In case you missed the original post a few years ago, here is an updated and more in-depth version.
Are you looking for a way to stand out at your next job interview? While an impressive resume and work experience are helpful, a key factor that many interviewees overlook is researching the employer. When you walk into an interview with an understanding and knowledge of what the company does and how you could fit a specific need, you become relevant. You stand out.
On the other hand, failing to research can be a deterrent, even when your resume and experience are exceptional. When a potential employee enters a hiring interview and clearly shows no knowledge of the company, the hiring manager will be frustrated. It’s a waste of time … and it shows a lack of initiative on your part. In today’s Internet-driven society, performing basic research is simple, and that research will give your interview a critical edge.
In fact, having a knowledge of the company is so important that many interviewers will actually ask their candidates what they know about the company. Those who have little to say are immediately removed from consideration, being written off as unprepared for the interview. Don’t let this be you.
Today, the competition for available jobs is high. While unemployment is lower than it has been in recent years at 4.4%, people are still in the market for jobs. As many as 51% of those who currently have jobs are watching for openings or searching for new ones, so a low unemployment rate doesn’t mean low competition. In fact, the competition may be more experienced, which puts new job seekers at a disadvantage. It’s important you do everything you can to make sure you’re the candidate the interviewer remembers.
Not convinced? Here are six concrete reasons why it’s important to always research a company before an interview:
1. Research Demonstrates Your Excitement for the Job and Company
When you’re excited about something, you take the time to learn more about it. Consider the last vacation you took. Because you were excited, you went online to learn all you could about your destination. Doing some research about the company will show that same level of excitement for the work you’ll do and for the company itself.
Your research can help your excitement grow, as well. As you learn more about the company, its values and its goals, you’ll see how your skill set could fit. Your excitement for the opportunity and the company will show in an interview. In this way, your research helps you appear more confident and ready for the work, while also showing your excitement to your employer.
When employers are interviewing multiple candidates, they want to see excitement and enthusiasm for the work. In the reserved format of a job interview, you may not be able to convey this as readily as you would like, so your preparation must convey it for you.
2. Research Lets You Tailor Your Responses to the Company’s Culture and Needs
When you know a little about the company, you’re better able to tailor your responses to their questions so they fit within the company’s value and framework. For example, if your research shows the company’s primary value is strong customer service, and you are asked what you would bring to the table as a candidate, you can answer in terms of how you would assist the clients. On the other hand, if the company is a research-driven company that focuses on bringing innovation to its industry, you can focus your answer on your strong research skills and passion for innovative design and discovery. Again, the knowledge you get about the company will help you answer these questions effectively.
Why is this so important? Companies are specifically looking for candidates that fit their company culture. In fact, in 2014 the Millennial Branding survey found that 43% of hiring managers interviewed stated their primary determining factor in hiring was whether or not the candidate fit the company culture. In fact, 64% indicated they would choose a candidate with no college experience over one who had a college education if the cultural fit was right. Research that guides the answers to your questions to show that you do fit the company culture will make you a stand out candidate.
Research can also help you prepare for the interview in other ways. For example, when you understand the company’s culture, you can better dress for the interview. You should aim to match your level of dress to the level of dress expected by the leadership, as long as you do not dip below business casual. Again, a little research will give you confidence in choosing what to wear.
3. Research Shows You Want to Start a Career with the Company
Yes, you need a job, but you also want to find a job that you can turn into an effective career. A knowledge of the company can help you be certain that you are interviewing at a place where you can confidently devote your time. Remember, a successful interview can mean many years of work for the same company, so make sure you know what you can expect.
There are several factors to research when determining if you want to be part of a company. First, consider how they treat their employees. Use sites like Glassdoor to see reviews from current and past employees. Learn if the company has a habit of frequent relocation or layoffs, or if jobs seem to be stable.
Second, look at the company’s goals, and see if they are goals you can stand behind. Will you be able to do your job to the best of your ability, knowing that you support overall goals that you agree with? If so, then interview with confidence, knowing you would be happy in your new position. If not, you can spend your time looking for something that is a better fit.
4. Research Helps You Answer the Most Important Question
“Why do you want to work for us?” It’s a given your interview will include some version of this question. If you respond with financial reasons alone, you probably won’t get the job.
You have to show that you know the company and are excited to work for them. You have to be able to answer this question with excitement about how your skills and experience will fit their specific need. You have to tie in all your research about the company to show that you want the job for all the right reasons.
Imagine if you are asked this question by a company known for its innovation in a particular niche and its team approach. Because you know about the company’s culture due to your research, you can say something along the lines of: “I want to work for you because I am excited about the impact your company is making in the industry, and I am thrilled to be bringing my skills to a position where I can be a key contributor to the team. I love to collaborate and help solve problems, and I know that my knowledge and experience will be an asset to your mission. I look forward to contributing as a member of your caring team.” If this answer touches on the company’s pain points, you will be considered a valuable candidate.
Remember, your interviewer knows you need the job and the money. They want to know something else about why you want this position.
5. Research Gives You the Foundation to Ask Thoughtful Questions
One of the final things that the interviewer will ask you is whether or not you have any questions. This is not simply a courtesy. This is actually a place where the interviewer can get just a little more knowledge about how prepared you are for the interview. The more thoughtful and company-focused your questions are, the better you will look.
If you’re like most interviewees, you’ll likely have a few questions prepared. But what will you do if those questions are answered over the course of the interview? Having no questions when you get to this point will not impress. When you have a background understanding and knowledge of the company, you can prepare deeper, more meaningful questions. Make sure these questions are thoughtful and show some underlying research into the company. And if most are answered during the process, you’ll have the knowledge base to adlib without looking unprepared.
6. Research Helps You Know Your Interviewer
With the Internet at your disposal, you have the power not only to get to know the company, but also to get to know the interviewer. If you can get your interviewer’s name, visit their LinkedIn page or social media profiles. Find out what they are interested in and use some of those interests to build a rapport during your interview. You just might find that you have something in common, like attending the same college, that you can use to break the ice and make you feel more comfortable when you arrive.
Remember, the interviewer has probably searched you before your interview, so you don’t need to feel bad about doing the same.
Your interviewers want to find candidates that fit their company and will meet their positional need. They don’t want to find candidates who are simply desperate to find a paying job. By taking the time to do research before your interview, you will give yourself the tools to properly tailor your interview responses