Job Interviews: Research to Win

Not long ago, you could stand out from a crowd of candidates by showcasing your knowledge of the firm with which you were interviewing. Now you’re more likely to distinguish yourself if you don’t conduct research before meeting with a hiring manager—and not in a way that will help you land a job. In a survey of marketing and advertising executives by our company, 68% said job candidates they meet now are more informed about their organizations than five years ago. Of those respondents, 28% said job seekers are much more informed.

Fortunately, you can still set yourself apart from other candidates. Following are some tips:

Dig Deep. It goes without saying that you’ll need to visit a prospective employer’s website: Your research will help you better understand the firm’s business focus and engage in relevant dialogue throughout the hiring process. In addition to learning about the company’s services and primary objectives, search for information about the firm’s executives, media announcements, and news of product releases or expansion.

If the prospective employer is a public company, seek out the organization’s annual report, which can shed light on its financial situation and stability. The document also can tell you which areas of the company are expanding and contracting, for instance. This is useful information if, for example, you’re vying for a lead graphic designer position with a group that has been losing money. In an interview, you might ask whether the budget has been affected and what implications that has for the team.

Go beyond the company website.
Also research media articles and analyst reports on the firm; you may find that the plans to expand into a new market, while trumpeted as a huge move forward on the company’s website, has been deemed a misstep by some in the industry. Such information will give you additional fodder for questions during an interview—you may have experience with the area in which the company is expanding, for instance.

Reach out to your network. Tap your professional and personal networks, as well as contacts you’ve made through sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook, to see if anyone can offer insight into the company. You want to connect with someone who is familiar with the firm, whether it’s a former employee or a mentor who knows the company’s executives. Ideally, you’re seeking an individual who can offer you an insider’s perspective into the culture that you won’t find anywhere else.

Not taking the time to conduct the necessary research prior to an interview could not only make it appear that you aren’t well versed in the intricacies of the company, but also lead you to take the wrong job. Your research could show you that the firm is in financial trouble or has cycled through three creative directors in the past six months, for instance.

Don’t use your knowledge of the firm to simply demonstrate you’ve conducted research; instead, think about how the information you gather can allow you to better describe why you are well suited for the open position and interested in joining the firm.

The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and Web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.

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