July 15, 2015
While some of the population loves research – after all, more than 10,000 monthly searches on Simply Hired are for research-based jobs – many of you don’t want to do research for a living. But when you have a looming interview, research is an important part of the process that you simply cannot skip.
Unfortunately, the discomfort rarely ends with the research itself. You have to figure out what information is worth mentioning and what you can discard, and then you have to find a way to work a bunch of facts into the interview without sounding like a robot.
Is an interviewer really going to be impressed that you know the company’s revenue last year, what year it was founded or that you can rattle off the names of each product the company offers? Probably not. So it’s up to you to distinguish what’s important and how to share it in your upcoming interview.
Here are three things you need to research about a prospective company and how to use that information in a meaningful way.
Start your research with the largest common denominator: the business itself. But instead of pulling up historical facts about the company’s founding or its most recent company retreat, focus on how details about the company create a connection with your own interests and purpose.
Question to Ask: How does the company help its customers?
It might be easy to identify what products and services a company provides, but you need to dig deeper. How does the company help its customers? What value does it provide and what problem does it solve?
For example, Simply Hired helps connect job seekers with jobs they love and employers with fantastic candidates. A technology company might create widgets that help other companies create faster widgets that are embedded in larger widgets down the road. Understanding how the larger picture works is far more insightful than listing off products and services.
How to Use It: Align your purpose with the company’s purpose
Based on the two examples above, use the research you find to align your purpose with the company’s purpose. For example, as someone who has looked for a job and/or had to hire someone, you might understand how hard it can be and want to help others in the same situation by working at Simply Hired. Or you might want to be a part of the technology company because you’re someone who loves driving efficiency and you’re enthusiastic to work for a company that helps technology move faster and with more power.
Question to Ask: What is unique or interesting about the company?
The answer here could be wide open, so be on the lookout for tidbits that jump out at you. For example, if the company has won several awards or achieved some sort of milestone it might be the result of a specific campaign or strategy that you could ask about. Or if a company offers perks like a Ping-Pong table or other onsite bonding opportunities it might reveal a personal interest on behalf of senior leadership or human resources.
How to Use It: Express your interest in being a part of a unique company
Use the company’s achievements and notable information to show your interest in being unique. For example, you might want to contribute to a company that is becoming wildly successful as evidenced by the number of awards the company has won. You also might appreciate companies that make an effort to foster relationships between employees. If you find that a foundation of friendship helps your cross-functional performance, you might make a great cultural fit for the company with the Ping-Pong table.
For the next phase of your research, carefully evaluate the job description to pick up on subtle details that you can use to your advantage in the interview.
Question to Ask: What language does the job description use to talk about the job?
Does the job description emphasize a list of required skills or the fun company culture? Does it ask for a degree in a specific field or any degree/equivalent experience? Evaluate how the job description lays out the opportunity and make a list of words that are repeated often.
How to Use It: Use the same or similar terms as you talk about your experience
Take these words as cues for what the company and hiring manager value. For example, emphasize your strict adherence to experience and education to a hiring manager who values it, but highlight your ability to work with teams and your transferable skills for other managers.
Question to Ask: What jobs are related to this job?
Consider the other jobs that have a relationship with this job. For example, as a copywriter you would work with editors, project managers and marketing consultants. Make a list of the responsibilities and pain points that come with these related jobs.
How to Use It: Consider the position from the perspective of these other job titles
The purpose of the interview is to figure out your fit for the job. What better way to show your understanding than speaking to the perspective and needs of those who interact with this position? By touching on the interests of related titles, you can easily navigate questions that come up in the interview.
For example, if the interviewer asks about your weaknesses as a copywriter, you can address them within the context of how frustrating a writer’s bad grammar might be for the editor he or she works with. Then you can share trouble you have had with grammar and the steps you took to correct your weakness such as reading grammar books or taking a short grammar course.
Up to this point you’ve kept your attention on the company and the job at hand. However, the person you will be interviewing with is just as important as those first two factors. Who you interview with will decide the chemistry of the interview itself and provide deep insight into how the company operates.
Question to Ask: Who will you interview with and what are their current titles?
Understand as much about your interviewer as possible, including name, current title and photo. What was the career path the hiring manager took to get to where she is today? How long has she been with the company? No detail is too small.
How to Use It: Adjust your use of jargon as needed
Knowing who your interviewer is will help you tweak your interview answers for the right audience. For example, if you are interviewing for an engineering job, you’ll want to know if the human resources manager you’re interviewing with has a background in engineering. If they do, you may rely heavily on industry terms for those in your field. But if they do not, you’ll need to explain your experience more generally.
The same goes for how you present your experience on your resume. If the interviewer has had several disparate roles or careers, she’ll likely value transferable skills. If she specialized in one specific job, she might value really getting to know how something works and driving results as the industry changes.
Why waste your time on pointless research for your next job interview? Focus your efforts on digging up information that will help you communicate your fit for the position, and then present it in that light.