On interview day, employers naturally look out for people who have done their homework and have really tried to understand the company they’re interviewing with. Putting in the extra preparation will not only impress the interviewer but also help your performance during the interview as you will be equipped to answer questions more confidently. So where should your research begin and how can it be done most effectively?
Categorise your research
With a wealth of information now available at our fingertips, it can be easy to miss or overlook the most important details. Start by planning your research ensuring that you cover each of the following four categories:
1. Company: research will look into understanding what the company does on a day to day basis and their company culture. What are the main opportunities/changes coming up within the next few months? Will a new Graduate scheme be opening, any new branches opening or any organisation structural changes?
2. Industry: this involves looking at the wider industry that the company is in, especially if it’s an industry that you’re not familiar with. Don’t forget to spend a little time looking up competitors too.
3. The interviewer: first you will need to find out who will be interviewing you. Email your contact ahead of the interview to find this out.
4. Job role: you will feel much better going to an interview if you have a deeper understanding of exactly what the role will entail. Always ask for the full job description so you are prepared.
With so many resources to choose from, the internet will equip you with a majority of the knowledge that you seek. Looking up the company website, and not just the careers section, is a good place to start. The information you’ll find will include what they do, why they’re good at it, what their values and goals are, as well as their vision for the future. You might also be able to find employee biographies, which will give you a good idea on who your future colleagues might be. Some companies also have a blog, where they post relevant news such as product launches, new ventures or locations. Look out for ‘A day in the life of’ blogs which will give you a first-hand account of what it’s like to work at the company.
Social networking sites are the next place you should be searching for background information. Most companies use Facebook and Twitter to post information that might not be immediately available on their website. Look out for information on employee or CSR initiatives, which will give you a real flavour for what it would be like to work there. Use Linkedin to research who will be interviewing you. The information you will find will give you a few conversation starters that will enable you to establish a personal rapport during the interview.
As well as online resources your chosen industry is likely to have a number of industry-related publications, each containing the breaking news that will affect the company you are researching and their competitors.
By your final year at university, you will have hopefully built your network of contacts which will include university Alumni. When researching a company, utilise the LinkedIn Alumni tool to see whether someone from your university already works there. You can then get in touch and ask the questions that you want to know.
Attend campus events
From presentations to career fairs to special employer events, you have plenty of chances to interact with your chosen employer before your interview, or even before applying. Why not sign up for the next event and find out the answers to all of your burning questions first hand? Your name will then be on their radar and it could be that further down the line your paths may cross at the interview. To an employer that shows that you have done your research – by finding out when they were on campus and by taking the time to interact with them – but also following up afterwards.
Employing all these tips will go towards boosting your confidence in time for the interview and once you understand more about the company, it will become clearer as to whether their needs match yours. Further, thorough research will help you to prepare two or three solid questions that you can ask the interviewer. In the meantime, why not have look around our website and check out the great graduate and internship roles we have available.