How to Research a Company to Prepare for an Interview
I recently read an article published by the American Management Association (AMA) entitled Preparing for an Interview: How to Research a Company. (1)
Paul Falcone, who wrote the article, listed the following as research topics: company name and legal structure; headquarters location; interview location address, phone number, and parking instructions; other locations; industry and product lines; website address and “findings” (company philosophy, mission, markets, tenure of senior executives, community service, special awards or recognition); year founded, annual revenue and stock information; employee headcount; top three competitors; and industry trends.
It’s a great list, and a very useful article. I thought I would expand on his suggestions and also offer some research tools beyond the company website. In addition to learning the company name and legal structure as Mr. Falcone suggests, knowing the company organizational structure provides a useful framework to understand where your department and position are situated. You can usually find this information on the company website. What are the primary business segments and what are their products and/or services. In addition to this, try to discover where and how the position for which you are interviewing fits in. If that’s not evident from your research, this is a good question to ask during your interview.
In addition to learning the tenure of the executives, become familiar with the board members and senior executives as well as their roles within the company; also review their biographies (usually provided on the company website) and LinkedIn profiles. This is especially important for the leaders within the division and department in which your position is housed. It is not uncommon for interviewers to refer to their leaders during interviews. Knowing who they are and where they came from will help you maintain context during the interview.
Using LinkedIn, I would also suggest exploring attrition from the company. If many people are leaving, particularly in your area of interest, this raises a red flag that you will want to explore more deeply.
In addition to learning the current stock price, reviewing the stock trends over the last year and five years may provide some insight about the company’s success or challenges trends. Pair this with analysts reviews to gain valuable insight about the health of the company.
Be sure to read both the company’s press releases (usually on their website), as well as third-party media about the company. The press releases provide information the company wants to promote whereas the information published by other media may provide information unfavorable to the company—good information for you to have.
Yahoo! Finance – Woldwide (Yahoo! Finance for US markets) is a great place to go after you’ve visited the company webpage. It provides almost all of the information Mr. Falcone suggests you collect as well as much of the information I suggest you explore.
Related: How to Prepare for a Job Interview
Glassdoor is also a useful resources. It provides anecdotal information about companies’ salaries, employee company reviews, and common interview questions. Glassdoor also has job listings. One of the most under used tools in job search is Twitter. If you don’t have a Twitter account, create one and follow your target company. See if the person or department hiring for your position has a Twitter account and follow them. Search for Twitter postings with your target company name.
Finally, if your target company is public, don’t forget to read the company’s annual reports where you will find a wealth of information not published elsewhere.
If this isn’t enough research for you, the Corporate Research Project has published an article: How to Do Corporate Research (2).
The author of the AMA article indicated that the purpose of researching a company prior to your interview is to ensure you have a edge over your competitors for the job. While this is important, I would argue that researching a company is equally important to determine the health of the organization, the likelihood that you will fit in, and whether or not it is an organization where you will enjoy working.
1 Falcone, Paul. “AMA Playbook Preparing for an Interview: How to Research a Company » AMA Playbook.” Association. American Management Association, May 2014.
2 Mattera, Phillip. “How to Do Corporate Research.” Non-Profit. The Corporate Research Project, date NA.
Photo by Heidi Pascual