A friend of mine recently told me a story relaying one of the most terrifying starts to a job interview that I've ever heard (and I'm a recruitment consultant)!
He called it the 'X-Factor Interview.'
The company invited 10 candidates to their office for 7 am in the morning and as they arrived, they were all lined up, in front of a panel of interviewers (including the business owner).
The entire nervous bunch were asked 'so what do you know about the company?'
Now clearly, the quicker you piped up, the easier it was to answer (you couldn't repeat another candidate's reply, of course). Those who couldn't come up with anything were immediately shown the door.
Now this is a pretty extreme interview and (fingers crossed) you won't find yourself facing that firing line - but it does emphasise the absolute importance of doing your research before an interview.
Below, here is a list of the 8 crucial things that you MUST research before any job interview, courtesy of our friends at The Interview Academy.
1. What They Do.
This must seem ridiculously obvious... right?
But you'd be surprised how many interviewees still show up without any real clue about what a company does - and to be honest, it's just a bit embarrassing.
You can be almost 100% sure that your interviewer will ask you 'what do you know about the company?' It's one of those typical clichés and with good reason! Would you wish to hire someone who couldn't be bothered to even find out what your company did?
The best place to research what a company does is via their website - more specifically the "About Us" page - this really is the bare minimum!
You really don't want to come across clueless and confused.
2. The Company Mission.
A company's mission statement basically reflects the reason why they do what they do; the reason they came into being and the values they hold (these usually remain unchanged).
For example, The Coburg Banks mission statement is to... 'become the recruitment company most admired for its people' and all of our values are in line with that mission.
It's highly likely that you'll find this information on the company website (although sometimes, you may have to do a little digging through the mish-mash of pages), brochure or other marketing materials.
If you can't find a specific statement, then you'll have to use your initiative with the information you can find out - how do they portray themselves, what values do they advertise?
During the interview, make sure you take advantage of whatever you discover, showing off how well your values match the company's!
3. The Company Culture.
It's pretty difficult to suss out the company culture without visiting the offices or speaking to the staff... but you can get some sort of idea of how the company wishes their culture to be perceived by the public.
Social media is a great tool for discovering this.
Many companies now post on Facebook, Twitter Instagram and LinkedIn, showing off employee engagement, their staff, the offices, social events etc. All vital components to 'company culture.'
Suss it out - do they seem very professional and calm or casual and kooky?
Then, all you have to do is portray yourself as someone who could fit in well with that culture, for example, 'I would absolutely love to work here because the atmosphere seems really modern, fun and vibrant!'
Recruiter Pro Tip. Glassdoor is a pretty nifty little tool to use during your job interview research, particularly when you're on the hunt for company culture! The site allows employees to anonymously add reviews of companies that they have worked for in the past, including perks, benefits and salaries. It's definitely worth a gander!
If you can't uncover anything concrete about the company culture, then ask in your interview!
Not only will your interest and initiative impress the interviewer, but it's also important that YOU know about the company, before you accept a job offer when it (hopefully) arises!
To discover more impressive questions you could be asking interviewers click here.
4. The Latest News!
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This kind of research will position you as a cut above the rest.
It shows that you're not just a lazy bum who checked out the company website so that you could slam dunk the standard questions, but you're really committed and genuinely interested in the company.
And it's not difficult! All it takes is a little browse around Google, the company blog, their newsletters etc. to see whether the company has made the news at all.
It also means that if the interviewer starts talking about a recent success, then you won't be left surprised - you'll genuinely be able to discuss the topic and keep the conversation going.
Warning: don't bring up any negative press the company have had. It will put a downer on the entire job interview and is bound to irk your interviewer.
5. The Company's History!
This kind of research is one step further still (and a lot more difficult) - discover what you can about the company's history!
Learning the history of the company (things like take-overs, business partners, past News stories and recruitment drives) will help you to predict the future.
- Perhaps they've been growing more rapidly over the last year?
- Maybe the business has flourished since hiring a new MD?
- Has your new potential department only just been opened?
All of this information can be dropped into the conversation to show off how genuinely interested you are in the company.
6. The Company's Competitors.
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You may already have faced the question 'who do you think are our main competitors?' in an interview before.
It's a pretty difficult one to answer, particularly if you don't know the industry (and haven't done your research) so we always recommend coming up with a few good examples!
Answer well and you're guaranteed to impress your interviewer.
Simple really, but people often forget this vital bit of research!
7. The Company's USP.
Want to become a superstar interviewee in one foul swoop?
Once you've worked out who the company's main competitors are, go one step further and try to work out their USP.
What makes the company different?
How do they compete in their industry?
If you can demonstrate this knowledge, then you'll show commitment, genuine interest and a whole lot of commercial savvy - you're bound to knock your interviewer's socks off!
You should really do at least a little of research about the management team of the company (although it's not the most important thing on this list).
If you can name-drop, it'll be pretty impressive - so for example - if you know that the owner of the business has written an award-winning book, you could bring that up.
At the very least you should be aware of who's interviewing you and who your line manager would be, with some knowledge of their background.
It will be creepy if you start reeling off the names of their children and where they live etc. but if you can say 'oh I noticed you went to Liverpool University too' that could be a conversation starter.
Finding common ground in a job interview is a great way to impress.
There are, of course, a variety of other things that you should be researching before entering your interview - don't neglect the industry, the role and anything else you think might be relevant.
Turning up, completely unprepared is a waste of your interviewer's time (and yours) and to be honest, it shows a complete lack of interview etiquette.
Regardless, it's absolutely within your own interests to research the company before interview! You need to know whether you'd even accept the job, if offered (click here to find out more).
Recruiter Pro Tip. What happens if the company in question doesn't have an online presence and you can't find out any information? If you're absolutely certain that you're digging deep enough, then it is something that you can mention in the interview. Show up with a list of questions you'd like to ask and let them know - 'I am so intrigued to find out more about the company, I struggled to find out much online'. Honesty is the best policy.
If you'd like any more top tips on how to prepare for your job interview - check out our other posts here - you'll find everything you need to know.
Like we always say... fail to prepare and you're preparing to fail!