Researching a Company BEFORE Your Job Interview

Whether you have a job interview in the next few days, or you are getting ready to apply for a job, a great way to become a standout candidate is to research the employer. Check out Lily Zhang’s tips for researching a company pre-interview.

  1. Know the Company’s Strong Suits

The best way to convince your interviewer that you know the company well is to be able to articulate what makes it special compared to competitors. The good news? Companies will often tell you the answer to this question right on their websites.

One way companies share how they stand out is through their mission or values, which are typically prominently displayed in the “About Us” section. Read closely to learn what might be different about this organization than others. For instance, if you’re interviewing with a marketing agency, “commitment to client service” is probably something that its competitors boast, too, but if one of its other core values is sustainability, that’s good to know.

Review this along with any other “basics” you should be familiar with prior to the interview—like company size, location, and history. You don’t want to be that person who asks a question that can easily be answered by checking out the website.


  1. Sniff Out the Financial Health

While you’re on the website, click on the “Investor Relations” tab. For most large companies, you should be able to access and listen to a publicly available quarterly earnings conference call and read an annual report. These calls and reports cover a range of topics (that are often otherwise hard to find), including new products, company risks, and whether revenues are growing or stable. If you’re interviewing with a startup, check out its profile on Crunchbase. Here, you can get caught up on rounds of funding, acquisitions, recent hires, and relevant press coverage.

Once you have this information, it’s up to you to draw your own conclusions. While you don’t necessarily want to spout off stock prices or funding history, being able to speak insightfully about where you think the company will go in the future, backed up with facts, is hugely impressive in an interview.


  1. Watch Community Interaction

Somewhere along the application process, someone you’re interviewing with has likely Googled you and scoured your social media accounts. You should return the favor by finding out what the company has been up to lately.

Aside from the news that comes up when you Google the company (which you should also read), corporate blogs are gold mines, especially for younger companies that are growing. Whether it’s a post welcoming new staffers to the sales team or detailing new features of a recent software update, this is the kind of stuff you should know about.

LinkedIn is also a good tool for learning about what kind of news the company communicates—and therefore wants you to know. Check the company page on LinkedIn and see what kind of updates are featured. Is there a promotion for Mother’s Day, or a statement on how the sales team exceeded earning expectations? Either way, this will show you what types of things to bring up in conversation. (Oh, and while you’re on LinkedIn, check out the profiles of the people you’ll be interviewing with. Make sure you have your profile set so that they can see that you’ve viewed their profiles. This might seem counterintuitive, but it actually shows that you care and are doing your due diligence before the interview.)

Lastly, check out the company’s Twitter and Facebook profiles. Is the tone professional or casual? Is it nonstop promotion with zero interaction? Is the team responsive to complaints? Tuck away positive news and examples you encounter during your research to use in the interview.


  1. Go Undercover to Learn Company Culture

You may be able to glean a bit about corporate culture through a company’s blog and social media accounts, but to really build on that information, try looking for information from external sources.

For example, head over to the company profiles on The Muse, where you can watch interviews with current employees and hear what makes each workplace so different. Or, see what positive and negative things people have to say about the company you’re interviewing with on Glassdoor. (You can also sniff out sample interview questions). You won’t bring up all this information during the interview, but it will at least help you come up with reasons why the company is special and help you to know what topics to avoid during the interview. (For example, maybe work-life balance is a touchy subject and should be brought up after you get the offer.)

Better yet, try to find a past or current employee you can speak with, and try to build on what you already know. You can ask something like, “I understand the company is working on growing its presence in Asia—can you tell me more about how this initiative is impacting the team?” This will both impress and grow what you know about your potential employer. (For more on acing your informational interview, try these tips.)


  1. Read Up on the Field and Competitors

Aside from knowing as much as possible about the place you’re interviewing with, it’s a good idea to be able to talk about the industry as a whole and even more impressive to be able to talk about competitors and how the company fits into the bigger picture.

Look up competitors by going to the LinkedIn company page and scrolling down to the “Other Companies People Viewed” section. There should be a few competitors there. Do the same thing with the competitors you find until you have a pretty good sense of who the big players in the field are. (Or, if the company has a Crunchbase page, you should be able to find a list of competitors on its profile.)

Follow the same research steps you did for the company you’re interviewing for, but focus only on those things that are relevant to your interview. Think big picture, not minute details on specific projects. Is a competitor actively acquiring startups that target a different market? Or maybe new collaborations indicate a possible shift in audience for a big competitor.

