Company Research Insight
The Preptel FREE Insight Guide to Company Research
ARE YOU STILL WONDERING WHY YOU NEED TO CONDUCT SOME RESEARCH ABOUT THE COMPANY BEFORE YOUR INTERVIEW?
There are many good reasons! During your initial search activities, this information can lead to ideas about where you should be applying for jobs! You can determine which companies are hiring, what job titles apply at various employers that pertain to your specific set of skills. Once you’re scheduled for an interview, it’s time to fine tune and expand this research toward specific information that can help you land the job. Clearly displayed knowledge about the company during an interview creates a strong signal to the employer that there is a real level of interest, commitment and passion for the work, and that they can expect it to carry over and be applied while on the job. And since one of the basic strategies for a good interview includes being able to address your interviewer as if you were already in the job, researching the company is a serious requirement if you want to be considered as a true candidate for the position.
As important as this component is to the success of your interview, few people have a good understanding of how to conduct pre-interview company research, where to find the information, and how to strategically apply it during the actual interview.
The level of research may well depend on the level of employment you’re seeking, but at a bare minimum, here are some things you’ll want to know, no matter what job opportunity you’re seeking:
- Benefits – you’ll need to know this to determine whether or not the compensation is adequate to fit your particular needs. You may also be able to use this information during any job offer negotiations.
- Brief History about the company origins and recent activities. You should at least know the name of the CEO/President, and the person in charge of the Division or Group you’ll be working for.
- Culture – is it a good fit for you? Is it “youthful” or “traditional/professional?” Is the work environment tolerable and respected by the employees? Do employees seem to enjoy working for the company? Are they looking for work-a-holics, or people who have a healthy life-work balance?
- Advancement opportunities – is there a future with the company, or is this a short-term job?
- Financial status – is your job secure? Have there been recent losses or layoffs? Is the company on an upward or downward trend in profits and meeting its competitors?
- Strategic plans/goals – what are the immediate and short-term objectives and challenges you’ll be expected to assist with?
- Leadership – do you respect the leaders? Can you give your all to the overall management and leadership of the company?
- Diversity – is the company rich in human capital? Does it allow and thrive on diverse inputs, styles and contributions?
- Community involvement – is there an element of “good” in what the company provides? How is the company received and perceived in the community where it operates?
Of course, you may ask about some of these topics during interviews, but it’s better to ask such questions if you already have an idea of the answer so you can add your own observations and knowledge to the conversation. Likewise, when you’re considering the amount and depth of the research you want to use, remember that the minimum information is what everyone else will also have at their interview. Think how boring, from the interviewer’s point of view, to have applicant after applicant tell you the same facts and statistics! Ask yourself, “what is my goal in doing this research?” Your goal should be to stand out from the crowd by displaying a great skills and experience base, and the knowledge about how the company needs to apply them to solve its current problems or achieve its present and future goals. Sure, having excellent skills and experiences is a great place to start, but you can use your company research to make a lasting impression that will set you apart from the rest of the job seeking herd. What kind of information will you really need?
- What is the company mission? What are at least 3 of the company’s current goals and/or objectives?
- What is the core business of the company? What are the peripheral interests and activities – which ones support the main core and how? What kinds of products and services does the company provide?
- Who are its chief competitors? Is the company participating or involved in global sales, or are they a niche market provider?
- Are there any key events on the horizon such as patent expirations, research and development successes of failures, legal suits, pending regulatory or legislative changes, intellectual property entanglements, or other disruptive conditions or events on the horizon?
- When was the leadership or management structure last reorganized?
- What are the Company Goals for this year – and for the next 3-5 years…. How does my particular job fit into these goals?
- Does the company have the right technology structure, tools and architecture to support and conduct business and projected growth in the coming 3 years? What are the technology tools I’ll be expected to use in my job? Will they support my activities or hinder my performance in any way?
- Is the company focused on ecology and energy and resource conservation?
- Is the company committed to providing the necessary training and development resources and opportunities to its workers? Is there any educational and career planning or path development offered – is it offered to everyone or just to certain employment tiers?
- Has the company determined any best practice mandates or guidelines?
- Is management structured or matrixed?
- Are any key executives planning to exit or retire from the company in the next 2 years?
- What does the company income statement say about the company – is it in a sound position? Will it be able to afford upcoming projects?
- Is it operating at a profit or are its expenses more than its income? Are these trends or just short term, reasonable conditions? Is the company selling off assets or acquiring new ones? Are sales increasing? Are prices going up or down and why?
- Is the corporate factory or facilities in good repair, or is the company spending a lot of money to keep and maintain its assets? Are more major expenses predicted or expected in the near future?
- Has the company paid any stock dividends in the last 2-3 years? Have share prices increased and what have the trends been over the last 18 months? Will there be enough money after dividends and other liability expenses to afford employee raises or benefits?
- Does the Accounts Receivables balance indicate good expectations for continued payments on debt? Are inventory balances high or low? Are inventory and accounts receivable turns steady and of the right cycle or durations? Are suppliers and payables being met on time?
- Where were the most recent budget cuts experienced and what have been the effects?
- Compensation Comparison – are salaries and wages in keeping with other similar companies in the industry? Do salaries indicate the company expects more, or less, from it’s employees?
- Stock Options – are they a good value over other compensation choices? Have they paid dividends or gone up in value over the last 6 months? Over the last year?
