Do Your Homework: Job Interviews That Get Your Hired
Researching Companies and Deciding on a Career
You've probably seen several promising help-wanted ads, searched online career sites, visited your college career center, and done lots of networking. You've undoubtedly sent many, many resumes and posted your resume online, as well. Hopefully, you've landed at least one interview by now, and maybe many more. I
Now it's time to prepare for the interview itself. It's always exciting (and sometimes a little frightening) to prepare for a job interview. But look at it this way: You've already shown a great deal of resourcefulness, energy, and determination to get this far. A little more planning, research, and advice is all you need to feel confident, relaxed, and optimistic. Think about everything you're learning about yourself and about different industries, organizations, and individuals. You've already begun your professional life!
How Research can Work for You
As the saying goes, knowledge is power. You will definitely feel more in control and be better prepared for an interview with any company if you take the time to research it. Here are just a few of the most basic things you should know or find out:
- Is the company profitable?
- What are its revenues?
- What are its services or products?
- How are they marketed?
- Is the company in expansion mode or maintenance mode?
- What jobs are available?
- What kind of a feeling do you get about the company from its various publications?
Keep in mind that your interviewer will ask you what you know about the company. If you haven't done your homework, the interviewer will be able to tell—and it will be a strike against you. Before you have an interview with any company, there are three important areas to research:
- Sources of information in general. If you read the newspaper regularly, you may already know a bit about a company that interests you. To learn more, go to the library or search the Internet by Googling the company name to find recent articles about the firm in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and trade publications. Has the company been in the news because of an imminent merger or takeover? If so, pay attention to any information or speculation about changes at the top or layoffs.
- Trade sources. If you already have some general knowledge about a company but want information about a specific job—direct mail coordinator, say—within a specific division of the company—new product development, for example—you will have to dig a little deeper. Once again, go to the library for trade publications or access the Internet for more detailed information. Read trade sources for industry news, such as who has been recently promoted. Your knowledge will make you sound like you're already an insider.
- Inside sources. People are a resource you just can't beat for information about a company. Check your list of network contacts to see if you know anyone working in the industry in which you're interested. If possible, find someone who can tell you about the company's real benefits—and detractions. It can make all the difference between going with a company and running in the opposite direction.
Knowledge of the company's history, especially current events, will serve you well during the interview. You may want to ask, "What's the likelihood that people will be laid off after the merger?" If the company you are interested in is testing any new products, find out what they are and whether any of them are controversial. Don't hesitate to ask tough questions—it shows your interviewer that you've done your homework and know about the company. It also shows that you are not afraid to ask difficult questions.
Exhibit 3–1 lists some of the Internet search engines you can use to find valuable information about prospective employers.
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