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Research a Company Before the Job Interview

By Alina Dizik


The Wall Street Journal/Career Journal
These days, even getting past a job interview phone screening is tough. But once you've got your foot in the door for that first face-to-face interview, it's critical to have significant knowledge about a company so you can make a good impression on a potential employer.

But, these days, your company research shouldn't come from a quick Google search or fast glance at the latest news, instead it's important to gather important information and understand how to use the company info you find to your benefit, says Cynthia Shapiro, a Woodland Hills, California-based career expert. Here, Ms. Shapiro shares her advice on how to research a company for a job interview:

  • In addition to the company Web site, where should people look to conduct company research?
  • Carol.co.uk gives you annual reports and specific research for companies. Hoovers.com is a company industry research center with all kinds of comprehensive research.

  • Should you take the time to research employees who you might know?
  • Go on LinkedIn and see if you are connected to anyone who has worked or currently works at the company, and if you are call them beforehand and ask some questions. When you're at the interview, and it's appropriate, you can say 'I'm actually connected to so and so who works in marketing through a friend.'

  • Is there a downside when it comes to doing company research?
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    People do a ton of research and feel like they need to showcase that information, so doing too much research can actually work against you. I've seen people go in and say 'Why did you do this and that in Asia?' and they end up questioning the company – it's presenting the information they've gathered in a negative way. I had one client who went into an interview at her dream job and she brought up recent postings she'd read about the company and how its employees were unhappy with their pay. She asked how they were planning on handling the situation, and that cost her the job.

  • So what's the best way candidates can use the research they've done in the interview?
  • If you want to point to research you've done, say something like 'I saw this and I love it.' But, you don't ever want to say 'I would do this differently.' Learning about the company is also great for tailoring your interview examples and highlighting things that you see in the company that are commonalities with you and areas where your expertise could be useful.

  • Should you Google the person you're interviewing with to learn about their background?
  • You don't need to. You are going to be tempted to use any information that you find there. But if you find no connecting points let it go and move on. Don't try to draw assumptions and don't make connections that don't exist. If they worked at the same company that you did, they are going to see it on your resume that's something they will bring up in an interview.

  • What should you do if you're interviewing with a smaller company, which does not have a significant Web presence?
  • If you can't find any information on the company, you can say something like 'I'm really intrigued by the company and I'm really excited to learn more.' People love to talk about where they work. I think taking a look at the company Web site is good enough in this case. You can say 'I'm normally able to do some research about a company.' That is totally acceptable and can be a great conversation starter and connecting point. Once they start telling you about the company, you can say 'I worked on something very similar' and point to your experience.

How do you research companies before an interview? Share your tips in the comments below.


This article is reprinted by permission from www.WSJ.com, c Dow Jones & Co. Inc. All rights reserved.

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