How To Do Pre-Interview Research

interview research One of the first questions I ask any candidate who is applying for a role with our company is “Why are you interested in working here?” I use this question, not as an ego trip of “tell me why we’re so good”, but rather to see how much the candidate knows about us, and how much research they have done on our organization. Passion is an integral part of assessing a candidate’s fit within our company. We’re a bunch of data geeks, and those geeky things need to get someone excited. More importantly, I need to assess if this is just another job for them, or THE job that they want.

There are usually two types of answers I tend to get with this question. The first type of answer (and the preferred one), is that they have some sense of what our organization does, which in this case is Market Research. If the candidate can even give me this, I’m willing to work with it. It shows they at least went through the 1st page of the website. Of course, any details they have above and beyond that are great. The second type of answer is some type of generic line that usually includes one of the following:

“The job description is exactly what I do now”  (Ok. So….no ambition beyond that?)

“I hear your company is growing at tremendous speed”  (Actually, we’ve had a steady rate of growth for over 10 years, with no marked spikes”)

“I saw the job on Careers In Government, Monster, LinkedIn, the job board” (AND….?)

While most companies and recruiters are usually looking first and foremost for an alignment of skills for the role, culture fit and candidate motivation are other important factors in determining if a candidate is a good fit. You want to appear prepared. More importantly, you want to appear more prepared than the other 50+ candidates who have applied for the role. So here are a few tips for making sure you can come to the table informed and prepared to make a great impression.

  • If the company is public, take a look at the recent financial news for the company for news on their earnings. Have they had a drastic shift in profit vs. loss? This is a particularly good tactic if you are aiming for a role in their finance or accounting group.
  • With a private company, who isn’t reporting earnings yet, you can scour for information about recent funding rounds they have had.
  • What product announcements have their been? Have they had a game-changing moment with one of their products, or a widely-publicized launch recently?
  • Research the people you will be interviewing with.  See if there are commonalities in your backgrounds. Perhaps you share an alma mater, former co-worker, or even worked at the same organizations in the past.
  • Be aware of competitors in the industry. Having an understanding of what other companies in the space are doing, shows your understanding of the landscape, and makes you appear well-informed and credible.
  • Ask questions! Unless the role is stacking boxes on the shelf in a dark room all day, there are bound to be aspects of the role or the company that you have questions about. This shows that you are vested in the role and the next step in your career. A recruiter or hiring manager can do a great job describing everything, but it’s highly unlikely that they will hit all points of your curiosity in 20 or 30 minutes with you.

Interviews are about skills, but they are also about making connections. The more connected that the interviewer(s) feel to you, the better your chances of landing the job. Being prepared can help to overcome other things that might otherwise not be in your favor. For example, if you are light in a type of programming language, but understand the industry and space at a deep level, you may be able to leverage that. After all, it’s easier to teach a programming language than it is to teach curiosity and passion. So be prepared, be curious, and do the necessary legwork before you interview.

You’ll be glad you did.

 

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