1.Know their business
What does the company do? What product or service?
Imagine going to a Williams-Sonoma interview and having to say you haven’t actually been in their store lately? Figure out what their brand is saying and who their market is. If they don’t have a store then make sure you visit the sales videos on their web site. Include some re-sellers or partners.
Who are their competitors?
Don’t walk into an interview with UPS carrying a FedEx envelope (I know a guy who did that, he liked to keep his resume’s in it).
2. Know about their company and its self-image
Check out the “About Us” information.
It wins points when the interviewer doesn’t have to tell you the basics. When they ask “What do you know about [our company]?” it wins points if you can give an overview of the basics.
How long has the company been in business? How long have they been in this area?
How many employees does it have?
Is it a big mulit-city corporation or are there just a handful of staff in the whole enterprise. It affects how bureaucratic they are and how specialized people can be. If you aren’t finding it on-line go to your local library and ask the librarian to help you.
What is on the company’s Facebook page (if they have one)? What are they tweeting?
Most companies have a philanthropic giving campaign. Who do they support? Do they just give money or do the employees actually show up and participate?
3. Investigate their hiring patterns
What jobs are they listing on the website?
Can you tell what is going on at the company by who they are trying to hire? Are they trying to hire your boss or subordinates too? Are they hiring a lot of people all the time?
What do they call certain roles? Use their language (secretary vs. receptionist vs. executive assistant)
What words do they use on most postings?
Creative? Collaborative? Caring? Entrepreneurial? They value those words. Modify your PARS stories to use them.
Check Monster or Indeed to see if there are more jobs with them that aren’t on the company’s web site.
Look for a theme in the hiring. Is there a major project that is ramping up? If there are terms or acronyms you don’t know you can Google them so you don’t spend interview time having them explained to you.
4. Investigate their interviewer
If you know the name of the people you will be talking to Google them and see if they have public Linked-In profiles. Do you share interests or work history? How long have they been with that company? Are they published or do they blog?
Don’t flaunt the fact you were stalking them, but if they broadcast their interests they will love knowing you found it and that you liked it.
5. Things to look at to make sure you want to work there:
Google them. What are analysts saying about them? Are they struggling? Are they respected?
Are they stable with good prospects? Check their share price over the last few years. Did they recover from the recession or are they in perpetual decline?
If you have investments or a 401K they usually have investment analyst reports you can read. Did their IPO go OK or are they running out of cash? For example Pandora is wildly popular, but investment advisors are saying they aren’t making money and if congress doesn’t change the law soon they are in real trouble.
When they describe themselves on different job postings do they say they are a fun group that values employees, or do they see themselves as “dynamic and challenging” and need you to go the “extra mile” (chaos with overtime)?
Check Linked-In and Glassdoor employer reviews. One or two bad reviews are normal.
If everyone says ‘run, save yourselves!” make sure you subtly figure out why they have that reputation in the interview. Remember interviews are two-way discovery sessions.
Do they have entry level positions or are they mostly looking for senior leadership? Do they develop internally and invest in employees?
If they have a lot of top jobs open see if they are all related to the same product or are all over the board. If there is a theme they may be expanding, but if it is all over the place their senior talent may be fleeing?