Great research leads to meaningful conversation.  Bad research merely cites facts. Every candidate does “research” on a company before the interview, but it is difficult to conduct research with the right mix of rigor and efficiency without leveraging some critical tools.  The tool most candidates use is the company’s website.  But this level of research will not adequately prepare you for what to expect in the interview nor will it provide enough depth to help you engage in a meaningful dialogue with your interviewer. Here are some must-use tools to take your company research skills to the next level and transform how you engage your interviewer, whether in a phone interview or in person.
1. Glassdoor Recruiters typically share some information on what to expect from the interview, but this will not provide the breadth of perspectives and actual questions others in your shoes have been asked.  This makes Glassdoor a must-use tool as they have a forum where candidates share their interview experiences combined with powerful filters so you can hone in on questions related to your specific job title. If you are interviewing with a small company that does not have enough data collected on their interview process, you can check a competitor’s interview process or across companies that hire for similar roles. In addition to insight into interviews, you can see reviews from employees and alumni which provide a window into the culture of the organization which can help you have a more meaningful dialogue on what aspects of their culture excite you.  Too often, candidates are vague about what aspects of the culture they find appealing and this gives you an opportunity to be specific.
If you are interviewing with a small company that does not have enough data collected on their interview process, you can check a competitor’s interview process
2.  Facebook and Twitter Visiting their official Facebook and Twitter page allows you to see what they are sharing which gives you insight into what is top of mind for them and how they market themselves.  You can parse through comments and re-tweets to understand the opinions of their customers and other stakeholders.  This puts you in a unique position to share insight in the interview that the interviewer may not be fully aware of, given their busy day-to-day routines that likely do not involve mining customer sentiment in real-time.   Moreover, companies often ask candidates what they think the company does well and what they can do better, and their Facebook page can be a treasure trove of insights.
3. Their Product (and the Competitor’s) If the company creates apps you should download the app, use it, and explore it as a consumer would.  If they are a retailer with brick and mortar locations you should visit a store or two.  Ultimately your goal should be to get as close as possible to the products and services they sell which will enable you to have a practical, not just theoretical, discussion on how you can add value, where you see opportunities for the company to grow, and what excites you about what they create. To take this insight to the next level, you should also get close to the competitors’ products in a similar way which will demonstrate a higher level of thoughtfulness on your part and demonstrate the rigor in your thinking.  Moreover, companies want to hire top talent before their competitors do, so demonstrating that you understand what it will take to beat the competition, makes you a candidate they want to hire before their competition does.
4.  Google News When you do a Google search, underneath the search bar you will see a tab link for “News” which will filter your search results by finding content from news publications.  This is a quick way to aggregate top news on company milestones, trends impacting the company, and to get further competitive context as it is common to see articles talking about the company in light of their competition. Some terms to search for include:
  • “<Insert Company Name> vs”:  Google will often autocomplete with the names of key competitors so you know who the market views as their competition.
  • “Forecast”, “Trends”, or “Expectations”:  For example, searching for “AirBnB Trends” points you to insightful articles that can help you talk about the company’s future, which signals to the interviewer that you are interested in the company for the long term.
Some job seekers are reluctant to do this research as they do not want to be seen as “digital stalkers” but on the contrary, it is expected that top candidates will do this level of research.
5.  Their website (and the competitors’) First, start with the company’s mission, values.  This will give you a sense of the company’s DNA.  Their language is chosen carefully and indicates where they focus – is it their customers, innovation, impact?  It will also give you a sense of the culture they are trying to build, which you can compare to content on Glassdoor and what you hear from employees and alumni. Then look for how they talk to their customers and define their products.  Most company sites will segment their customers and the products and services they provide.  This will tell you where they focus and how they differ in how they “go to market” compared to their competition.   Next visit their blog and their press releases which will give you insights into the thought leadership they bring to bear as well as the news they find most worthy to share. Also, make sure you cover your bases by checking their 10K and 10Q to understand their financial health and the guidance they have provided to the investor community. Finally, follow these steps, for their top competitors by visiting their sites as well.