It sometimes feels overwhelming to prepare for a job interview. You work on the things you’d like to say, portfolio examples you want to share, and even agonize over what you should wear to make the best first impression. Knowledge about the company is equally as important, and it could make your job much easier in all other areas of readiness.
If you come in with a clear picture and a deep understanding of the company, being able to demonstrate what you know can help you appear more attractive than the other candidates who may be competing with you for the same position.
It will show your interviewer that your interest in the position is genuine, and that you’re willing to learn in order to succeed and grow with the company.
You won’t become an expert overnight, but there are a few things you should know to help you speak confidently about your knowledge of the company.
1. What Their Culture is Like
Knowing the company’s culture can actually help you decide whether or not you’re wasting your time. Companies with strong cultures have a familial type bond around the office. They have specific ways they integrate teamwork and make policy that adhere to their cultural guidelines.
If you aren’t a fit for their culture, you probably aren’t going to feel happy working there.
If you’re an independent individual who is most productive when left to your own devices with minimal intervention, you’re going to need to work with a company that places a strong emphasis on empowerment in their culture.
If you firmly believe that teams win, you need a company whose culture is all about collaboration.
2. Who Plays What Role
You don’t need to print out a full list of employees and memorize details about their lives. Having a brief background for each of the key players is plenty. You should know who founded the company and who the current CEO is.
If someone important, like the brand’s creative director, would make plans or implement changes that would directly affect the work you would do in the position you applied for, look into that person as well.
It also helps to know who your immediate managers would be if you got the position. If they have LinkedIn profiles, you might be able to find out if you have some things in common. This makes it easier to break the ice.
They looked at your LinkedIn profile to determine how to interact with you – it wouldn’t be out of bounds if you did the same thing. Just don’t dig deeply into their personal matters and stick to the things they’ve shared publicly.
3. How Their Finances Appear
If the company is doing very well, it’s likely that they’ll expand. If they aren’t, your position might be in trouble before you’ve even accepted it. You can use databases to check their financial records.
Databases like BizDB for the UK, CanadaBiz for Canada, and AuBiz for Australia can help you find whatever financial information that’s been deemed public record. A company in dire financial straits probably isn’t worth the interview – follow up with the others you’ve sent resumes to.
If things are booming, you might want to schedule that interview for as soon as possible.
4. Their Future Plans
You don’t necessarily need a crystal ball to uncover a company’s future. A quick Google search for recent news articles can show you what’s currently in the works and what they have planned for the future.
If they’re planning to move into new countries or open more locations around your country, this information will be easy to find. You might also be able to read about upcoming innovations, as well as businesses or charities they plan to partner with.
5. Who They Own or Who They’re Owned By
Parent and child company relationships are more common than you think. You might not even realize what companies are owned by other companies. Estee Lauder, for example, is the parent company of so many major beauty brands that it would make your head spin.
Procter & Gamble owns almost every brand that you would use in your kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room. They even compete with themselves – they own four major brands of dishwashing liquid and over a dozen shampoo brands.
Understanding these relationships is important. You wouldn’t want to inadvertently talk down a brand, only to find out that the brand in question is a part of the same family.
Knowing ahead of time can keep you from putting your foot in your mouth. You don’t want to waste time backpedaling or appear uninformed.
6. The Way They Promote
When a high level position opens up, do they hire outside of the company, move someone over from a different department, or promote from within? Knowing the way the company promotes can help you figure out if you’re getting a career with an opportunity for advancement, or a job that you’ll be stuck in unless you decide to make a lateral move.
Current or former employees post online all the time. All you need to do is search to see if your company provides you with the opportunity to get promoted in a reasonable timeframe. This is exactly what passionate and ambitious employees need from their employer.
If you can’t find out ahead of time, you can always ask in the interview if there’s room for you to grow and work your way up in the company. Your interviewer might like to hear that question – it shows that you’re interested in sticking around a while.
7. What They Do Or Sell
It helps to have more than just a general idea of what a company sells or does before you walk through the door. Say, for example, you’re interviewing for a company that sells burritos (although it could be anything).
As an exercise within that interview, the interviewer asks you to pitch the perfect burrito and get them hungry enough to buy it. If you don’t know much about what goes into making one, this is difficult to do.
If you’re well versed in their products or services, you’ll appear loyal before you’ve even had the chance to accept the position. It shows that you didn’t apply for the position just because of brand awareness, but because of brand passion and understanding.
Studying doesn’t end as soon as you graduate – it’s only just beginning. Studying the company will help you prepare yourself, and there’s no such thing as being too prepared.
Even if you ultimately wind up working for the company’s biggest competitor, you’re in a position to compare and contrast the two. You’ll be able to add value wherever you go.