5 ways to research a company that go beyond Google
“Tell me something about the company that you couldn’t find on our website.”
When you’re setting out to research a potential employer, this is the question you want to keep in mind. Yes, a company’s website is an important resource in your pre-interview sleuthing, helping you know and understand all of the important bits and pieces: the company’s mission and vision; new products; the latest annual or quarterly report. But that’s just the beginning. To really impress, you need to go deeper.
Here are five strategies for finding business intel that will give you a distinct competitive advantage over less savvy candidates.
We’ll start within arms reach of the organization’s website – its social media channels. Find all of the official accounts across platforms, starting with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Take a look at the messaging and stories they’re sharing – these are key for understanding the company’s current focus and direction, and figuring out where that might go in the future.
Once you’ve got a sense of the company’s messaging, move on to what people are saying about the business. Get a sense of what frustrates customers (and delights them!). Find employees who list the company in their profiles and see what they’re excited about.
Talk to people.
Yes, real live people. Of all kinds. If you can connect with someone who works for the company through your network, talk to them. But there are other options, too.
One of the best ways to find out what’s really going on with a company is from someone who has information but doesn’t work there. Think former employees, clients and customers, and staff at organizations that work with the company you’re researching. After all, people who are working within the organization need to be careful – it’s not exactly okay to start badmouthing your employer, even if things are truly awful.
It’s also a good idea to reach out to people who work in the same industry. Find out about the company’s reputation. What are they known for? What are their strengths and weaknesses? All of this can help you figure out how you would fit into the business, and what you should highlight as your benefit to the company.
Look into who, not just what.
Spend some time researching the people who make the company what it is. The CEO and other key leaders set the tone for a company’s direction, so know what drives them. Find books or articles they’ve written, keynote addresses they’ve given, conference presentations – anything that gives you a sense of who they are professionally, and how you might connect with their vision.
You can apply this approach with the people interviewing you, too, but tread carefully. It’s easy to creep people out if you reveal you know too much about their history, especially people who usually keep a lower profile. Be subtle.
Channel your inner secret agent.
By that I mean do some incognito reconnaissance. This won’t always work, but if the company has stores or service points, it’s a great idea to spend some time exploring what goes on in person. Be discreet (no need for ridiculous disguises), and see what you can glean from watching customer and employee interactions.
Even if you’re interviewing at an office, a morning cruise of the lobby can tell you a lot about the company’s vibe and what it might be like to work there. Even if this only helps you figure out what to wear to the interview, it’s worth doing.
Focus your googling.
Yes, a quick online search can bring up some interesting information, but it will often lead to a bunch of official company links, and they’ll be the ones you’ve already seen.
To find the juicy stuff, focus your searching. My top tip is to select Google’s “News” option, and see what the media is saying about your target organization. I just tried this with Workopolis to see what came up, and found out that US visits to the site increased by 237% during the recent election. That would be an awesome piece of data to have in my pocket for an interview.
You can also add some key search terms to find information that might otherwise be hidden in your results. Try adding these: financials, reviews, strategy, competitors, forecast.
Put all of these together and this process can be intensive. But when you walk into your interview, you’ll probably know the company better than more than a few of the people who work there.
The point, however, is not to show off your knowledge. It’s to use that knowledge to position yourself as the best candidate for the job. Analyze what you’ve learned. Know what the company needs. And know why you’re the one who will help make it happen. Now show them.