How to Research a Company Before Your Interview

In many ways, the Scout Motto “Be Prepared” applies to job searching as much as it does to camping and hiking.

This is especially true if you’ve been invited to a job interview.

Your resume piqued the employer’s interest and now they want to meet you. Hooray! This is a huge step in your candidacy and you’ll want to be prepared and make the most of this opportunity by researching the company prior to the interview.

How does research help? When you go into an interview knowledgeable about a potential employer, you gain a leg up by:

  • demonstrating from the get-go your interest in the job and company
  • giving your confidence a boost
  • uncovering information you can use to set yourself apart from other job candidates
  • ensuring ahead of time that the employer’s values and culture are a good fit

“Be Prepared” for your next job interview by doing research beforehand using our eight tips.

1.  Thoroughly explore the employer’s websites

Think of the company’s website as a collection of doors that need opening rather than just a window to look into.

Don’t just make it a quick visit. Check out links on the company’s blogs, press page, and careers portal. Doing so gives you a bird’s eye view into what the company does, its products and services, who its clients are, how it markets itself, and new developments.

The websites may also give you insight into how the company prioritizes diversity of experiences and the needs of parents and other caregivers. The mission statement and values principles as well as the existence of employee resource groups (ERGs) and returnship programs are helpful in determining this.

One useful tip comes from several Path Forward alumni who now work at Amazon – memorize the company’s values and include your take on them in your interview responses to show you care about these values as well.

2.  Review the company’s social media accounts

For the most up-to-date insights prior to the interview, check out the company’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts. This will reveal what your prospective place of employment has been up to and how they engage with employees, the community, and industry as a whole.

Because close to 94 percent of companies use social media (with more than half of them posting daily) you’ll want to be wary of businesses that have shunned social media, have a limited presence, or are not keeping current on their platforms. A lack of engagement may be a red flag that the company is understaffed or possibly experiencing other issues that cause it to fly under the radar.

3.  Reach out to current and past employees

Comb your contacts – including family, friends, and former colleagues – to see if anyone has worked at the company you’ll be interviewing with. LinkedIn is especially helpful for this.

Asking questions, whether informally or as part of an informational interview, will give you an insider’s perspective on the company’s reputation and culture.

Does the workplace have a casual vibe and emphasize work/life balance? Is it more traditional with a dress code and less flexible work hours? Are employees always on the clock or able to log off after hours and on weekends? Depending on how important the answers are to you, these questions may also be appropriate to bring up during the interview.

4.  Check out company reviews

If you can’t find anyone who can provide you with an insider’s point of view, there are a number of sites that can. Seek out general reviews from current and past employees on GlassDoor. Also, InHerSight has company reviews that reflect what women want to know about employers. Another site to check out, The Muse, includes interviews with current employees on what makes their workplace unique.

When using these sites, keep perspective. For example, GlassDoor has become a platform for disgruntled employees. Without knowing both sides of the story or whether the review was paid for, it’s important not to put too much stock in a couple of scathing assessments or an abundance of uncritical ones.

5.  Do a general search

Use Google or another search engine to see what comes up when you search for the company’s name or its key products or services. Clicking on the “News” button when you do a Google search, for example, will bring up news articles that you can sort by recency. This may reveal lawsuits, charitable works, or other news that may impact your enthusiasm for the employer.

Include a look at the company’s competition in your search, which will give you an idea of its standing in the industry. You can do this by using the company’s LinkedIn page to see what other “similar company” recommendations are listed. Another option is, where you can type in the company name and click “similar sites” to see what comes up.

6.  Verify a company’s financial stability

Once you get to the second or third interview, you’ll also want to investigate the viability of the company over the long term.

If the company is public or big in size, seek out either its annual or quarterly earnings report on its website or through a Google search. You may also be able to find investor meeting videos online. For prospective employers that are startups, seek out financials on either the Crunchbase or PitchBook sites.

7.  Get the scoop on your interviewer

LinkedIn is a treasure trove of information, and that includes providing you with insight on who you will be meeting with. Go on the individual’s LinkedIn page to find out about the person’s background and work history, mutual connections, involvement in professional organizations, and other details.

Take notes for yourself, as this insight will help you better connect during your interview. (But don’t overdo it during the interview – you don’t want to come across looking like a snoop.)

8.  Write down questions

At the end of the meeting, a good interviewer will ask if you have any questions. Take time during your research to create interesting and relevant questions for when this moment arises. Rather than a generic question, ask about the company or job in as specific and pertinent a way as possible to demonstrate that you took the time and effort to do your research.

Lisa White is a writer with more than 30 years of experience. Her background includes serving as editor for four magazines. She is based out of the Chicago area.