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Preparing for an Interview: How to Research a Company

May 23, 2014

prepare for a job interview

If you’re preparing for an interview, developing a Company Research Overview one-sheet is a very smart strategy.  Hiring managers and recruiters look for something called the “candidate desire factor,” which often reveals itself in terms of who’s done the most research in advance and can articulate why they’re a special fit for the organization.  Informed candidates take the time to understand the company and its nuances—not just the basic facts about year founded and primary product line but also its competition, strengths, vulnerabilities, and employee sentiment.

That may sound like a lot of time to invest before walking through a company’s doors for a first round of interviews, but as the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a great initial impression, and your level of awareness regarding the company’s uniqueness will help you stand out among your peers and establish you as a serious contender for future rounds of interviews.

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It used to be that to research a company in advance, you had to spend hours at the local library and in many cases order books and magazine articles that could take weeks to arrive.  Fortunately today the Internet does all the legwork for you, so you just need to know where to look.  As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to spend at least an hour preparing information on each and every company where you’re scheduled to interview.  To make the data gathering process that much easier, use this following outline to gather your thoughts:

 

Company Research Overview

Company Name (include Inc. LLC, or other legal entity information)
Industry (primary vs. secondary product lines, SIC code)
Physical Address & Phone #
Website Address & Findings:  Company philosophy, mission statement, target consumer markets, tenure of senior executives, community service goals and charities supported, special awards or recognition
Parking Instructions (Costs)
Year Founded
Annual Revenue (if publicly traded, sticker symbol, exchange, most recent stock price, P/E ratio)
# Employees (domestic vs. international)
Headquarter Location
# Locations (both national and international)
Top 3 Competitors
Industry Trends (SWOT* Analysis, Growth Prospects) http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Other

*SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats

 

With this one-sheet template in hand, you’ll probably have ample information from the organization’s website to populate most of the fields above.  But that’s a given because anyone could do that . . . You’ll want to conduct additional research beyond the company’s website to demonstrate your interest in the organization and awareness of trends in its industry.  Depending on whether the company is publicly traded, privately held, or not-for-profit, you’ll have multiple resources to choose from, but the resources below should garner the strongest results in the shortest amount of time . . .

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About The Author

Paul Falcone is a human resources executive in Los Angeles and has held senior-level positions with Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, and Time Warner. He is the author of a number of AMACOM and SHRM bestselling books, four of which made SHRM's prestigious "Great 8" list: 96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire, 101 Sample Write-Ups for Documenting Employee Performance Problems, 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees, and 2,600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews. His latest AMACOM book, 75 Ways for Managers to Hire, Develop, and Keep Great Employees, was released in 2016. Follow Paul on Twitter at @PaulFalconeHR and his website and blog at www.PaulFalconeHR.com.

3 Comments »

  1. avatar

    […] Are you preparing for an interview? This article gives sound advice for how to research a company before you interview. (Preparing for Your Interview: How to Research a Company.  […]

  2. avatar

    Knowledge is key. One should always take the time to learn about the company you wish to work for & with. When utilizing the SWOT analysis you will convey the message “I am looking for a career, not simply a job”. Great article, thanks for posting !

  3. avatar

    Really good advice. I always like to see people try to get an understanding of the company and the environment before the interview. The checklist is a very useful tool.

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