Nothing is more disappointing to an interviewer than finding out that an applicant knows nothing about the company that they’re trying to work for. Put yourself in their shoes: Would you want to hire someone who is just blindly sending their résumés to companies they have no real interest in?
Interviewers are looking for people who have an actual interest in contributing—not just someone who is desperately looking for a salary. While no one expects you to be an expert, by knowing a few basic things about the prospective company, you’re demonstrating some initiative. This also makes the interviewing process easier for the interviewer because there’s less to explain.
Put yourself a step ahead of most applicants and research these 9 basic things before your interview day:
1) What is the Company Mission?
The first thing that you should consider before anything else is the very backbone of the company. What are their values? What kind of people work there? What are they trying to accomplish in the world? You can figure this out fairly easily by visiting the company’s website. Indeed, mission statements often contain a lot of fluff, but they will help clue you into what the organization finds most important. Are they an ethical company? Do they give to charity? Are they environmentally conscious?
The key here is to find out if you’re a good match for them. If you are, then make sure that you tailor your responses to interview questions with their values in mind. For example, if the company mentioned in their blog that they want to lower their carbon footprint to zero by next year, it wouldn’t hurt to suggest ways that your job could be made “greener.”
2) What Product or Service Does Your Company Sell?
This is the most basic aspect of any company, so you should at the very least research this before going into an interview. What does this company actually do? Even if your job is clerical and has nothing directly to do with the company’s product, you will have a much better understanding of what you do if you understand the company as a whole. You’ll also have a much better chance for advancement in the future if you have a holistic view of the business, instead of just allowing yourself to be an indifferent “cog” in the machine.
3) Who are the Customers?
You can’t serve a company without serving its customers in some way. They are the heart and soul of a business, so you should have some idea of who your customers or end-users will be. Knowing this will help you better explain to the interviewer how you can contribute to the company in specific ways.
Again, a simple trip to the company website is all you need to find this out. If you already know what kind of product the company makes, it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine the sorts of customers that you’ll have. Try to understand what role your company plays in the market for these customers.
If you want to take things a step further, you can also investigate what the current customer perception is of the company. Do they enjoy the product or service? Do they have any complaints about it? Are there any ways that you can use your potential job to make the product or service better for the customers?
4) What is the Company History?
While most companies are rightfully more concerned with the future than with the past, it doesn’t hurt to understand where the company came from. This can also be key in knowing where they are today and what their wider goals are. Many times, a company’s history is intimately tied with its mission.
Especially familiarize yourself with the history of the company if it is a relatively small startup and has a personal vibe to it. If your interviewer is also the founder of the company, he or she will certainly appreciate the fact that you went out of your way to understand their story. If you personally connected to it in some way, then make sure to mention that.
5) What Does the Company Need?
Employees cost a lot of money. In industrialized countries, it’s not unusual for labor to be the single largest expense for a business, so they are understandably stingy with hiring people. The only reason they are hiring you is because there is something specific that they need from you that couldn’t be resolved by leveraging technology or outsourcing.
Do some research and find out what they need. Yes, maybe they are hiring you to be a network administrator, but why do they need one? What goals do they have? What made them feel that they need more staff?
If you can position yourself as the answer to their problems during the interview, then you have a better chance of getting hired. This involves researching what kind of skills the company would find most useful and highlighting these during the interview. Try to show an understanding of their needs and offer solutions to issues that they might currently be having.
6) Who is Managing the Company?
The interviewer will probably be impressed if you know about the company’s management. Most people ignore this detail as unimportant to the job, but actually the leadership of an enterprise can really make or break the position. It’s also important to try to get inside the heads of the upper management and understand the direction they’re trying to take the company.
Look online and find out who the CEO is and any other key figures in the company. Follow them on social media and get a feel for what they think is important. Echo these values in your interview if you can, especially if the person interviewing you is one of these key decision-makers.
7) Who is Interviewing You?
If you have any way of knowing who will be interviewing you, this can potentially give you a huge advantage. Most people are looking for a human connection, so you can’t expect the person on the other side of the desk to make their recruitment decisions 100% logically, based on your qualifications alone.
Your interviewer probably gets stacks of qualified résumés every day, but if you are able to connect with this interviewer on a human level, then you will make yourself stand out. Remember that you might be working with this person, so they will probably look for someone that they can see themselves getting along with every day.
If you have the interviewer’s email or phone number, then it’s trivial these days to find their social media accounts. Take a look at what kind of person they are, what they value, and any other things that you might have in common. You can build a connection from this.
8) Are There Any Current Events You Need to Know About?
Let’s say the company just went through a huge merger that will affect your position, but you have no idea about it. This might put you at a disadvantage when you’re trying to sell yourself as the answer to the company’s needs.
Make sure that you check news sources or even just the company blog for information on what has been happening lately. If you sound informed to the interviewer, you’ll be much more impressive than the other clueless applicants.
More importantly, knowing what the company is going through currently will also allow you to serve it better. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you should bring up any of the company’s embarrassing sore spots (unless the interviewer does). Just make it seem like you are “in the know.”
9) What Can You Learn From Past and Current Employees?
Though this may be difficult, pick the brain of past and current employees if you can. This will give you an inside view of how the company functions and what it really wants from its staff. You can also get some interview tips from them that might increase your chances of getting hired—after all, they have already been through the process themselves.
There are a few ways to get into contact with employees who can show you the ropes: Some larger companies have unofficial employee-made forums or Facebook groups where the employees tend to congregate. Other times, you may be able to find people on LinkedIn who work for the company. Occasionally, bolder employees for huge companies will talk about their experiences on popular media sites, like Youtube.
There will always be unknowns when you go into an interview. It’s a new experience with a new potential employer, so no one expects you to know all of the details of your job from the very beginning. However, it’s important to seem informed and interested in the company that you’re interviewing for. This is what will elevate you beyond the hordes of other applicants who never did their homework.