Before the Interview, Do the Homework!

Last week, my blog post covered the importance of participating in on campus interviews.  This week I would like to follow up on a topic of feedback that I often hear from employers: understanding the company or organization.

Often, candidates can get so caught up in how to prepare for specific interview questions or how to give their elevator speech that they frequently forget to take some time to learn about the company they are interviewing with. You may have a good understanding of the job from its description, but do you understand how it might fit into the organization?

Why is it important to do research?

sb3921At some point during the interview process you will be asked by the interviewer, “What do you know about our company?” You do not want to go into an interview without being prepared for this question.  Doing your research shows that you take initiative and are genuinely interested in working for the company.  The worst thing is to muddle your way through an answer or to not have an answer at all.  “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” will not cut it – no matter how good your resume or interview skills are.

What should you research?

You should prepare by having a solid understanding of what the company does, who the customers/clients are, and what products/services the company provides. Beyond the basics – do additional research regarding the company and the specific position you are hoping to fill.  For example, if they are a technology company and you are an engineer, what are the products, services or patents that are key to the organization? Is the company a trend-setter in research or development? Or if it’s a technology company but you are applying for a job in marketing, what is their brand identity, statements and buzzwords?  You don’t have to read the company’s annual report but it is important you have enough knowledge to confidently answer questions the interviewer may ask regarding what you know about them.

Come prepared with questions of your own

Sometimes it’s not the answers you give but the questions you ask that impresses interviewers the most.  The goal is not to be confrontational or to ask “tough” questions.  Your questions should reflect that you have done your research about the organization and its goals for the position you are interviewing for.  Additionally, be sure to ask questions that will directly relate to the position – such as company culture, management styles and advancement opportunities.  A personal favorite of mine – What professional development opportunities are offered by the organization? Understanding these things about a company will also help you determine if the position and the work culture are a good fit for you, too.

More Company Research/Question Resources:


Lanie James serves as Employer Development Coordinator for the Career Services office at Oklahoma State University, also known as . She holds both a B.A. in Journalism Broadcasting and a M.S. in Mass Communication from OSU. Her research emphasis focused on emerging and social media in Career Services. She also serves as the President of the Oklahoma Association of Colleges & Employers (@OkACE). Connect with Lanie on LinkedIn or Twitter @JLanie.

Related posts:

  1. Are You Prepared for These Interview Questions?
  2. What to Take to an Interview
  3. 3 Interview Questions to Know How to Answer

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