IT Employment

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.

7 comments
Ed.Pilling
Ed.Pilling

You really want to know bad news about a company before you walk in the door. So Google the company name and say like hacked. A while ago I have a interview with a anti virus company and they proudly say their security was the best. Well I googled it and found they were hacked major. Also while waiting for my interview to start the woman in front got up and left. I looked at her system and she hadn’t locked it. To a security person this is VERY important information. If I went to a client and they told me about this I would be red faced.

robo_dev
robo_dev

This gives you an idea as to whether they 'get it' about security or not. If their security perimeter is total train wreck, either they 'really need help' or it's a sign that the the people in charge have no clue and/or security is not a priority. Do not do some noisy attack, just pick carefully around the edges. I did that for the last company I went to work for; they had most things locked down properly, but I did find a couple of minor issues, both of which I was assigned to fix when I got hired.

raycamara
raycamara

I agree on doing your research on a company, & using whatever references you can to research the company. Problem is some companies are using their recruiting firms, to post good comments on their businesses, and it is easy to manipulate the Glassdoor. So you have to be frugal in your research. Do not rely on just one site.

#1bobcat
#1bobcat

It is also advisable to understand the industry and who their competition is. Are their competitors growing faster than they are or the other way around? How do they rank in the industry? Are they a candidate for acquisition? I would hate to start a new job only to find out the company was sold and your job is gone.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

Most companies hate GlassDoor, as it often tells the truth about what is happening within the company. I know organizations that encourage their happy employees to put out glowing comments to balance the people that are being bluntly honest about the inner workings of companies. Remember the old retail rule of 10/100. If someone is happy, they will tell 10 people they know. If they are unhappy, they will tell 100. In the current connected rule, they may well tell 1000 that the company is not a place you wish to work.

MichaelCarr
MichaelCarr

Something seems to be missing at the end here: 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. You have to [

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