Conducting research on the company where you will be interviewing is essential to being prepared for a successful meeting, and will demonstrate your interest and knowledge. It is best to begin with the company’s website to understand their history, their products, their mission and generally how they present themselves to their customers. Read through their “About Us” page and look for achievements or awards, as well. Visit their Careers page, read through their values and try to incorporate these concepts into some of your interview answers. If you haven’t prepared for the interview, the recruiter will be less impressed.
Gain a general understanding of their products and services, and check out the customer reviews - if available. Make note of the positive comments that the customers are saying about the company.
Browse through the company’s social media and try to ascertain who their target customers are and how they communicate to them. Follow them on social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, and take note of how they engage with their followers. Network with current or former employees to get a sense of the culture of the organization. Visit LinkedIn and review the profiles of the leadership, especially in the area of your potential manager and of your future peers. Try to understand what experience the existing team brings to the table and where they might have worked before. Checkout their YouTube channel, if available, as well.
Reading through Glassdoor reviews may offer insight into the organization, although usually there are comments from disgruntled employees. Happy employees don’t generally leave reviews, but the comments will provide some information - however biased, about potential issues. Glassdoor also has an “Interview Question” section where you may be able to find interview questions that have been used in the past.
Check out the financial health of the company. For startups, you can find information at “Crunch Base”; for public companies you are able to read through their quarterly reports or investor analyses.
Always research recent news about the company. Have they recently replaced the CEO or important senior executives? Are they launching new products? Are they about to merge with another company or be acquired? These are issues you need to know before your meeting.
It is important to also research the broader industry and competitive landscape. Understanding who else is successful within the industry, and what the company’s position is in comparison to other organizations. Most importantly review the job description and requirements of the role to make sure you have a clear understanding of the company’s expectations. Combine your research with your skills and experience to match the position description.
In order to stand out, especially at the end of an interview, it is important to ask questions. If not already answered, you will want to ask why the position is open; whether it is a newly created role or whether someone quit or was terminated.
Why is this position open? Is this a new position? Why was it created? If the person in this role is leaving, why? If the person is getting promoted, what did they do so well to get promoted?
Aside from the technical skills required, what are some of the desirable soft skills to be successful in this position?
Here, you are asking the recruiter to share more information about the culture of the organization and information outside of the job description. They may need a good team player, or someone who is good with clients.
What projects are you currently working on that I could help you with?
You may also want to know if they are considering internal candidates for this role as well. Internal candidates usually have priority for any new position. You will want to leave the meeting with an understanding of the interview process and next steps that will be taken - and what the timeline is. Often there are multiple interviews and a lengthy process. You should be aware of how long the process might take and with whom you will be meeting.
The questions you ask during the interview are not as important as the energy you bring to the conversation. The personal interview is where you will make a strong impression; so being enthusiastic and asking a few questions should advance your position. A great question to ask is:
Is there specific experience the hiring team is looking for? What are the top three skills that are important for this role?
Then, respond with a very succinct reply aligning your background with the skills listed. In this way, you will assist the recruiter in validating you as a candidate. Other questions include:
How long has this position been open?
Can you tell me about the company culture? Team culture?
Here, you are not only asking about the job, but the people with whom you will be working. The answer will let you know whether the job aligns with your interests.
Are there opportunities for advancement or professional development?
What will be the expectations at a performance review? Within what timeframe?
What are the biggest challenges or problems that you are currently facing in this role/on your team? Where do you see me adding value?
A few targeted questions will demonstrate that you have done your research and have a genuine interest in the job. You may also uncover any red flags if there are issues that the company is currently facing.
What has the high-performer on your team (in the organization) accomplished?
This will allow you to hear specific information about what a successful colleague has accomplished, and provide insight into how you should craft answers to their questions.
Why have you (Mr./Ms. Hiring Manager) stayed at this company so many years? What was your journey like to get to the position you are currently in?
This question will allow the recruiter to talk about himself, and also provide information about his assessment of the company and its culture.
If you have asked several questions, a final question might include:
What question haven’t I asked that would be valuable for me to know?
Is there anything further that you would like to know about me that I have not already discussed?
Based on what we have discussed today, is there any reason why I should not move forward to the next steps in the process?
These final three questions will ensure that you have addressed all of their questions, and will quickly reveal if there is further interest. Regardless of the position, it is vital to have a list of insightful questions for the interviewer, to demonstrate that you have done your research and are enthusiastically interested in the position.