Employers want candidates to do their research during the hiring process. Here are seven things you should know about the company before the job interview.
One thing that hiring managers want from job candidates is for them to show up to the job interview having done their research about the company. One of the easiest ways to make a bad impression is to show up knowing nothing about what the company does and who works there. The hiring manager wants to know that you are enthusiastic about the job and the company and they want you to show this by learning as much as you can about the business.
A lot of people don’t actually bother to do this, so if you do, you’ll already be ahead of the competition. How do you research the company? Visit the company website and social media pages, Google them, and ask your connections for any information they can share. Not sure what sort of information you’re looking for? Here are seven things you should know about the company before the job interview.
What they sell
Obviously, what kind of products and services the company sells and what they do is something you should know before the job interview. Every company is selling something – sweatshirts, mugs, food, ideas, cleaning services, software, dreams… — and the job for which you’re interviewing plays some role in selling that thing. So, know what it is. Are there different types of products and services? How many are there? Do they specialize in one or two things or is there a wide selection? Familiarize yourself with the company’s offerings. Have you used the products yourself and do you know them well?
The company history
How long have they been around? Was it founded two years ago or 100 years ago? Have they always done the same thing or did they change direction at some point, like Nokia, which started off selling rubber boots before becoming one of the biggest players on the cellphone market in the 1990s? Did they grow from one guy in his garage to a major player on the market? That’s the sort of thing you can reference when asked “Why do you want to work here?”
Who the key players are
Find out who the senior management team is, what their roles are and what they do. Does the CEO have a big online presence and/or a cool backstory about beating the odds (or growing the company out of his garage)? Again, this is something you can point to when asked why you want to work there or why you think you’re a good fit for the organization.
Who their customers are
Is the company B2B or B2C (meaning do they sell their products and services directly to consumers or to other companies)? What is the demographic of their target audience? Is it 25-year-olds with expendable income to spend on fancy shoes, 40-year-olds who want to lose weight (B2C) or large grocery store chains or enterprise hotels (B2B)? Knowing who they want to sell to will help you demonstrate how you can be a valuable part of that process. It’s also helpful to know who they want to reach and aren’t reaching yet, especially if your role is to be in research and development, marketing, or sales. This is something you can ask about in the interview: “Who do you want to reach that you haven’t yet?”
Has anything major happened lately? Did the CEO step down, did they launch a major product, change direction, win an award? Find this out so you can talk about it in the interview if it turns out to be relevant.
Who their competitors are
Do some digging into the company’s competitors on the market. Are they many or few? Are they global, local, or a combination of the two? Knowing this allows you to discuss whether the company actually views them as major competition and why. And, if so, what the company does better or differently or what they could do better or differently. Knowing who the competition is also helps you avoid silly gaffes like showing up wearing or holding a competitor’s product. We once read about a person who showed up to an interview with the Coca Cola company carrying a Pepsi product. They did not get the job.
What the company culture is like
The company culture is a combination of the company’s work environment, goals, mission, and values. “Fit” with company culture is huge on the list of most hiring managers’ criteria and, if you’re not a fit, they’re often less likely to hire you. Showing up knowing how people at the organization are expected to behave can look very good on you.
Do they wear full business attire (when and if they are in the office as we’re currently still in pandemic times) or is it a jeans and t-shirts culture? Are they fun? Do they care about charity and corporate social responsibility? Find these things out and dress the part for the interview.
The company’s mission and values
As we just mentioned, the company culture includes its mission and values. Many businesses have a mission statement on their website, and you can find their values in the “careers” section if there is one. Some sample mission statements include.
Patagonia: We’re in business to save our home planet.
Honest Tea: To create and promote great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages.
Nordstrom: To give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible.
JetBlue: To inspire humanity – both in the air and on the ground.
Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. – (via Hubspot)
Company values are usually things like “integrity,” “accountability,” “trust,” “respect,” “teamwork,” “innovation,” “commitment to customer service,” and variations thereupon. Knowing these values gives you the opportunity to demonstrate that you embody them.
Use this information to formulate your own questions to ask the hiring manager during the interview and to inject the knowledge you’ve gained into your responses to questions. Showing that you’ve done the work will go a long way towards making that great impression.