Researching a company before a job interview is common practice. You can guarantee you’ll be asked by your interviewer: ‘what do you know about our organisation?’ – so it’s best to be prepared for this inevitable question. Doing a bit of research before you meet a prospective employer also helps you determine whether the company is a good fit for your ambitions, ethos and preferred working culture – interviews are a two-way street remember.
The tips below should help you narrow down what you need to know about a company and how to carry out your research wisely.
What you need to research:
- The organisation: learn as much as you can about the company's history, its product lines, its customers/competitors, its unique selling point and any new projects or innovations. For the purposes of the interview, it would be useful to be able to describe the business in a couple of sentences
- The sector: find out the main trends and developments taking place within the industry. Familiarise yourself with the main players in the sector and determine where the employer is positioned along with any ambitions for growth
- The people/culture: find out who'll be interviewing you and try to gain an understanding of their priorities, goals and interests within the company – this might shed some light on the types of questions you’ll be asked. Try to gain insight into the culture of the company, find answers to questions such as: What do they stand for? What do they expect from their employees? Do they encourage collaborative working? Is it an informal working environment? Do they organise social events outside of work?
- The role: get to grips with the job specification and try to determine whether any particular skills, based on your research, are deemed more important now that you know more about the organisation
Where to carry out your research:
- Company website: this is your first port of call. As well as the 'About us' section, take a look at bios of the key decision makers. Flip through the annual report for details of the company’s strategy and future ambitions. Check out their news section to see what they’ve been up to lately and also what topics are important to them
- Social media: spend some time on the company’s LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, as these can really help you understand the organisation in terms of their ethos and culture. You can also check out the profiles of key stakeholders within the company
- Industry news sites/blogs: along with the company’s own news or blog feeds, take a look at sector-related news sites, so you can get an appreciation for wider industry trends
- 'Insider' websites: sites like Glassdoor are useful for getting an impression of the company and their application process
Who to talk to:
- Speak to current/former employees: reach out to your network for first-hand accounts of what it’s like working for the organisation. Work through your LinkedIn connections or alumni network, LJMU Connect
- Your tutors: don’t forget to tap this extremely useful resource. Your tutors might not directly know the organisation you’re hoping to work for, but they can definitely give advice on what a prospective employer in the sector will be looking for in candidates
- Ask HR: employers will usually provide information on the structure of the interview and who you'll be meeting, so don't forget to ask for this
- Speak to the LJMU Careers Team: call into your nearest Careers Zone and book an appointment with an Adviser who will provide tips on common interview questions to ensure you shine at interview. You can also arrange an interview practice session to help you beat your interview nerves with a dry run before the real thing. Also check out the careers mini-guides on ‘preparing for interview’, which summarises key interview advice and ‘multiple mini interviews’, which explains this new format of interview and how to negotiate them. Both are available on the careers website
Every industry and employer is different, but the list above should provide a good starting point to build your research around. Information will differ from place to place and will sometimes be out of date, so vary your sources as much as possible.
Most importantly, don’t get too stressed about gathering your research – you don’t need to memorise every single item on the corporate responsibility page of the company’s website. Just remember a few key things to impress them on the day.
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Current LJMU students benefit from a range of career resources on offer. Take a look at the Careers Zone 24/7 digital careers platform which features a number of tools and assessments to help you prepare for your interview, including an interview simulator.
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