by Kate Wilson
An essential part of job interview preparation is doing your homework on the company itself. Having this pertinent information fresh on your mind before shaking hands with your interviewer will help you feel more prepared and will equip you with quality talking points as the interview progresses. Employers take note of candidates that are educated not only on the responsibilities of the job opening in question, but also on the company itself. This demonstrates to employers that you are competent and that you made the decision to apply for the job after considering the facts, rather than just out of desperation for a job.
Here are the five most significant things to learn about your company:
1. Company Mission Statement and Basic Facts
If you are in a time crunch and don’t have the luxury of studying up on a company thoroughly, make sure you at least jot down some mental notes from the company’s website. Go immediately to the “About Us” and “Mission Statement” portions of the site. Learn what it is that the company does and familiarize yourself with the products and/or services provided by that company. Great basic facts to learn about a company include: the location of your company’s headquarters, if the company is international, how many people the company employs and if the company has gone public.
Some mission statements are more informative and useful than others, but many give you a glimpse of how the company wants to represent itself to the public and what the company values. For example, some mission statements will emphasize that the company is committed to environmental responsibility; others will emphasize superior customer service. In an interview, you can use this knowledge to explain how your values and objectives line up with the company’s.
2. What Sets the Company Apart From its Competitors?
Today’s top companies compete with numerous others in their industry and strive to set themselves apart by offering unique products and services or providing a different customer experience. Being educated in how a company is doing things differently is a great point of emphasis in your interview, particularly if the interviewer asks you what attracted you to the company. Studying up on this little detail will help prepare you with an educated answer. Here’s an example of such an answer: “I noticed that other financial services firms focus on high-income individuals, but your company specializes in building wealth for lower income brackets. This strategy is something I thought I could really get on board with.”
3. What is Being Said About the Company in the News and Through Social Networks?
The actions of large corporations are often reported by local and national news media, particularly if the corporation employs a significant number of people. If the company to which you are applying is not large enough to be of interest to news outlets, it may still have a marketing team that issues press releases that it publishes on a company blog, online newsletter or a social networking site.
If the company is on Facebook or Twitter, visit the company’s page and read up on what the company is saying there to fans and followers. You may even be able to network with others who work for the company through these outlets and learn what to expect from the company from its current employees.
4. How the Company is Structured
Do what you can to learn the chain of command at the company you are applying to. For instance, some companies are set up as follows: entry-level associate, department supervisor, assistant manager, manager, regional manager, district manager, etc. Is there a board of directors? A corporate headquarters? How does the corporate face differ from the regional face or from the retail face?
5. Who’s in Charge?
From the top down, do some research on who calls the shots at the company. Know the name of the CEO and key top management of the company. If the company you are applying to is not large, know the name of the manager or top supervisor you will be answering to.
Final Thoughts on Preparing for Job Interviews
The more you know about a company, the better prepared you will be to answer questions and the more competent you will come across to employers and HR personnel. Doing due diligence on a company is also a great way to come up with potential questions for your interviewer. There is no such thing as being too prepared for a job interview or too knowledgeable about a prospective employer.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.