Research before your job interview is essential for your success in the interview. You MUST have a good answer to the question "What do you know about us?" or the interview is over.
That research is extremely useful for other reasons. Being uninformed today is a dangerous habit. This research will also help you to:
You don't want to go to work for an employer with high turnover or which is about to down-size (usually the first people laid off are the newest hires). Read 50 Google Searches to Avoid Layoffs and Bad Employers to avoid that situation.
Be well-prepared for the seemingly casual "So, what do you know about us?" question. It seems inconsequential, kind of a throw-away question. But it is often the first question asked, for a good reason. This is a very important question, to employers. Your answer demonstrates to them how interested you really are in their opportunity.
Your goal: Know more about them than is visible from a look at their website (but DO be sure to check out their website!).
Learn as much as you can about:
Note anything else you can find that seems relevant following the process below.
Learn as much as you can about the people who will be interviewing you and about the organization, as described above. Below you will find several categories of information as well as Google search queries to use.
Copy the search strings below for your searches. Replace the brackets [ ] and the words enclosed inside the brackets with the term described. Put quotation marks "around phrases" << like that.
To improve your Google search skills, read Google Search Ground Rules and 10 Google Search Tips Plus 3 Tricks for useful tips on using Google search syntax. Some of those tips will be explained below, but reading these articles will make your searches more effective.
Try these Google searches. Some will work better for you than others, and some may not be appropriate for your situation. Use the search results you get to refine your search until most of the results are relevant to you.
Hopefully, you were given the names of the people who will be interviewing you when the job interview was scheduled. If the names are not offered, ask for them.
If you can find names on the job description or if the recruiter provides you with the name of the hiring manager, replace the words in brackets, below, with your search terms. Then, search on those names, like this:
"[insert person's name]" "[insert company name]"
The search above becomes "William Jones" "Example, Inc." if the person's name was William Jones and the company was Example, Inc.
LinkedIn Profiles can be very helpful. To find their LinkedIn Profile, if any, do the search, telling Google to look only on the LinkedIn.com website by including site:linkedin.com in your query:
"[insert person's name]" site:linkedin.com
This search becomes "William Jones" site:LinkedIn.com to find William's LinkedIn Profile.
Look for anything you might have in common with these people. See if you live (or have lived) in the same town, attend (or attended) the same schools, work (or worked) for the same previous employer, etc.
Also, just notice where they went to school and where they have worked. You may not have anything in common with them, but you will have a better idea of who you will be talking with and what their perspective might be.
If you don't have the names of any of the people, try these searches that will look for information in all of Google, inside the employer's website, and also in LinkedIn:
"[insert job function, like finance or marketing]" manager "[insert company name]"
"[insert job title]" "[insert company name]"
"[insert job title]" site:[company domain name]
"[insert job title]" "[insert company name]" site:linkedin.com
Hopefully, you will come away with some names that are good possibilities. Unless the employer is gigantic, you may well be able to find out who will probably be interviewing you.
Check out 10 Google Search Tips Plus 3 Tricks for and explanation of the site:domain.com search, and more help in using some of Google's advanced search capabilities.
Most Google searches are automatically "Everything" searches, but you will find the "News" searches to be more helpful for this research. So, news.google.com is a great starting point! To run the news searches, go to news.google.com first. Then, use the queries below (and others you think appropriate).
Searching for specific kinds of bad news can be the most effective way to uncover problems that may be developing. Then, you can very carefully explore some of these issues in the job interview, or take them into consideration before you accept a job offer.
Searching for specific kinds of bad news can be the most effective way to uncover problems that may be developing.
[insert company name] restructuring
[insert company name] lawsuit
[insert company name] "reduction in force"
[insert company name] "down-sizing" OR downsizing
[insert company name] "right-sizing" OR rightsizing
[insert company name] "head count reduction" OR "reduction in head count"
[insert company name] "layoff pending"
[insert company name] "layoff planned"
[insert company name] "office closing"
[insert company name] "store closing"
[insert company name here] [insert product or service name here] reviews
Add anything else that would be bad news for this employer. For more queries to dig out bad news, read 50 Google Searches to Avoid Layoffs and Bad Employers.