- Employee Satisfaction – Does the company provide a good work environment, mentoring and career support. Is there a lot of current change and political disruption within the company? Do employees feel valued and secure? Have there been recent or historic layoffs or hiring spurts? Are there opportunities for upward mobility?
- Recent Promotions and Changes and Candidate Selection – where did other employees come from and how were they chosen for their positions? What are the names and positions of some key players who have recently been hired? Is there a lot of new blood and new ideas among the organizational leaders? Are they successfully implementing new strategies?
- Has the company recently acquired any new interests? Are they committed to filling jobs with employees from these recent or upcoming acquisitions? What does this activity mean to my own chances for making an impact or obtaining any future growth opportunities?
- What kinds of things are employees and analysts saying about the conditions and the practices that impact employees at this company?
- What kinds of questions will the interviewer ask at the interview and why?
- What is included in the compensation package? What options are offered to employees upon hiring? What is available or offered incrementally? What is the track record, history, and criteria for issuing bonuses? How are hours-worked calculated against vacation, sick and personal leave times? How do these hours accrue? Have there been any cutbacks in benefits?
- Growth Trends – is the company growing or are it’s sales flat or floundering? Are they looking for people to fight competitive battles or to introduce new offerings into the marketplace?
- If the company has multiple divisions or product lines, which ones are profitable? Which ones have the biggest budgets? What are the forecasts for the next year by division and/or product line?
- Does the company have a lot of committed sales? What are the pipelines and channels where future sales are expected to materialize? Has the company recently landed or lost any major contracts?
- In comparison with the previous years’ annual reports and stated leadership and organizational goals, have they been attained consistently, or have reconsiderations and adjustments been the pattern? Have the goals and intentions of the company actions realized the benefits and gains hoped for and predicted? What obvious actions have transpired in response to these met or unmet goals?
- Is the company a producer or a user of research and development in the industry? Do other companies look to this company for indicators and competitive direction? Is the company perceived as a major threat to its competitors?
- Are new products and developments in line with current customer demographics or are new markets in order for these products and interests?
- How does the company determine and deliver its message to it’s customers? Where, how, and when does it advertise?
- Is business seasonal or driven by trends?
- What are the company’s main competive threats and weaknesses? How does the company outperform its competition? Have other companies recently launched competitive campaigns?
Take a look at some excellent pre-interview company research that’s available right now through Preptel!
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Doing Pre-Interview Company Research on your own – where do you begin?
As you can see, conducting your own company research can be a detailed and sometimes difficult process. The first thing you need to determine before you get started is how much information is enough, considering the type of job and the step you’re entering in the hiring process. Typically, you’ll have several days to add to your research knowledge before any second interviews happen, but by the time you walk in the door to that second interview, you need to be well armed and well versed in at least the minimum topics, preferably more. Here are some tips to help guide you and direct your research hours:
Focus on your area of interest and expertise.
Organize your research first. You can spend a lot of time lost in “research-land,” if you don’t have a list of questions you’re trying to answer. The list will help you stay focused on what you need to find out, and keep your research in manageable and appropriate timelines. Remember, you still have to formulate answers to anticipated questions with this information – so stay on track and don’t waste your time.
If you don’t know what questions to answer, start with these two: “what do you know about us” and “why do you want to work here.” Research will enable you to have the right response – and the right questions, remember: “an interview is a dialogue.”
Pick 4 or 5 company statistics that pertain directly to your expected responsibilities. Think about the numbers and performance appraisal measurements you came into contact with at your last job. You’ll want to be able to use this information to create interview answers that explain how your past experiences and your skills make you ready and capable to step into your new role. Once you have this dialog down cold, pick 2 more indirect statistics, and create an example of how and why you believe they will also have meaning and impact on your job.
Read anything and everything you can about that employer. Use your favorite internet search engine to find the employer’s web site, or ask for help from a friendly librarian! Then review the site or other journals and research/reference materials to see what the company is saying about itself. Next, take a look at what the rest of the world is saying; Vault Reports is a good resource to find specific, detailed information about a particular employer.
Use your connections.
If you have a connection that will help you find inside information, use it. Do you know someone who works there? Ask them if they can help. If you’re a college grad ask your Career or Alumni Office if they can give you a list of alumni who work there. Then call or email and ask for assistance, pointers, referrals, and insights. Put your social media networks to good use! Find employees, fan pages, and other connections that can offer these same benefits and advantages, and use them.
Then use websites and other sources to help you find out even more about the company.
If you’re interested in big business you can browse the Fortune 500 top companies list. Then take a look at the snapshot for company details, revenues and contact information. Fortune provides similar lists for the 100 Fastest Growing Companies and the 100 Best Companies to Work For.
Corporate and company websites can provide a wealth of information. While typical customer sites might provide some useful facts and general data, be sure to check the navigation bar and the small menu listings at the bottom of the home page for better corporate info. Definitely start out with the page for jobs or employment. Also check out listings and info about community involvement, research opportunities, internships, fellowships, and more.
The Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Dun & Bradstreet, Standard & Poor’s, the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, offer job seekers an in-depth look inside industries, companies and markets. Some private financial services sites offer limited research materials about companies and will provide annual reports, performance and trend charts and other useful data. For corporate leadership information, check with Marquis Who’s Who in America, or simply go to your favorite internet search engine and search on the names you’re interested in. Look for news stories, reports, community involvement, quotes, and more.