Research Prospective Companies to Prepare for Your Interview
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Researching companies in preparation for an interview is long-standing career advice. But your research methods may need to be updated by taking a more focused approach. Not only must you prepare effective answers to typical interview questions, you must also identify ways that your skill set can solve problems for the hiring manager. Super-charge your research to find out what challenges are facing the company by including traditional and emerging technologies. Expand your internet search methods to learn all about your company of interest!
Use the corporate website and LinkedIn profiles of current employees to expand on your knowledge of company initiatives. You can even use these resources to make initial contact with some of those executives prior to sending in your resume. Such contacts may help you develop a casual contact into a job opportunity. Be certain to join online professional groups as well. These can be great resources for insider information.
In addition, you can use those sites to help with the challenge of connecting on a personal level with the hiring manager or interview committee. Comprehensive research can pay off in your job search. Not only can this help you identify areas that may be off-limits for discussion, it also demonstrates your initiative and due diligence. By learning a bit about the interviewer, you are skillfully positioning yourself as a resourceful professional who can leverage situations for success.
You can be fairly certain that the hiring manager is conducting an internet search on you, so be prepared by doing the same before you head to the interview. Be careful not to push the envelope too far and risk losing the interview by sharing all the information you find online. Don’t be afraid to leverage the information you have, just be certain to show restraint so that your enthusiasm and self-satisfaction in the success of your own research don’t carry you beyond professional boundaries.
For example, it is probably in your best interest to refrain from saying something like, “I Googled you and found out we went to the same school. And boy, does it look like you had a great time in college (wink-wink).” You can, however, offer a general statement about your experience at the shared institution without making it clear that you know you both attended the same college. If the hiring manager doesn’t counter your offer with their own story about the connection, simply move on. Trying too hard can make you appear desperate or worse yet, unable to maintain professional boundaries. You can always mention the shared reference again in your follow-up or thank-you letter. You still may be able to make a positive connection with the hiring manager. Shared connections can move you toward insider status, making you a more likely candidate for the position opening.
In addition to a basic internet search, there are several other approaches to interview preparation research. Consider expanding your research repertoire by using the additional strategies below.
Immerse yourself in the company website. Go well beyond the home page to explore the corporate mission, community initiatives, and recent honors. Be certain you understand their business model and any historical shifts in mission, products, or customer relationship philosophy. Learn what you can about the competition and analyze strategies that can help address market gaps. Social media sites can provide critical information about how the competition is engaging customers or expanding a product line. LinkedIn can also give you company information. Investigate recruiters to identify those who may have a relationship with companies and organizations of interest to you.
Another unique approach is to do your own “market research” of the company. Do you know any customers or clients? Check out testimonials on the company website, or check with the local Chamber of Commerce for another perspective on the company. What suggestions for improvements or expanded service options do they identify? What strengths and weaknesses are identified by customers or the competition? Become a customer yourself. Contact their customer service center and evaluate your first-hand experience to develop a potential improvement plan. What can you assess about the corporate culture and practices from your interaction? Post a comment on the company’s social media site and see what type of response you receive.
Your research will help you develop a “feel” for the company to determine how well you may fit in with the corporate culture. This is critical information that you can convey to the hiring manager during the interview or a tour of the company. Being able to contribute to conversations about the company communicates a positive energy level and your interest in the position. You can easily work in how your qualifications, skills, and experiences will add value to the team you may join. Despite your research, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Curiosity about the company demonstrates your interest and a strong intellect that can solve problems by thinking outside the box.
Your initiative in going the extra mile with your interview preparation to develop an in-depth understanding of the company will set you apart from the competition and fully prepare you as an engaging candidate for the interview. Hiring managers know who has invested time and effort into researching their company in preparation for the interview. Don’t try to fake it if you haven’t done the work. It will show and sabotage the interview. Take the opposite approach and you will create your own competitive advantage by setting yourself apart from the other candidates with your knowledge of the company, its challenges, and how you will help to solve them!
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