How to research for an interview

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A successful interview is one you have researched. Not only will good research ensure you are prepared for the questions you’ll be answering, and come across as knowledgeable and professional, but it will also help you relax and be confident on the day. Your research should focus on two things: the role and the company.

The role

Make sure that you fully understand what the role entails, and what is expected of the successful candidate. It is worth revisiting the ad, if you applied via one, and study the job spec. It is not unusual for firms not to produce job specs these days, so you may not benefit from having one. Indeed many of the roles we are working on do not come with job descriptions (though we do recommend clients produce them!). However, your recruiter will likely have met with the firm, and should have a good understanding of the role and the client’s requirements. Do talk the role through with your recruiter if you haven’t already done so.

The main point here is that you need be prepared to talk about how your experience relates to the role you are interviewing for. Come prepared with examples and draw parallels between successes in past roles and the challenges of the one you are applying for. It is particularly useful to be able to quantify this, ie increased sales or improved productivity by x, etc.

The company

The company website should be your first port of call. These are some of the things you should look for:

The basics
What is the company size, location, history?

Company ethos
What does the firm stand for, what is their USP, how do they present themselves to the market place? A good website should provide a mission statement and an outline of the company values. However, bear in mind that interviewers don’t want their own marketing materials quoted back at them. They are looking for a genuine understanding and insight into their firm and their industry, and an ability to articulate this succinctly. Don’t just quote the website.

Cultural fit
This relates to the above. It is key that you understand the company’s culture, and whether it is right for you , and vice versa. According to a recent study, 43 percent of HR professionals believe cultural fit is the most important quality job seekers can have during the hiring process

Clients & products
Who are their clients, and who do they work with? Make sure you fully understand their product offering

Company finances
Try to work out the firm’s financial health. Many firms publish quarterly and annual returns, and share price information and news articles are all useful sources of information. For smaller firms and startups, check out their profile on Companies House. You will need to interpret the findings, and whilst it might not be relevant to quote share prices or funding history in the interview, being able to speak with insight about where you think the firm might be heading in the future, backed up with facts, is impressive, and will set you apart.

Social media
The company’s Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages are all useful sources of information (be aware that many interviewers will be looking you up on these platforms too!). The sort of updates they post will tell you a lot about the firm’s activities and focus, and the corporate culture, and will give you topics to bring up in conversation. Likewise, if the website has a blog or news section, make sure to read through that as well. Have there been any recent developments you should be aware of?

The interviewers
If you know who you are meeting, look up their profiles on LinkedIn and on the website. Set your own LinkedIn settings so that they can see that you have viewed their pages, as this will show them that you are taking the interview seriously and have done your due diligence. It is also useful to look up the company’s current employees to see what their backgrounds are, and how this relates to your own, as this will help you understand what the firm is looking for in potential employees.

Room for improvement?
Your research may well throw up areas where you think you can add value or make improvements. This is also useful to have up your sleeve, though be a little careful how you approach this – you don’t want it to come across as criticism.

The competition
Apart from the company itself, you should also know how they sit in the market place and who their main competition is. It is worth looking up their websites too, but don’t get bogged down in detail; focus on the big picture, and how your potential employer fits in.

Wider news
Not all companies have informative websites, and even if they do, you should still google the firm. In particular, look for articles on the firm in industry publications and also national news outlets, if relevant. You are looking for news relating the firm in particular, but also general industry developments that might impact on the firm. In short, make sure you understand where the firm sits in the industry, what impact recent developments might have, and the challenges the firm might be facing.

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