At a job interview, you’ll spend the vast majority of the time talking about yourself. Leading up to the meeting, you’ll hopefully have spent some time practicing how to talk about yourself for maximum effect. But there’s a reason that an interviewer will take a moment to talk about the company and its needs, beyond what they described in the job posting. There are two parties involved in this scenario, and they need to mesh together well early on.
By conducting some extra research about the organization you’re looking to join, you can develop insightful answers to the hiring manager’s questions, and ask some insightful questions of your own. If you can prove that you understand more about the company than its name and purpose, you’ll stand out within the pool of prospective hires, leaving the manager with the sense that you are genuinely interested in joining their ranks. Here are some things you should look into:
1. How is the company dealing with global events?
From trade policy to regulatory policy to the weather, all sorts of forces bigger than one company conspire to help or hinder its success. You can get an idea of which forces might affect one company in particular by reading news targeted to people working in its industry and related industries. This demonstrates the depth of your understanding of the environment in which you’ll be working, as well as your general awareness of what’s happening in the world. Ask “How is [company] adapting/responding to X?” when it’s your turn for questions.
2. How does the company work with the local community?
An employee who participates in their company’s community relations events will always look like a team player. Many organizations will publicize details of their charitable donations and volunteer efforts on their website, on social media, and through the news. Look out for these and identify the projects that match your skill set especially well. By mentioning how you are eager to get involved during your interview, you’ll present yourself as altruistic, spirited, and committed, as well as knowledgeable.
3. What are some of the company’s recent successes?
Not all news is good news, and bad news isn’t something you want to bring up during an interview. To study up on headlines that a company wants to discuss, look at the news releases on their homepage. That’s where you’ll find stories of deals signed, awards won, innovations completed, and acquisitions made. When you’re asked what you know about the company, you’ll be able to rattle off a few of these and surprise the interviewer with how much they won’t need to tell you themselves. You can also ask how the company intends to build on these big wins and how someone in your position would be vital to those plans.
4. What is the company’s history?
The basic origin story of the company is an easy choice for information to look up to amaze your interviewer. What are the names of its founders? What have they done to make it grow to its current position in the marketplace? Where have they expanded its geographic footprint? What are the values that they sought to foster, and how can new employees help the company live up to those values? Knowing a few key names, dates, and data points will show off your attention to detail and your ability to retain new information. Knowing how those details will affect your own work will help you make an even stronger impression.
5. What do you have in common with the interviewer?
Establishing a personal connection to one or more of the others in the room will help them remember you as they make their final decisions. As soon as you have the names of the people you’ll be meeting during your interview, look them up on LinkedIn and on social media to find out what you have in common in terms of career history, education, and hobbies. It’s fine to admit to a little bit of online “stalking” in this case, since any hiring manager worth their salt will have done the same to you. But be sparing with your mentions of what you know – after all, this is mostly about the job.