How to do Research for a Job Interview
Landing the interview is a big milestone in your job search! The interviewing process is for the company to see if you are a fit for the role, but it is also an opportunity for you to determine if the particular job and company are a good fit for you. So, take the time to do your research before the interview to make sure you are prepared for their questions and you have the right questions ready for the people interviewing you. Here is a step-by-step guide to researching for your next job interview and how to incorporate that research into your responses.
Step #1 - Read the Job Posting
The first step in preparing for any job interview is always to return to the job description. Remember that not all job descriptions will stay out there forever. So, make sure that you keep a copy of the job description somewhere after you apply to the job so you can reference it during the interview process.
Re-reading the job description is foundational to starting your research for the job interview. The job posting will contain a lot of information about who the role reports to, what they do, what the requirements are, and probably some details about the position fit into the overall organization. These nuggets of information will give you a lot of insight into who to research, what products to review, and what details you should emphasize in the interview process.
Step #2 - Read the Company's Careers Page
You can take the insights gained from the job description to start researching the company, its products/business lines, and the people. The best place to start for this part of the process is the company's career page. It should give you a lot of information about the people that work there, the culture, and the overall expectations for its teams.
From there, you can dive deeper into other areas of the company website to find more specific information about the products or departments that the open role would work with. Keep in mind that all of the information on the company's website will be generally positive (as it should be). But, this data can give you a lot of insight into the overall business, the culture, and a glimpse into its strategic plan or challenges.
Step #3 - Perform Internet Searches
Take the information and details you gained from the job description and the company website or social media to run some online searches. This will give you insights into what others are saying about the company, its competitors, risks, and any other challenges the company or the industry is facing.
Start with some basic internet searches to learn what the company is doing. You can also use the filters on most search engines to limit the results down to the most recent information, news, or other relevant content. Depending on where you are at in the process, it may make sense to also set up some alerts so that you can receive the latest news on the organization.
From here, you could run some more advanced searches into the company's competition, lawsuits, funding, products, leadership, etc. Basically, you can go as deep as you want online into the company, its people, the business lines, the industry, and the risks. But, those insights will only get you so far as that will only cover the publicly available information. So, you should spend time here to better understand the opportunity. But, this is not the only way you should be researching before the interview.
Step #4 - Focus on the People
The next step in this process is just as important as the online searches. This is where you turn your focus to the people involved in the process. First, start with your network. Who do you know at the company? The easiest way to figure this out is to use your LinkedIn or other professional networking profiles to do some quick searches. And, if you haven't already reached out to them in this process, now is the time.
Use your best judgment here, but reach out to the people that you already know and simply ask them for their insights into the company and the people you will be interviewing with. The conversation doesn't have to be a long one to provide you with some important insights into the opportunity and the company. And, it may be possible for your existing connection to serve as your internal advocate through the hiring process. This inside help can be invaluable to expediting the process and making sure that this is a role that you actually want.
Second, you can use LinkedIn and other social networking sites to do your research about the people that you will interview with. You can find a ton of information about people in advance with just some quick searches. For example, you could not only find where the person worked and went to school. But, you can also dive through their connections and find overlaps or people that you may also know. Or, you can find shared groups or interests online. These are easy talking points for you to incorporate into the interview to establish trust and credibility.
Doing this online research about the people that you will interview with can also help you to better assess if this role and company is a good fit for you. Meaning that the person that the role reports to may have very different interests from yourself or that they may have statements/activity on LinkedIn that raise some red flags. You can't leap to unfair conclusions, but you definitely can learn quite a bit going about someone online that will be invaluable when you go into that interview.
Step #5 - Write Out Your Responses to the Anticipated Questions
Now, you have tons of information and the time has come to put together a plan for your interview on how you will make the most of it. The first part of that process is to write out what you think the questions will be in the interview. Then, you should write out what you think your answers should be. Don't spend too much time on the writing part. The real value of this step is to prepare yourself as much as possible for the interview - whatever that may be for you.
Meaning that your written answers to these anticipated questions could be in the form of bullets, thoughts, or full sentences. Whatever form this takes, make sure that you do it in a way that you can re-use the notes so that you do not have to repeat the process for your next interview with the company. Thus, most people find value in creating a running document where they can add/change content and save it in a place where they can easily access it at any point of the interview process.
Step #6 - Write Out the Questions that You Will Ask
The final step in this process is to use the research and insights that you have gained to think about what questions you want to ask. You can ask a number of different types of questions, but they should be appropriate for the person that you are meeting with. For example, you wouldn't ask the recruiter in HR what the biggest challenges are for the department would be. Instead, you would ask the person in HR something about the role itself such as whether the role is new or if it is a backfill, what is the anticipated career path for someone with this job title, how long have people been on the team, etc. Thus, focus on the interests and knowledge are of the people are that you will meet with and craft your questions around things they can actually answer. You can do this while also incorporating the research that you gained online or through your conversations with people.
Remember, you are the person being interviewed. So, you probably won't have time for more than 5 questions. But, there will be some interviews where you will have time or be expected to ask more questions. Prepare for the interview with the assumption that you get 5 questions and plan to make them as strong as possible. And, have more questions ready to go if you get the chance. Plan to incorporate your research in those first 5. This will show off your research and the other questions that you have on deck can be broader in nature just in case you run out of time.
And, most importantly, make sure that you practice your answers and questions out loud. This will get you in the mindset of the interview and you will be ready to do your absolute best when the time comes.
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