You have to research the prospective employer. For students, the career center at your school can really help with research resources. The primary benefit of the Internet to your job search is its help to your research. Years ago at our company, we had a library of catalogs and brochures about the companies with which we did business. Our candidates would review those before they interviewed. The Internet has changed all that.
You absolutely must research a company with which you are going to interview before the interview. I’m amazed by the number of candidates that interview knowing very little or nothing about the company and the person with whom they are interviewing – even those seeking positions requiring more experience.
I recently represented a candidate with an undergraduate degree in engineering from a very prestigious college, an MBA from one of the top 10 graduate schools in the country, and a track record that was absolutely stellar. We had two weeks to prepare for an interview with an excellent company for a position as vice president. He went to the interview having done no research on the company … none, zip, nada.
He figured that since he “knew of them” from the marketplace, that’s all he needed. Not only did he not get past first base in the interview process, it was embarrassing. Don’t let this happen to you! You have to research the prospective employer and it is easy to do.
The vast majority of companies have web sites that tell you what they do. It isn’t hard to do this kind of research. Thoroughly review the company’s web site before an interview – and take notes. Often, companies will provide a description of the job for which you are interviewing on their web site. Even if the company is small, it’s going to have information on its web site that you better know.
If you’re interviewing with a public company, there’s no excuse for not knowing a wealth of information about them. You should be knowledgeable about everything from their officers, market cap, stock price, advances and declines in the marketplace, the number and size of their different divisions, who runs them – even the problems that they’ve experienced. You can probably find newspaper articles, magazine articles, white pages, and other kinds of published materials about the company and its people. Even if you find adversarial information about the company, asking about it once you are in the interview shows that you are a “student of the game.”
It is very impressive when the candidate goes into an interview having done a lot of research. You might even Google the person that will be interviewing you. Some resources, like Hoover’s, will give you the names of the company’s competitors. Knowing who the competitors are not only gives you information about the industry, it also gives you an idea of other companies you might target for an interview. The more research you do on a company and the more that you know about them in the interview, the better you will do.
Again, take good notes so you can incorporate them in your interview.