How To Research A Company

By Chris Kolmar - Feb. 10, 2021
Articles In Job Application Guide

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In order to land your dream job, you’ll need to set yourself apart from other candidates in your cover letter, resume, and interview by showing off your stellar qualifications and winning personality.

One of the ways you can do this is by researching the company so that you know and can talk about how you align with their values and why you’re the candidate they’ve been searching for.

Why Researching a Company Is Important

Researching a company before an interview is important for several reasons:

  1. You give yourself an edge in the application and interview processes. By putting in the work to understand the company, you’ll be able to show better why you would be an asset to the organization. You can do this through both your cover letter and interview.

    Also, doing your research ahead of time allows you to avoid asking questions that you could answer for yourself easily with a quick Google search. This way, you show that you’re taking the process seriously and have put in the effort to understand what you’re getting into.

    If you do enough research, you may also gain a better understanding of what questions your interviewers will likely ask you, or at least what types of answers they want to hear from you, which is highly valuable in an interview.

  2. You can confidently answer the interview question, “What do you know about our company? This is a general interview question, so it’s a good idea to be prepared for it.

    When you answer, mention the basics such as their mission, vision, and values, but then add something more specific as well to show that you’ve done your research.

    Interviewers ask this question to see how invested candidates are in the position they’re applying for, so try to relate your answer back to your own skills and qualifications and how you’d be able to put them to work to further the organization.

  3. You can learn about the company’s business operations. By researching, you can ask intelligent questions that show that you’re interested in the position and support the organization as a whole.

    This is important because hiring managers want someone who will jump in and join the rest of the team in pursuing the larger mission. Plus, a hire who already knows how a company works is easier to train and will become productive much more quickly.

    Learning about their business operations is also helpful to you since you’re interviewing the company to make sure it’s a good fit for you as well. You may find all the information you’re looking for in your research, but you’ll likely also think of some more questions you want to ask during your interview.

What to Look for When Researching a Company

When you’re researching a company, there are a few things you want to be sure to find out about the organization.

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  1. Look for the company’s values and make sure they align with yours. This should be one of the most effortless pieces of information to find about an organization, as most companies post them on their websites along with their mission and vision.

    Even if they aren’t specifically labeled as such, the pages providing information about the organization should give you some idea about what the company’s focus is.

    Once you find them, ask yourself if those are values you can get behind. If you can’t, that may be a sign that this position isn’t a good fit for you.

    Also, pay attention to what sets them apart. Do they mention anything that other companies didn’t? Do their values strike an especially strong chord with you? That’s worth paying attention to, as it’s a sign that you may be a good match with that company.

  2. Research employee benefits the company provides. As you probably know, asking about benefits in the first few interviews is a big no-no. Knowing about the benefits policies early on can be incredibly helpful in your decision-making process, though.

    The good news is that many organizations share at least the basics of these policies on their websites, so you can look them up yourself.

    You may be able to look at third-party websites for more information as well. Just remember to take those with a grain of salt, as benefits change often, and those websites won’t necessarily update with the organization they’re talking about.

  3. Search for articles featuring the company. Reading about an organization from someone else’s perspective can give you more insight than you would get from simply perusing the company’s website.

    You’ll be able to find awards they won, achievements they’ve made, and charities they’ve donated to, as well as any negative press they’ve been involved with.

    Just make sure you do your research to ensure this information is from reliable sources before you mention it in an interview (and use extreme caution when talking about negative stories).

    Articles like these can also give you a broader picture of what the company is about, how they operate, and what their culture is like.

  4. Look up the company’s main competitors. Having this knowledge at your fingertips can be useful for your general understanding of the company and your ability to answer interview questions, as hiring managers may want to see how well you understand the company and industry.

    It can also open up doors for you to start a conversation with your interviewer where you can demonstrate your understanding of the industry and the company’s different challenges.

  5. Find information about your potential future boss. It can be helpful to understand who exactly you’d be working for at the company, so don’t be afraid to do a little research in this arena as well.

    Try to find some good conversation starters, but make sure you don’t go so in-depth in your sleuthing that it’s creepy. Stick to the professional basics like LinkedIn, staff bios on the company website, and news articles.

  6. Gauge the financial health of the company. While you don’t need to look up enough information to do a full financial analysis or uncover any wrongdoing, getting at least a general idea of the financial state of the organization will help you understand it better and give you a great conversation tool.

    Usually, companies (especially large ones) will have publicly available financial reports on their websites. These were made for their investors, and they often include great information about potential growth areas, risky or weak spots, and an overview of their revenue.

    If it’s looking especially dicey, that might be a good sign to do some more research and reconsider taking a position at that organization. Other than that, though, you’ll be able to walk into an interview and impress everyone there with your knowledge about their company.

Whenever you bring up information that you’ve gleaned from your research in an interview, always make sure you’re adding something relevant and valuable to the conversation.

Don’t just try to show off, because hiring managers can spot that from a mile away and won’t be impressed.

What should I know about a company when I interview?

Janet Christ
President
J M Advisory Services, LLC

When preparing for an interview, do your homework about the company and organization you will be working for if you get the job. You should be aware of the mission and goals and be aware of how this job would support those goals.

Also, ask for the name(s) of the individual(s) who will be conducting the interview, and then conduct a search on LinkedIn to find out about them to see if you have anything in common.

Most importantly, be positive and confident in your responses and be prepared to give specific examples of information that you have included in your resume!

Tips for Researching a Company

So now that you know what information you’re looking for when you’re researching a company, you need to know how to go about finding it:

  1. Visit the company website. This should always be your first stop because it’s a gold mine of basic information such as the mission, vision, and values, employee directories, news stories, and blog posts.

    As you browse, you will also be able to pick up on the company culture through their website’s design and tone. Pay attention to this and then see if what you experience in the interview matches it.

  2. Browse social media. Take a look at all of the company’s pages, paying special attention to their interactions with their followers. Does it seem like the organization truly cares about its clients by responding to their comments and questions and taking care of complaints?

    You may also be able to discover more about the company culture through these channels by noting what content they post and the voice they use to communicate.

  3. Look up the company on LinkedIn. When you do this, you’ll not only find posts and articles about the company, but you’ll also be able to see job openings, company statistics, and employees who you may know at the organization.

    You can also often find information about employees the company has recently hired or promoted, which can provide valuable insight into who you would be working with and how often people move up in the organization.

  4. Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to research. It may take more digging than you’d think to find all of the information than you’re looking for, so make sure you don’t leave this task until the evening before your interview.

    Give yourself enough time to research comfortably, as well as to think through the information you do find.

  5. Talk to industry experts about the company you’re applying to. If you can, it may be worth asking someone else in the same industry about their perceptions of the organization and the particular position you’re applying for.

    If you ask a competitor, remember that their opinion might be biased, but generally, people who have experience in the industry can provide some valuable insight no matter who they work for.

    Even if the person doesn’t know about the company, have them look at your research to interpret if there are any glaring red flags or especially impressive points. Their perspective will help you get far more out of your research than you would have on your own.

  6. Make notes of the questions you want to ask. No matter how good your memory is, your brain is going to be running at full capacity on the day of your interview, so make sure you give it some help and write down anything you want to ask as you research.

    You can also write down some conversation starters, such as news headlines you’ve found (try to stick to the positive ones, especially at first) or interesting social media posts you saw.

Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.
Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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