Pre-Interview Research: How Far Should You Go?

Preparing for an interview is a stressful process: picking the right interview outfit, gathering all of your materials, thinking of answers to commonly asked questions that represent you and then there’s the research process.  It’s a known fact that companies like to hear you’ve “done your homework”, but unlike your homework it doesn’t have to take you hours.

It’s true that you can never be too prepared, but make no mistake, the interviewer does not want to hear you tell them about themselves.  Here are some good guidelines for what you should be looking for when you research a company in preparation for an interview.

  • Look into the types of clients the company works with.  I am not suggesting you visit every client’s website and then obsessively research them, but it is important to know the industries the company currently works with.  If for example, they have a client from the hospitality industry you can be sure to mention that you noticed they represent several clients in the hospitality field and demonstrate your interest in that industry with an example of work you may have done with a hospitality client.  Also, note any huge changes in that industry to show that you are aware of the specific needs clients of a specific industry might have at this point in time.
  • Do a quick Google News search for any recent company news.  I would not go back beyond a year’s time, but if the company won an Addy Award or a Pepper Pot it certainly could not hurt to notice that and compliment the interviewer on the success.
  • Be aware of the company values.  Most companies have an “about us” section of their website, make sure to familiarize yourself with the key words they use most frequently to describe themselves.  It is important to show how you share those values.  Again, I like to use examples to illustrate these things since anyone can say they posses an admirable trait.  Show the interviewer you know what they are looking for and what they think is important, and you would be a good fit because of your similar values.
  • If you know who is interviewing you beforehand, glance at their LinkedIn profile or their biography on the company website.  You do not have to be an expert on this person, but if you know in advance you have something in common with them, you can break the ice and relieve some pressure by having a more casual conversation about something other than your past experience.  For example, I once had an interview with a Saint Joseph’s alumni so I casually mentioned that my sister is also an alumni and we discussed the campus and its location relative to Center City for a bit.
  • Glance at the company blogs.  The company is blogging about PR News they feel is relevant, so be sure to keep up with the industry.
  • Be sure to mention if you know anyone who works at the company or if you have a common connection.  

There is an overwhelming amount of information out there, but chances are, you won’t be able to discuss in detail everything you can find.  Save yourself the trouble and stick to my tips!

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