I’ve conducted over 10,000 interviews in my career and met many candidates who had not done sufficient research about our company. As VP Global Talent Acquisition at Amazon, it was fairly common for candidates to say: “Well, I’m an Amazon customer and I order a lot of stuff from you…” That’s great, we love that someone is an Amazon customer. Yet there is so much more to know about the company beyond ordering products online.
Here are the six key things you should know about an employer before you interview:
1. Know their financials.
If they are a publicly traded company, this information is public and easily obtainable. If they are private, not so much, although if they are a large enough private company, there are usually financial data and/or estimates available online. You should minimally know the revenue (top line) and profit (bottom line) as well as trending over the past three years.
2. Know their products and/or services.
Know what they sell, including both primary and secondary products and/or services. For example, Amazon is the #1 online retailer. Almost everyone knows that. But Amazon is also one of the largest cloud computing companies in the world. And it has a very active pipeline of new products and services being developed.
3. Know their customers.
Know who is buying their products and/or services. And, ideally, why.
4. Know their competitive positioning.
Are they the market leader? Or #2 or #3? Or a niche player in a large industry?
5. Know their culture.
Read the CEO letter to the shareholders, if they are public. If not, read their descriptions at their website for indicators on the company culture. Then validate with the opinions of others to see if they really live the corporate speak.
6. Know what others think of them.
Read outsider material and/or reviews. Don’t depend entirely on internal materials to learn about the employer.
So where do you find this information? Start with the corporate website, gleaning what you can, not only from the Careers pages, but also the general corporate and financials sections. Most companies use their corporate websites for selling their product and/or service, so this will give you plenty of information on how the company positions itself. If there is information for shareholders, read it through from an investor perspective. After all, committing yourself as an employee is a much larger investment than someone parking a few thousand in the company stock. If you wouldn’t invest in the company, you shouldn’t consider working there.
Then go outside their website to do further research. Look at sites like Glassdoor for employer ratings and feedback from both current and past employees. Do a Google News search to look for external articles written about the company. And, if you know the name of any of your interviewers, search Google and LinkedIn for their info as well.
Do your research in advance of your interview. Do not expect your interview to be the time when you will get educated about the employer. You need to do your research before the interview to be fully prepped on the employer, its culture and its products and services. By doing your research in advance, you will be better prepared to answer your questions geared to specific employer needs. As such, your interview answers will be custom to that specific employer, setting you apart from the competition.