There are few things worse than walking into a company on your first day on the job and realizing you’ve made a mistake. We get it. In today’s marketplace, you can submit your resume to several employers all with the click of a button. So, it’s inevitable that at some point you’ll get a call to set-up an interview with a company you know little about. But don’t let that lack of knowledge strike fear into your heart. Check out our quick and dirty guide for some crucial investigating tips when researching a company pre-interview.
1. Know What Makes Them Different
It’s simple psychology really, companies and the people who run them want to be noticed. They want to know that the person they are about to hire (you) gets what makes them stand out from competitors. And, maybe even more importantly, why they are uniquely qualified to meet customers’ needs. A good place to start to uncover a company’s distinct offerings is the “About Us” section on their website. You might be able to unearth something that quickly highlights how they do business differently, such as a commitment to sustainability or promoting from within. Or, it might take some diving into their mission, values, and company history tabs to see what makes them tick.
2. Check Out Their Culture
Seem like an intangible tip? It’s really not thanks in part to sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor, where you’ll find current and past employees are more than willing to share their likes and dislikes about an organization online. Of course, you may want to read through each commenter’s post with a healthy dose of skepticism as every company is prone to a few disgruntled employees. However, if a pattern (good or bad) emerges from past and present employee voices, you should take note. Look for useful information to take into the interview for that all important “do you have any questions for us” round. Statements like “I noticed the company is looking to scale, can you speak to what that growth would like for someone in my position?” can impress potential employers while at the same time help you deduce what added responsibilities might be coming your way.
3. Read Up on Current Company News
Besides letting a potential hiring manager know that you have your finger on the industry’s pulse, checking recent news gives you a window into anything positive or negative being said about your next potential employer. Google is a given for searching for current news, but don’t overlook social platforms as they often carry the first whiffs of breaking news — try their LinkedIn company page first, and from there you can get the names of the top players. This information can be especially handy if any of the leaders have posted on social recently.
Check Twitter and Facebook also as these may give you some insight into customer complaints or how they handle community outreach. Found some bad press? It’s not always a deal breaker. For example, direct sales companies sometimes receive bad press and skepticism about their business. But the truth is these companies can have legit business models and be extremely lucrative for their sellers. So, instead of shying away from skeptics, Amway decided to address the ‘is Amway a pyramid scheme’ issue head-on in a blog post. This is a good illustration that even if a company has some criticism, it may be misguided.
At the end of your information quest, you should be confident in your potential employers’ ethos, their work-life balance, and their reputation before joining the ranks. This way you have a good idea of what they’re all about, and you can avoid dropping your two-week notice and filling out mountains of paperwork all to later have that uncomfortable conversation when things don’t work out.