Job Interview Preparation – Research

In our personal experience if you have too many potential jobs to contemplate, chances are you are just playing the game of probability. This may land you in a job, but it will not land you in a job that you really want. Our recommendation is that you narrow down to three jobs that you really want and then commit yourself completely in the process. This section will guide you with organization research, which will help you stand out in your job interview.

Believe it or not, the interview process starts and ends with you. First it requires that you find a job profile that fits you, then it requires you to apply. When everything goes well, the process ends when you put your signature on the offer letter.

When our uncles or aunts were looking for jobs, they probably did not have the privilege called internet (google and other search sites in general and job sites in particular). Nor did the companies have presence on a place where you conveniently scoop out the information that you need. But the current generation can get all the information with a click of mouse. So, no Employer will heed your excuse of being ignorant about their company before showing up on your interview day. The way you can show your keen interest is to dig deeper and find out things that are not obvious on the first page of google.

Let’s see the resources where you can find information about the company and see how you can add this information to your arsenal.

I. Company information via search engines

II. Articles by/on/about the company

III. Ex-employees or current Employees feedback

Before we go into detail of each of the above, let us give you three pointers that you should always keep in mind while compiling information during your research phase. They are:

  1. Always, always, look for positive information, if you come across negative information, do not make it part of your compilation
  2. Always try to find things that match and enhance your interest in the job. For example, if company has taken initiative about going green, or helping communities, or innovative employee programs, or their policies or mission statements etc., whatever that kindle your interest
  3. Keep a positive outlook about your potential Employer. Remember that the time you spend in research is a process of building an unseen relation with the company even before you stepped into their premise.

With that let’s get into details of what to look for (this assumes that you are going to use internet or public library). You will find text in red bold font to serve as quick reminder about what you should be looking for in your research, when you come back to this article.

1. Using Google (internet)

If the company has its own website, the first thing you should look for is company’s mission statement and values. These concise statements will tell you many things about what the company stands for. The second thing you will look for is ‘About’ section on the company website, where you will find summary of company’s history, what they do and where they are headed. Below is the example of mission statement, values and ‘about’ section of Xerox.

Xerox Mission Statement

Through the world’s leading technology and services in business process and document management, we’re at the heart of enterprises small to large, giving our clients the freedom to focus on what matters most: their real business.”

Xerox Core Values
One thing that never changes is our core values.

· We succeed through satisfied customers.

· We deliver quality and excellence in all we do.

· We require premium return on assets.

· We use technology to develop market leadership.

· We value our employees.

· We behave responsibly as a corporate citizen.”

“Xerox at a Glance (About Xerox)

For more than a half a century, Xerox has been a leader in document technology and services. We continue to build on this heritage of innovation. Through our acquisition of Affiliated Computer Services, we now are the world’s leading enterprise for business process and document management, offering global services from claims reimbursement and automated toll transaction to customer care centers and HR benefits management. The new Xerox is dedicated to innovation, service and giving our customers the freedom to focus on what matters most: your real business.”

Please read the mission and values statement few times over and see if it resonates with you. If it does, then chances are you will find this relation mutually beneficial.

Services/products offered by the company. This is the reason you have an interview. It is in your best interest to learn about all the offerings/products that the company has. Dig into details such as, which offering/product the company is leading or striving to be a leader in. Where does your job profile fit into the scheme of their company structure? If this is not evident, good, it will be an excellent question during the beginning stages of the interview to ask by mentioning that you have looked at their offerings and company structure and want to know where your role fits in. If the job description has mentioned the role in detail in their job ad, do NOT ask this question in your interview, you can skip this part.

Another thing that you will be looking for is company’s financial information. If you are applying for a company that is publicly traded, then finding this information is not difficult. Our recommendation is to look for general statistics of how the company has been doing for the past 3-5 years. If you do not know where to find financial information on public companies, go to www.google.com/finance and type the company name in search box and select from the list, on the result page you will see current stock trading information and links to financial information. You do not need to remember the numbers but it is important to note the trend. You can frame some questions around this information (not too many) so that when it is your turn to ask questions in a job interview, you are prepared. See Q.8 under “Questions to ask during job interview” category.

During your pre-interview search, if you find out that the company has won over its rivals or if it had a breakthrough in their processes or technology, that should go on top of your notes. We all love to brag about ourselves, people who work for companies are no different, they want hear about how great their company is doing. So make sure you collect earful of those with you (don’t blabber about them in monologue during job interview, find appropriate occasion to mention their own accomplishments).

If by chance you know the name of the person, who is going to interview you (from HR or referring recruiter), search for their names on internet. Many professionals have their profile on professional networks such as Linkedin.com. If that is the case, read about the person’s interests and professional achievements that is going to interview you, chances are that you may likely encounter a former professional sports person or a member of a sports club. When you are being interviewed, mention few interesting things you learned about them, such interesting light topics during a job interview can lighten up the environment (please, please don’t read their profile verbatim, it is scary, eerie and creepy).

In my last interview, I found the Manager’s profile on Linkedin and noticed that she had held a higher position than what she held now in her career. It got my attention and during my interview I politely asked about this and what prompted her to make the decision, this opened a window for her to speak for a long time. And that is a good thing, in any relation, when you give the other person an opportunity to express, they feel you are the best conversationalist even though they did all the talking. This does not mean that you become a billboard, participate in their conversation and raise genuine questions that show that you are interested. See Q XX in the “Questions that show you are interest, not Desperate”

Other common things you can find about the company from internet are:

  1. Company’s history
  2. How many people work for the company in your city/country/worldwide
  3. Where is the company headquartered in
  4. Who is the CEO (any interesting things pop out about him?)
  5. Recent awards or recognitions’ company may have received

2. Articles on/by/about the company

As we mentioned above, everyone wants recognition and some bragging rights. It is part of your research to find as many genuine reasons as possible to give it to them. Find if there are any articles about the company or interviews by the prominent individuals from the company or honorary mentioning about the company for their contribution to the any field (science, technology, environment, social services, anything).

You may come across the lawsuits, failures, injuries etc., we want you to deliberately ignore them for now. They were the negative feedback which you should have considered before narrowing your choices. Now, for now, ignore all the negative information out there. There is no company on the planet that has not been subject to lawsuits and once you start digging that end, you will be throwing dust on your own prospects. Resist your temptation and only gather positive information at this point.

3. Ex-employees or Current Employees feedback

Getting current or former employee’s feedback can be invaluable information in your pre-interview research. This information can also aid in your decision making to take up a job with a particular company or not. Websites such as www.vault.com has plentiful of information on 100s of companies; you can find employee’s reviews, company’s surveys, and salary information guide.

If you do not have access to internet or if the company does not have a presence on the internet then your best bet is to contact the current Employees (with permission from HR/Boss) or Ex-Employees. Most companies are willing to let you speak with their Employees ahead of the interview. In fact, such requests showcase that you are genuinely interested in the position and they will like your confidence in approaching them with such request.

What internet or financial statements or articles cannot tell you; these people from inside the company can tell you. They can give you firsthand account of what is it like to be working there. This is by far most valuable information about the company. Make sure you make a good mental note.