Best tips for interviews? A little research goes a long way.

I recently received an email from an employer who had posted a mid-level public relations position on I would encourage every job seeker to read this and take the advice to heart.

“I interviewed some qualified candidates in the past couple of months…but could NOT believe the number of people (mid-level) that were completely unprepared for the interview.  Absolutely shocking. Many of them could not answer the simple question of why they wanted to work here/what is their connection to our mission. One person was extremely honest and said she had done zero research on us.  She had not even looked at our website.  Heck – you are a PR person….think on your feet a little bit and make something up!! It’s difficult not to become a little angry at the candidate – wasting your time!

“I know you speak with a lot of people who are out there looking….thought it might just be helpful to reinforce that a little research goes a long, long way. I know you preach this like gospel but as I said, I have never interviewed so many people who were so unprepared.”

For job seekers, everything about convincing an employer to hire you is about connecting the relevance of your background (experience, expertise , accomplishments, etc.) to the job and the company you are applying to work.   One easy way to do this is to research the company and discover some key areas that connect to your background.

There are many ways to research information about an organization prior to an interview.  Here’s a few:

1.) The organization’s website.  The vast majority of companies and nonprofit organizations have websites that give the most basic information about their missions, what they do and, in many cases, links to updated press releases and news articles about the organization.

Also look for annual reports which are more commonly posted online.  Sometimes, the CEO might have a company blog or the company might have a facebook or Twitter account.

Dig into the company’s HR page to find out about the company culture – often companies use their recruiting pages to tell you about what its like to work for them.

Find out who is on their Board of Directors – you might have a connection.  Also, who are the members of their senior staff?

Take notes on what you see on the website so you can ask intelligent questions about their organization during the interview.

2.) The news media.  Go to Google News and you will most likely find the latest news articles about the organization.  In addition, you will find information about their industry, learn about their competitors and their industry as well as become familiar with industry buzz words and acronyms.  Read the newspaper every day and search their websites for keywords related to the company.

3.)  National associations are great resources to learn about an industry you may be unfamiliar with.  They track current trends, legislation, policies and other topics that impact the industry.  You can become familiar with the industry lingo and get a better sense of the current economy of the industry.

4.) If it’s a public company, go to the Security and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) database called EDGAR (Click here)  All public company reports including annual and quarterly reports, are stored here for public viewing.   The summaries of many of these documents provide a wealth of up-to-date information.

Bottom Line: You can leave a positive impression if you arrive at an interview prepared to have an intelligent conversation about the company, their industry and why your background and experience are suited for their company.


1 Comment

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One response to “Best tips for interviews? A little research goes a long way.

  1. Sue

    Your point is well taken, and I totally agree that the applicant should do some extensive research. And yes I can give a great deal of thought to how my skills can connect with the company and add value.
    But I think you are just a bit harsh. If I have a background in say, accounting, I may not have perfected my selling skills over the years (except for on the job situations where the audience was likely to be friendly, open and connected). I have perfected a lot of other skills, all of good value. So the art of melding all my research and good strategy into a well articulated selling presentation at an interview takes a lot of practice, and I have to get WAY out of my comfort zone—while shell shocked over a recent job loss. In fact, I may have to use a few interviews as practice, and completely fall on my face a few times.
    You might want to give thought to how you, the interviewer, can put the candidate in a comfortable frame of mind so that those of us without sales backgrounds can present our best preparation. Hostility is not helpful.

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