ask open ended questions like “tell me why you’re interested in working for ABC Company.” This is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate all of the research you have done. Instead of listing basic facts about the company, weave those facts into statements like “I am very impressed by your innovative work with…” or “I can’t wait to learn more about how you’ve…” Always keep it positive. Now is not the time to mention any negative reviews or press you may have read.
At the conclusion of an interview, the employer will likely ask if you have any questions for them, which presents another fantastic opportunity to show off your company knowledge. Ask a few questions based from your research, like “I noticed your company values community engagement – what opportunities exist for employees to get involved locally?” Asking intelligent questions that reach beyond surface-level knowledge of the organization demonstrates that you take the interview opportunity seriously, and would likely be an employee who faces the job with the same dedication and commitment.
In addition to helping you ace the interview, conducting thorough company research can help you determine if the organization fits well with you as an employee. For instance, if the company culture seems to be deeply entrenched in tradition and you live for change and innovation, it may not be the best fit for you. However, if you notice a shared commitment to protecting our environment or encouraging a healthy work-life balance, you may have found an excellent match.
In conclusion, make the time to conduct a deep and thorough exploration of a company prior to each and every interview. This research coupled with your detailed interview preparation will set you up for success in your job search and position you as a stand-out candidate worthy of a fantastic offer.