Research is key. That’s the definitive statement everyone at Vault makes when offering tips to college students about to embark on a dedicated internship or job search.
Why do we tell people this? Most interviews begin with the question, “So, what do you know about us?” And if you don’t do the research, you can end up making a huge job interview mistake right from the start, the type of mistake that is really hard to recover from. The best way to avoid that mistake is to just do the research.
Here are some tips to help you through the process:
1. Use Vault.com – Let’s get the sales pitch out of the way. But in all honesty, if you’re looking to research a potential employer to determine your own interest in working at a particular company, the best way is to learn from current employees. Vault sends out surveys every year to rank companies in a variety of industries and offers employees an anonymous means to review their employer on such categories as quality of life, firm culture, leadership, etc. And users can be certain the employees actually work at the companies, so the comments made are official and carry a lot of weight with job seekers looking to work for a company that offers great pay and benefits, training opportunities, and a desirable work-life balance. And if you work in the legal industry, there’s always the newly published Vault Guide to the Top 100 Law Firms, 2017 Edition. OK – sales pitch is over.
2. Find Employees or Former Employees – If you know someone who works at a company or used to work at a company you are looking to interview at, it’s OK to reach out to them. At best, they may be able to put in a good word for you with the right people. At the very least, they should be able to give you a sense of what it’s like to work at the company. They may offer you some insight on what to say during the interview, which topics to avoid, and who to connect with for a better shot at getting your foot in the door. If you don’t know someone, find contacts using LinkedIn and see if you can network with them or have someone you know facilitate a connection.
3. The About Us Section – If you’re going in to an interview, you should know exactly how the company views itself. The best way to do that is to read through the company’s About Us section on its website. This is where you go to get the complete Who, What, Why, Where, When, and How. When was the company founded, where is its main headquarters, who works there, who do they serve, what exactly is the company’s function, what is its mission, and how does the company accomplish its goals. Get that company jargon down, so you can recite it perfectly in your own words and truly demonstrate your interest in working there.
4. Research Your Interviewers – This was discussed in a previous blog about panel interviews to help candidates better connect with interviewers. It’s just as essential, if not more so, during the one-on-one job interview. Once you learn who is interviewing you, check out their profile on the company’s website and find their information on LinkedIn. While LinkedIn does notify users when their profile has been viewed, those users should be impressed with your efforts to best prepare for an interview. You can always look at profiles in private mode, if you feel less awkward doing so. Take all the information you can find, including education, previous employers, and a list of accomplishments, and try to tie it into your own life. If you can find that connection and build on it, you may have found yourself an ally in the hiring process.
5. Research News and Press Releases – The best way to ascertain a company’s goals, its achievements, its future, and the public’s perception of the company is through the media. Company news may determine whether or not you want to work for a particular organization. And, when combined with your other research, it can certainly help you develop questions you can ask at the end of the interview. That’s a great way of highlighting your interest in the company and the job. In addition, if the company is receiving bad press, without actually mentioning the news item, you can use that to your advantage and answer questions in a way that highlights your ability to fix problems brought up in the article.
Getting a job takes a lot of work and is not always centered on looking up job openings and filling out applications. Those who do the best with their job search go the extra mile. Make sure you stay ahead of the pack. Do your research. Be an informed job seeker.
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