Taking your first step in interview preparation.
Before going to an interview with an employer, it’s important to do some investigative work. Research can be the key to having a good interview and impressing an employer. Your standard interview preparation process should always include acquiring solid knowledge about the employer, the field, the market, competitors, and clients. This kind of research helps you gain knowledge about the company and determine what sorts of information to seek during the interview itself.
Most companies have web sites that include background on the business and/or a staff directory, along with any positive media coverage the company has received. In addition to reviewing the company site, you should also search the web to find news or articles about the business. This kind of information can provide a glimpse into the company’s current issues, past successes, and role in the community and industry. Remember: Whenever you are using the Internet for research, it’s important to determine if the information you’ve found is reliable and credible. Sites that consist mainly of user-generated or single-author content, such as Wikipedia, bulletin boards, or blogs, are often unreliable sources of information. A large part of the process of doing proper Internet research is understanding who the sources are and how much you can trust them.
Below are some preliminary questions to give you an idea of the kinds of information you should pursue in your pre-interview research. Make sure to note the questions you can’t find the answers to so that you can ask them during the interview itself.
This information can be found by doing research on the Internet, reading articles about, or profiles of, the company from media outlets, and using your all-important network of contacts to find people who have knowledge of your target company and/or industry.
Basic Business Facts
How big is the company?
How many employees does the company have?
Can you tell if employees stay a long time with the company? Often you can find this information if the company publishes employee biographies on their site.
Does the company have more than one location?
Where is your position of interest located?
What is the basic purpose of the business?
What services does the business provide or what does it sell?
Is the business for-profit or non-profit?
How long has the business been in existence? Is it a new company? Old? Has it been owned by the same people the whole time or have there been shifts in ownership?
What is the basic history of the company?
Who are the people who currently run the company?
Who runs the division you want to work in?
Who works in the division you want to work in?
How big is the division you want to work in?
Where does your position fit into the company’s structure?
What do the published employee biographies sound like? What sorts of backgrounds do the employees have?
Can you find published annual reports for the company? What do they tell you about the company’s health and history?
Where and how does the company make its money?
Who buys what the company sells? Other businesses? Consumers?
How does the company sell their products or services?
Has the company been selling the same thing for a long time or has it changed and adjusted to trends, advances, demand?
How much of a market share does the company have? Are they the major player for their products or services in your city? Your state? The country? Worldwide?
How much has the company grown in the past year? Five years?
Is the market expanding? Staying the same? Shrinking?
Who else is selling or doing the same thing?
Who are the major competitors for the company?
How do the competitors compare in terms of size, revenue, products/services offered, market share, history?
Is the main competition a new start-up or a long-established company?
Is there any difference between your target company and their competitors when it comes to consumers?
Can you find published annual reports for the competition? What do they tell you about the competition’s health and history?
Workforce, Work Structure, and Schedule
Does the business have different shifts?
Does the business allow flex-time to meet transportation or family needs?
How long is a typical shift?
Do the employees’ shifts switch or rotate?
Does the employer operate on a set schedule?
Are there clues in the published material about what kind of worker does well at the company?
From what you’ve found, do you have a sense that workers at the company are happy and satisfied?