A lot of job seekers fail the "What do you know about this company?" job interview question. Failing this question is a very, very big interview fail.
Here’s why many job seekers stumble: They haven't done much (or sometimes, any) research on a company, apart from reading the company overview in the job description, and maybe having a quick glance at the company’s website.
If an interviewer asks you "What do you know about this company?" you might feel as though you are being grilled about everything the company has ever done in its history. But that’s definitely not the case.
With this question (and any other job interview question), all any interviewer wants to do is assess your pre-interview preparation for the job, and whether you are truly interested in this specific position and company (or if any job or company will do). Interviewers are looking for enthusiastic and earnest potential employees. If you demonstrate basic knowledge of the company—say, knowing their goals and overall vision, and what sets them apart from the competition—you’re on your way to getting a solid grade on this question. If you’re able to align your own personal goals and vision to the company’s, you’re on your way to passing the test this question poses with top honors and flying colors!
The Basics to Understand
1. What sort of company is this? Is it a large corporation, a start-up, a well-established mid-size company, etc.?
2. What products or services does the company, provide, and who are their clients?
3. What are the company’s goals, and what is their overall mission?
4. What are their approximate annual revenues?
5. How many offices do they have, and how many employees do they have?
Gaining a solid understanding of all of the above will equip you with the knowledge you need to tackle the “What do you know about this company?” job interview question. Let’s explore further.
Where and How Do You Research?
Start with the company website. How do they describe themselves? What products/services do they provide, and to whom? What kind of employees do they hire?
Use Google to research the company. This is especially important if the company’s website only offers barebones information. Check Google News for recent news stories on the company. Also, do a search for company press releases—just type in the company’s name and the words ‘press releases’ to find results. Also keep an eye out for online magazine articles about the company, or their key executives.
Use LinkedIn to research the company, and their employees. How does the company describe itself on LinkedIn? What news stories are they posting? Also, check out some of the profiles of the company’s employees, and look for shared connections—people that both you and a particular employee are connected to. If you share a connection, that person might be able to broker an introduction to the company employee whose profile you’re viewing, which could allow you the chance to ask that employee some questions about the company.
Check out the company’s social media profiles. We’re talking about Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube. These are other spots where you can pick up valuable company information.
Check Glassdoor to see what employees are saying. You stand a good chance of gaining a basic understanding of company culture via Glassdoor. Don’t get alarmed if you come across a few negative reviews of the company—disgruntled employees are always more likely to post! However, if the majority of company reviews are negative, consider mentioning what you came across in the interview, but proceed with caution on how you phrase your questions. Avoid an accusatory or overly casual tone. Aim for a tactful, inquisitive tone.
Good approach: “Can I ask about the company’s approach to work-life balance? I came across quite a few negative reviews on Glassdoor that noted crushing workloads, and a necessity to work on weekends to get the job done. I ask about this because I have to consider the needs of my family with accepting a position at a company.”
Bad approach: “I read on Glassdoor that you guys basically demand people work 10-hour workdays. Is that true?”
While you might be scared to mention something negative you came across on Glassdoor, it will show your interviewers that you did the research, and that you’re not afraid to ask tough questions.
Research your interviewers as well. If you learn in advance of the interview who your interviewers will be (which you should), check out their LinkedIn profiles. Demonstrate your knowledge of an interviewer in the interview. Example: “You’ve been at the company for x number of years. How has your experience been so far?”
What to Focus On When Answering the Question
When you answer the “What do you know about this company?” question, you want to emphasize your general understanding of the nature and mission of the company, and how you can fit in to help the company succeed. We’ve touched on some of the below topics already but let’s review again. Talk about:
1. The products or services offered by the company
2. Revenue and company strengths (are they #1 in anything?)
3. Company history—basics about the founder(s) and when the company launched
4. What sets the company apart from the competition (it could be something from the preceding three bullet points)
At the end, explain how your qualifications and experience can add to the published mission of the business within the department you are applying.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
If you have not carefully prepared for this question, you may not know enough about the company. Avoid these mistakes:
1. Do not say anything negative about the company, or make guesses about what the company does. This should be a no-brainer.
2. If you know of super-personal details about any company staff and leadership, don’t mention them.
3. Do not give an overly gushy or essay-like answer to the question—sincere and simple answers work best.
An excellent answer to the “What do you know about this company?” question might sound a bit like the following:
“I know quite a bit! I love the company’s mission of creating and providing highly engaging brain games for mobile audiences of all ages, and the fact that your engineering and design teams have built a world-class technology platform that lets millions play at any time, and from any device.
I also really like the fact that you foster and support continuous innovation in your culture, and that you encourage teams to try, test, fail, and then start again with projects, and learn from their experiences—this is an approach that really resonates with me.
I really like the fact that the company is a proponent of open office spaces and flexible work hours, and its big goal for 2018—moving into the international market—sounds like a challenging one, one that I think my technical skills and iron-cast work ethic can align with!"
Remember: Your answer should highlight why you are a good fit for the position in context with the information you have about the company. The manager wants to see that you are aware of the nature and strengths of the business, and how you can add to those strengths. Best of luck with your research and answer preparation!
If you're still applying for other jobs, know that your resume and cover letter must be customized to every job advertisement your respond to. Check out LiveCareer's resume and cover letter resources, and make sure your documents stack up!