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How to Conduct Company Research before Interviews

Updated on November 5, 2012
ChrisMcDade8 profile image

Christine McDade is a Human Resources professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 18 years in the public sector.

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Going to a job interview can be very unnerving for a job applicant. Worrying about what to wear, how to fix their hair (whether a haircut is needed prior to the interview), being familiar with the location of the interview and preparing for the questions to be asked can be very overwhelming for the individual. This situation can be all the more stressful to the applicant if the individual really, really wants the job. Resources such as job search websites, books, and job agencies provide advice on the importance of preparing for that crucial interview. Preparing for a job interview should include learning about the background and general organizational structure of the potential employer. Exploring the available resources for gaining this valuable information can turn an interview into a successful step closer to landing that much desired job.

Plan your research by making a list of the things you would like to learn about the company.
Plan your research by making a list of the things you would like to learn about the company. | Source

What You Need to Know About a Company

In order to gain insightful information about a company, it is important to plan what information will be helpful to understanding the company. An applicant who is serious about learning the background of a potential employer should consider the following:

  1. Background and History - In order to know where a company is headed, it is useful to know how the company was started and by whom. What year was the company founded? Is this a family owned company? Learning about the company's past will explain how it has become what it is today.
  2. Products and Services - Some of the information gained from discovering the history of the company will lead to some answers about what products and services are produced by the company. Knowing how those services and products have developed and changed over time will give a good picture of the company and its successes over the years since its creation.
  3. Leadership - It is always helpful to know with whom you are interviewing. If it is a manager or director of a department, find out what you can about their experience and expertise. Also, learn the name of the current CEO or President. Knowing who is in charge gives the applicant some insight as to who is leading the company to respect its mission and meet its goals.
  4. Size of the Company - One way to get a good feel about the success and changes that have occurred to the company is to know how large it is. How many employees does the company currently have? Where is the headquarters or home office? Does the company have offices in different cities, states, and/or overseas? Has the company grown or had to downsize due to the economic challenges that has plagued most employers in the last few years? The growth or changes in the makeup of the company provides an indication of how leadership has adjusted its business over time to meet typical economic and environmental challenges.
  5. Company Reputation - Is the company well-known in its industry for innovation and its leadership? Have there been any high profile lawsuits regarding the products or even from employees alleging discriminatory practices? Does the company participate in community events and local charities? Knowing how an employer is respected by the industry, the public and its employees are good indications of their work practices.

Having a plan of action as to what information is wanted will help the applicant in the pursuit of the answers that will ultimately give a good overall description of the company.

Where to Gather Information

Once the applicant has planned accordingly for what information to gather, the actual pursuit of the information can take a variety of twists and turns as there are many ways to gather such data.

  • Internet - The Internet provides endless searching possibilities for applicants wanting to gain information about a potential employer. Companies can generally be researched on the Internet for its history and general background information. Internet searches often produce some great results in terms of learning about the company's products and services which have likely changed and improved over the years. Many companies have websites that give detailed information about these things as well as what it has to offer potential employees. In addition, there are many sites which actually list top employers who are recognized for outstanding employment practices and industry success. (See the links below for some excellent information about top performing employers.)
  • Social Media - An extension of the Internet search would be the use of social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to gather facts about a company. In fact, many companies have sites or pages within the social media outlets which would provide information about the company and its current events. Leaders of these employers may use the social media as a way to communicate with the community about news pertaining to the company.
  • Television News and Written Media - Many companies make the local and national news for a variety of reasons. Watching CNN and/or local news channels can provide news of what's happening with the company. Checking out newspapers for printed articles is another way to learn about a company. Searching the Internet will often provide links to any recent news stories.
  • Speak to Current Employees - When possible, another good way to learn about a potential employer is to speak directly to current employees. These individuals will be able to give first-hand information about benefits, pay, company culture and advancement opportunities. It is important, however, to remember that any information gathered in this manner should be carefully considered as opinion and not necessarily fact.

Companies can easily be researched because of their need to communicate and market their products and/or services to the public. Applicants who are called in for an interview have a lot of ways to gain information prior to the interview.


Some Closing Thoughts...

Employers who interview job applicants are impressed with well-informed individuals who ask intelligent questions about the company. Applicants who spend a little time preparing for the interview by researching the company for details about its structure, leadership, and overall employee base will find that they are well prepared for the job interview itself. Knowing these pertinent facts about the company may be the very thing that puts them at the top of the candidate list for the job. After all, knowledge is power!

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    • internpete profile image

      Peter V 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

      Nice hub! It seems like knowing a bit about the company can mean the difference between hired and not hired sometimes. Great info, voted up!