These searches are the opposite of the searches above, and they may be discussed much more openly in the job interview. In fact, you should probably congratulate them on one or two things if they are really major successes or big news in the media.
Note the asterisk (*) included in some of the queries below. That tells Google to do a "wildcard" search, looking for any word in place of the asterisk. Use the asterisk anytime you want Google to be creative.
[insert company name] "new * announced"
[insert company name] "record sales"
[insert company name] "record revenue"
[insert company name] customers OR clients
[insert company name] "new customer announced"
[insert company name] "new product announced"
[insert company name] "new service announced"
[insert company name] "new location announced"
[insert company name] "* wins award"
[insert company name] "stock price *"
[insert company name] "expanding *"
[insert company name] "branch opening"
[insert company name] "expanding production"
[insert company name] "starting production"
[insert company name] "plant opening"
[insert company name] "office opening"
Add anything else that would be good news for this employer.
These searches are very good searches to run on your smart phone before you leave for the job interview or while you are waiting for the interview to begin.
Sometimes important information is not easily visible on the employer's website, and a built-in site search isn't visible (or useful).
Put Google to work for you to find the information you need searching the employer's website using the search queries below.
NOTE: do NOT leave a space between the word "site:" and the employer's domain name. If you were looking for information on Microsoft.com, your query would look like this -- "your keyword phrase" site:microsoft.com
"press releases" site:[company domain name]
customers OR clients site:[company domain name]
jobs OR careers site:[company domain name]
[job title] jobs site:[company domain name]
[department or function] jobs site:[company domain name]
[department or function] "vice president" OR vp site:[company domain name]
"headquarters location" site:[company domain name]
"locations" site:[company domain name]
"annual report" site:[company domain name]
Use this search to find anything you need on the website. If the information is on their website and visible to Google, the searches above will show it to you. Do NOT leave a space between the word "site:" and the domain name.
Check Google Maps (google.com/maps) to see how you would get to this employer's location. Google will show you the current traffic -- green is good, red is bad, dark red is very bad.
Check the Google map during what would be your typical commuting time.
Run your check around the time your interview is scheduled to get a sense of how early you should leave for the interview.
Click on the "Traffic" option (in the red box on the left), and input the addresses of your starting and ending points.
Choose your method of commuting (car, public transportation, or bike).
Then, Google will show you a good route, and give you an estimate of how long it will take you to get there at that time.
It will also offer alternative routes (and the time needed if you choose an alternate) for other available routes.
This can also help you choose the best time to leave for your interview so you are not late.
Particularly on the day of your job interview, search Google News for the latest on what is happening with the employer. Simply type the organinzation's name in the search bar at the top of the page, and Google will show you the most recent articles published about the employer.
The news is typically sorted with the newest at the top and the oldest at the bottom, so start at the top to catch up with the latest-and-greatest about the company.
When you are on the News search results page, also check the column on the right (or bottom if you are using your mobile device) for "Related" news. This can be about business partners, products or services, competitors, or anything else Google thinks is somehow related to subject of your search. The "Related" news can be very useful, too.
Researching the interviewers, recruiter, and hiring manager should give you insight into their backgrounds, experience, and education. This information will help you better gauge what about you might interest them, and what might concern them. For example:
Unless someone important there has just won a major award or received some important recognition, you don't necessarily need to mention any of your research about the people. Sometimes, knowing too much can be creepy -- don't give the impression that you might be a stalker. That will very quickly end the opportunity.
Do mention in the job interview the positive things you uncovered in your research about the organization:
Do your research so you have great answers -- and great questions to ask -- during the interview. Then, they will know that you are sincerely interested in their job and their organization.
Knock their socks off in the job interview with your preparation and knowledge about them. You will also be able to ask better questions. Perhaps most importantly, you'll make a more informed decision if they make you a job offer. All good!
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.