Want to Ace the Interview? Spend an Hour on Research first.

A few weeks ago, I had lunch with a recruiter who’d just received an angry phone call from a client. The client had just finished an interview with a candidate my colleague had sent over – and it hadn’t gone well.

The candidate had seemed like a perfect fit for the client’s opportunity, a finance-related IT position. With a strong resume, great communication skills, and a polished appearance, he appeared to be ambitious and willing to go the extra mile to build his career. She figured he was a shoo-in for the job.

“But the interview was a disaster,” the recruiter told me after speaking with her client.

“He hadn’t done any research about the company. He kept talking about how ‘going green’ was a nice thing for businesses to do, but that it should never take precedence over the bottom line. Except one of the client’s top priorities for the next 24 months is to become Bullfrog Powered  and lead their industry in environmentally-friendly business practices.   And it’s not like they’re keeping it a secret – it’s all over their corporate website!”

The client was annoyed, the candidate was disappointed – and the recruiter was left to patch things up and find another candidate.

Why did this bug the client so much?   Because it’s hard to believe someone when they say “Oh yes, I’d really like to work at your company…” when it’s clear that they didn’t even bother to visit your homepage before they came to the interview.

Visit the Company Website

By the time you get to the interview stage, the potential employer has already decided that you meet certain minimum criteria, like education, experience and skills.   The interview is largely for determining fit.  Will you fit in with their existing team?  Will you be a good ambassador for their brand? Are you passionate about the things their organization stands for?

Being able to say something like “I noticed your company has a corporate give-back program, and I’d really like to work at an organization that believes in social responsibility…” sends a powerful message about how well you’ll fit.

And don’t forget, the interview is a good time for you, the candidate, to determine the answers to similar questions. Does this company seem like a good fit for me?  Do I share their values and approach? Would I like to spend 8+ hours a day in this environment?

The corporate website can give you all kinds of information about the organization:

  • Size of the company
  • Current business challenges and initiatives
  • Their vision, mission and values
  • Their product and service offerings
  • Their approach to customer service
  • Their culture (are they entrepreneurial or big and established?)

If you really want the job, you should read every single page on the website. Yes, every single page.

Search Google News

What the company says about themselves on their website is one thing, what media and other third parties are saying about the company is another.

Taking the time to search for recent news, good and bad, will give you a handle on how the company is perceived in the marketplace, their strengths and weaknesses, their fiscal health and prognosis, etc.  It may also turn up corporate announcements like “The Canadian division of Acme Inc. has just signed on to sponsor such-and-such initiative…” which hasn’t been posted to their website yet.

Use any relevant information you’ve turned up to make your conversation with them even more powerful.

Search Social Media

One of the best ways to get up-close and personal with a company, and what it’s like to work there, is to read blogs and Twitter posts by current employees, especially if they’re in a similar role to your own.

Always remember, sometimes employee blogs of social media accounts are corporately-sponsored and may not be completely unbiased. Sometimes, they’re written by disgruntled types who are too negative to be objective.

So by all means read them – but don’t base all your opinions on them.  If eights sources say the company has a great, entrepreneurial culture, and one source says it’s terrible, assume the majority are probably correct.

Search Competitors

Taking the time to understand the potential employer’s competitive marketplace has two benefits:

One, you give the impression you’re familiar with the industry and as a result will be able to hit the ground running when you get hired.

Two, you can make relevant conversation with the interviewer. “So, I see that such-and-such companies in your industry have launched high-end versions of such-and-such services this  year. Are you planning to do that as well?”

These types of conversations show you are a proactive A-lister who does your homework.

Spending an hour or two on pre-interview research may sound like a lot of time – but it’s a whole lot less time than you’ll spend if you don’t get this job and have to go through the job-hunting process all over again.

If you’d like to talk about the next step in your IT career we’d love to chat. Just connect with us here today!

Visit our Guide to Landing the Ultimate Information Technology Job for more helpful articles like this one.