Tech & Work

Ways to research a company before an interview

When you're preparing for an interview, it's always a good idea (and will make you more comfortable) if you do some research on the company beforehand. Here's how to get the dirt.

When you're preparing for an interview, it's always a good idea (and will make you more comfortable) if you do some research on the company beforehand. Go to the company's website and see what you can find out about its mission and history.

If you want information that wouldn't necessarily show up on the official website, try these sites:

  • Glassdoor— a database of anonymously posted information about salaries, interviews, and jobs. You can search by region, position, or even by a specific company. What I like best is the Review section where the user is allowed to pros and cons, as well as "advice to senior management."
  • Vault—Fortune called Vault "The best place on the Web to prepare for a job search." It's a comprehensive resource for career management and job search information, including insider intelligence on salaries, hiring practices and company cultures.
  • LinkedIn-LinkedIn's company pages provide information about a company's operations, employees, and locations. You can also use LinkedIn to research a person you might have an interview with. (The LinkedIn Company Buzz app allows you to view a constant feed of everything people are saying about that organization on Twitter.)

Aside from the anecdotal information you can get from these sites, it's always a good idea to do a little research into the company's financial standing. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • For public companies, you can get a snapshot of financials through their required filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission at www.sec.gov. Look at the company's revenues and earnings, and compare them with a year earlier. Look at the trend over five years. Recognize, of course, that nearly every company took a hit in the recession in 2008-2009. Has the company started to recover since then? Ask what the company's strategy has been to weather the recession.
  • Do an Internet search to see what has been written about the company, especially in the archives of your local newspaper, which may offer more information.
  • Is the potential employer in acquisition mode? That could be a good sign, showing that the company is positioned to take advantage of opportunities in the marketplace. Also realize that acquisitions and mergers mean the company will likely be reorganizing certain departments for "synergies," which usually results in layoffs somewhere in the combined companies.

In the process of researching a company, you may find some information that will make you leery. But you also might find some information about the company that will make you stand out in an interview.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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