Pre-Interview Research - How Much & Why?

Author Megan Speet

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​​It’s completely normal to feel some nerves before a job interview – you’re putting yourself out there and it’s probably a conversation the outcome of which you care about, but also for the simple fact that you’re being thrust into what isn’t exactly a comfortable situation.

Nevertheless, you’ve brushed up on your figures from the past two years, you know your CV inside out and back to front and you’ve had a real think about those all-important competency based questions (“Tell me about a time you did this,” or, “Describe to me a time when you effectively solved that problem.”)

You can answer all the questions about yourself – but what about them?

In my years of working in recruitment, one of the biggest causes I’ve found for those pre-interview jitters is a lack of understanding of the company themselves.

Do you remember, as a kid, knowing that you had homework due for a lesson that day and not having completed it? Rebel or no, it isn’t a good feeling, yet one so easily avoided; I like to think of candidates not having done their research in exactly this way. It should be a part and parcel of the interview process – arrange, research, attend – but unfortunately that isn’t necessarily so.

The short and short? A sure-fire way to send yourself into that interview with some more confidence is simply by knowing who the company is and what they do.

That’s where research comes in. And by ‘research’ we don’t just mean a quick Google search and glance over the homepage... Here are some quick and easy pointers for those hoping to take a more thorough look at the business you’re interviewing with, what you should know and how to find it out:

Get on LinkedIn

To exercise somewhat of an understatement, LinkedIn is an invaluable tool when it comes to research ahead of an interview. Not only are you likely to find a succinct yet informative overview of the business on there, you’re likely going to be able to do a cheeky recce your interviewer themselves – their position within the business, their tenure there, background beforehand and any other info they share on their page.

This gives you the opportunity to show that you’ve taken a real interest in them, and ask them pointed, personal questions; for now, this is the person you need to get onside. If this is how in depth you’re going to go with their customers, suppliers or other business-critical contacts in future, you’re getting a big thumbs up.

Google the business – properly

It’s extremely important to go beyond the obvious when researching a company – sure, you’ve checked out our website, read our “About Us” page and maybe you’ve creeped on a few of our top guys on LinkedIn. Is that it?

It doesn’t take long to jump on Google and search for more than just the company website itself; what about any news articles which pop up? Have they been mentioned in their industry forums lately? Are there any industry-specific awards happening around this time, or of late, which could be of interest to them? And what about current affairs – does the recent Brexit announcement (another one? Really?) affect them in any way? Is their business seasonal? Could events happening elsewhere around the world have a bearing on the company? Do you know who their customers are, and are they in the news at present? If so, why?

Go further than the first few results on Google; you’ll find many interesting bits and pieces which make for insightful talking points or questions at interview, and really show that you’ve gone that extra mile.

Mystery shopping

You need to know a few key things about the business, none in the least is:

What do they actually do?

Truth be told, with snazzy websites abound and SEO being prioritised, it can often be difficult to garner what the business actually does on a day to day basis, just from reading a website. And who knows better than someone who already works there?

Unorthodox maybe, however it’s not uncommon practice to make a ‘mystery shopper’ call ahead of your interview to get the real low-down from a current employee. Pretend to be a potential customer, uni student, whatever works best for you, and ask the right questions to get the answers you need ahead of time. So, when that inevitable, “Tell me what you know about us,” remark comes up, you’ve got the advantage of an insider’s perspective. Ballsy? Sure – but, worth it for the edge during an interview? Absolutely.

To recap, here’s what you should know ahead of time:

· Who you’re meeting – their background, position, etc.

· What the company does – their service or product offering, who their customers are, their history, key values, etc.

· Your own background – be solid on your dates, achievements, facts & figures, etc.

Going that extra step to prepare for your interview, I can almost guarantee, is going to help dissipate some of those pesky nerves. Not only that but, the more well-read you are on the business, the better you’re going to come across…

As in, the more likely you are to get the job.

It’s a no brainer, no?