After all this research, you’ll probably be wondering, “So, what do I do with all this information?” Remember that your objective is to be convincing when you say, “I want to work at your company.” Back this up by being able to talk about what makes the company unique, and express your enthusiasm by showing off your knowledge. Work in examples of what you know in your interview answers, and watch your interviewers nod in approval. After all, few things are as effective in an interview as knowing exactly what you’re talking about.

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The Informational Interview

The Informational Interview

This post describes the importance of the informational interview, a way to get information without the formality of applying for a job. The summers between your college years are great times to schedule informational interviews to gain insight on not just a business, but on an individual. Schedule informational interviews with individuals who work in the specific field that you want to enter. Of course, if you don’t know exactly what you want your career path to be, schedule informational interviews in a number of businesses, industries, and occupations.

The greatest part of an informational interview is that you are the interviewer. Questions should revolve around what are an individual’s daily work schedule, the typical career path in that specific business, education and skill sets needed to enter the business, and the trends of the business field.

Below are two different articles by Forbes that describe the importance of informational interviews and the type of questions that should be asked.

The first article, “How to Land and Ace an Informational Interview,” is by Forbes staff member Jacquelyn Smith. Jacquelyn has a master’s degree in journalism from Hofstra University and has been working for Forbes since 2010.

The second article, “30 Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview,” is by Forbes staff member Susan Adams. Susan has been working at Forbes since 1995 and recently joined the Forbes’ Entrepreneur’s Team, which focuses on small businesses.


How to Land and Ace an Informational Interview

Article by: Jacquelyn Smith, Forbes Staff Member

“Most professionals are aware of the value of research and networking in the job search process. Savvy job seekers connect with the right people on LinkedIn; study corporate websites to learn more about the companies they’re most interested in; and stay up-to-date on industry news and trends. But as it turns out, one of the most valuable tools—one that offers job seekers both networking opportunities and occupational information—is the informational interview.”

Jacquelyn Forbes

URL for the Article:


30 Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview

Article by: Susan Adams, Forbes Staff Member

““It’s an indirect way of selling yourself without saying, ‘Can I have an internship,’” says Wolkstein (Eileen Wolkstein). That means you’re selling your personality, your sense of humor and the fact that you’re reliable, eager to learn and will do a good job. You want to communicate that you’ll do anything, and that, above all, you want to soak up what people do all day.”

Susan Adams

URL for the Article:

What College Students Should Be Doing During Summer Break!

As a college student, it is a great feeling when you take your last exam and get ready for the summer. Summertime means a break from classes, exams and writing papers, but a great time to lay a foundation for your future.  From the website The Work Buzz’s latest newsletter, they provide tips on what students at every college level should do during the summer to jump start their post-college career:

Soon-to-be sophomores: This is the time to start thinking about what you want to do for your career and pick you your major.  It is a critical time to begin networking with people who work in fields that interest you or companies that interest you.

Also, find a summer job where you can gain both money and experience. Having a summer job also shows future employers that you are motivated.  While it is ideal to gain some exposure to your field of choice, for this year, it is critical to be employed.

Soon-to-be juniors: If you aren’t able to secure an internship, you should still continue working to gain professional experience and skills that will help you in your future career.

During the summer get involved in activities that can help boost your resume by joining your city’s young professional club, volunteering, attending regional alumni events, going to local industry networking events or signing-up for a student membership in a professional association.  By getting involved, you continue to build your network while gaining valuable information about what is going on in your field of interest.

Soon-to-be seniors:  If you’re not continuing your education, you have one more year before entering the real world to start your career.  Again this is a great time to:

  • Step up your networking efforts by doing least two networking informational interviews each week. You can build on the networking from your first two years.
  • Update and edit your resume, and ask several people to review it for you to ensure that it is flawless.
  • Practice researching companies of interest to identify questions you can ask in your interview. The more preparation you do now, the easier the process will be.
  • Build a list of target companies you are interested in working for. Then, research to identify alumni and other connections at those companies you can network with.
  • Start reviewing job postings at your target companies to get a feel for the types of positions they post for entry level.

No matter what year you’re entering into, use your summer to help prepare you for your future. But don’t forget to squeeze in some fun and relaxation too.


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Introducing our Summer 2016 Intern Bloggers

Happy Summer Captains!

We hope you are enjoying a break from classes and using your summer well by participating in internships, building additional skills through part time jobs and serving your community whenever possible. In the CCP, we love to hear and share stories of what students are doing, so we are taking an opportunity this summer to showcase different students as they complete their summer internships. There will be weekly updates, so be sure to follow along on the Intern Bloggers tab in the top right corner!