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Mastering the Art of Pre-Interview Research

By Emma Tee on

Your job search has started. You’ve updated your CV. You’ve scrolled endless job adverts. You’ve created your fair share of tailored covering letters stating why your application is the one to consider, and now you’ve started being invited to interview. 

Perfect – it’s just what you wanted, but now what? 

Next up is one of the most crucial aspects of your job search, but one that’s often set aside. Interview Research. 

If you’re working with a recruitment agency, like us, we will always give you an in-depth overview of the company and provide the insights that we know about, such as the company’s culture and history, but this doesn’t mean that you won’t have to go away and do your own research. And, if you’re going it alone without the support of a Recruiter, you’ll need to dig a little deeper. 

But where do you start? What should you be looking out for? Below, we’ll talk you through the areas you’ll need to learn about ahead of your interview. 

Services, Clients, and Products

It might seem obvious, but there have been instances where people go to an interview without a clear understanding of the services or products the company offers. Researching this depends on the company – sometimes it’s easy to understand what the company does or sells, and for others, it can be difficult to glean. For example, we all know Asda. We know what they do, we know what they sell. We might not understand what a B2B manufacturer does or sells at first glance or we might find it difficult to discover the clients a digital marketing agency works with – and that’s when you’ll need to dig. Dig through their website, there is usually a page dedicated to services and products, and sometimes, you’ll find a page dedicated to past projects the company has worked on, so make sure you check it out. 

Company History

Company history is something that you’ll always want to dive into. Take a look at the about us section of the company’s website, it usually contains a bio about the company and there is likely to be a paragraph or two outlining the company’s history, how it started and the important people that make it what it is. The amount of history available, depends on the company, however, having a general overview of the company will give you a clear insight into its journey and will enable you to ask questions. 

For example, Nestle has a rich company history on its website, some examples of questions you could ask are:

  • “I noticed the Nestlé Cocoa Plan and Nescafé Plan were launched in 2010, is there still a focus on sustainability?”
  • “I noticed that Nestlé has acquired quite a few companies in recent years, what impact has this had on the company and its culture?”

The People

Once you’ve got a good grasp of the company and its history, it’s time to look at the people who make it up. On occasion, there will be a team page on a company’s website which is dedicated to its people. If this page is available, it will usually give you a glimpse at the people who work there, and if you’re lucky, there might be a bit more information about them than just their job titles. Take note of the key players, they’re usually the managers, heads of departments, directors, and the CEO, and don’t forget to look for your interviewer. When you’ve gathered the information you need, head to LinkedIn to take a look at their career history and what they’re saying – you might even want to connect with them. 

Experience and Skills

This is where the careers page comes in. The job advert and description will usually give you an insight into the experience and skills the company is looking for, but you’ll find that there’s usually information on the careers page of a website that shows what the company values in its employees. They’re usually the softer skills, for example, it’s clear from the Airbnb careers page that they value people who are inclusive. So, if you were to interview for Airbnb you’d want to talk about an experience that demonstrates you’re inclusive behaviour or mention how important it is for you to work in an inclusive environment. 

Culture, Values, Mission

This is an important one. The values and company mission can be found on the website, usually on the landing page or the about us page, and they’re usually pretty easy to grasp. 

The one that’s difficult to crack is culture. With cultural fit being cited as one of the most important factors when choosing your next employer, it’s imperative that you gain a deep understanding of the culture. The best way to see a company’s culture is by taking a look through its social media pages. They will usually give you an indication of the types of people who work there and what they get up to. Are they all suited and booted or are they the casual types who go for a beer after work on a Friday and have regular socials? Once you have this sussed, you’ll be able to confidently display and talk about how you’ll fit it during the interview. For example, you could say “I saw that you had a summer party, as someone who enjoys socialising, it seems like such fun! Is that something that happens often?”.

The Lowdown

By the time you get here, you’re down to the nitty gritty. This is the research that takes you away from the company’s website and has you delving deep into other sites. First up, Google. Search the company to see if they have been in the news lately or had any articles written about them – good or bad, it’s great to have a recent insight into the goings on. Next, you’ll want to head to Glassdoor. Glassdoor enables employees, past and present, to add anonymous reviews about the culture, salary, benefits, and even interview process. Be mindful that it’s human nature to focus on the bad, so you will likely find negative reviews (not every company has everything 100% right), so search for the company with an open mind. It’ll give you an idea of the inner workings of a company and if there is anything on there that crops up time and time again, you can bring this up in the second stage interview. Finally, take a look at Companies House. Taking a look at the company there will give you a better understanding of business partners, acquisitions, and financial stability. We promise you don’t need to know your way around a balance sheet to work things out!

Needless to say, researching the company will give you a distinct advantage over your competition as you’ll be able to showcase your knowledge and understanding of the company, will feel better prepared to answer the interview questions that come your way, and position yourself as the best person for the role. 

If you’d like to chat to us further about interview research techniques, get in touch today!