We know what you’re probably thinking: I know how to prepare for an interview. I Google the company, I prepare a few questions, and I spend 5-8 minutes pumping myself up in the mirror. Everyone does that.
You’d be (mostly) right: we recently surveyed job seekers about how they research companies before job interviews, and an overwhelming 98% of respondents said they looked at the company website, with more than two thirds saying they also check the company’s social media.
These are best practices… but they’re also the easiest ways to prepare for your interview. If you’re part of the 98% above, give yourself a pat on the back: you’re the average.
Want to know how you can really stand out and knock your interview out of the park? Keep reading.
Talk to current employees
Only 23% of survey respondents said they talked to current employees to prepare for job interviews, but they can be your secret weapon when you’re doing your research.
Find employees on LinkedIn, and ask if they’re willing to answer some of your questions. If they say yes, congratulations! You have an informational interview. Take note, this is different than an actual job interview – you’re not asking for a job, you’re asking about the company and the culture. If you aren’t sure what to do, don’t worry – we have you covered.
This interview can give you unique insight into the company’s culture you can’t get anywhere else. It also shows that you’re willing to put in extra effort to really do your homework.
Move past LinkedIn
…not that we don’t love LinkedIn (we do!). But most job seekers will review a company’s LinkedIn profile. They also usually check out Glassdoor and Facebook.
You have to dig deeper to get a better idea of the culture. Many companies are using Instagram to showcase their employer brand and culture, and many brands are active on Twitter in some capacity. Even if you don’t have an account, you can still peruse these platforms and learn more before your interview.
If the company has a YouTube channel, watch the videos they share and produce. You’ll learn about the company and about how it chooses to position itself within the market.
Know their bigger picture
You want to stand out? Less than 1% of our survey respondents said they researched companies’ competitors before an interview.
If you’re new to the industry, invest some time learning about the industry and where the company is positioned within it. Is the company a leader or an underdog? Is it well-established or a newcomer? Learn what challenges face the industry overall, and be prepared to speak about how you can help the business overcome these challenges. Know industry trends, and have ideas about how to utilize them.
Study their competitors, too. You should be able to name at least three big names within their industry during the interview, and know what they’re doing differently. Asking about these differences in the interview can completely change your conversation with the hiring manager: it will be clear you know what you’re talking about. Don’t be afraid to offer ideas or solutions based on your research, too.
Conduct backdoor references
Search your LinkedIn to see if you know any previous employees or if you have acquaintances who could make an introduction. These informal references can often reveal more about the company than its social media or its website. It’s not the company’s propaganda; it’s someone’s real experience.
That said, keep in mind that everyone’s experiences are their own. The frustrations of one disgruntled former employee don’t mean that the company is a terrible place to work; it may just mean the culture wasn’t right for that person.
Instead of asking about grievances or rumors, ask your network what they know about the company’s leadership, culture, and industry reputation. More specific questions will hopefully yield more helpful answers about the company.
Once you’ve done all this research, it’s time to research yourself! But that’s another story…