How to conduct and use pre-interview research to answer one of the most common interview questions.
Congratulations! You have an interview scheduled for next week! And, of course, you know this question is coming, right? It ranks right up there with “Tell me about yourself” and “What’s your greatest weakness?” It seems unlikely that you’ll escape an interview without having to answer some form of the question “What do you know about our company?”
Here’s another question: if you know this will be part of your interview process, what are you doing to prepare an unforgettable answer?
Maybe I should restate that. Because, truthfully, I’ve heard many unforgettable answers. Here are just a few examples:
Q: What do you know about our company?
A: “Nothing. I’ve never even heard of you guys before. But I had an open slot on my schedule and thought I’d put it to good use by interviewing with someone. I mean, you never know, right?”
Q: (as I’m concluding the interview) So why do you want to work here?
A: “Well, actually, I don’t. I mean, I didn’t. I thought it would be good interview practice for when I get an interview with a company I really want to work for. But after talking with you, the job actually sounds interesting and I could see myself working here.”
Q: So is working for our company your long-term goal after graduation?
A: “I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure I’m going to apply to medical school after graduation, but I want this internship just to confirm I’m making the right decision.”
So…maybe unforgettable is a poor choice of words. All of the above students had unforgettable answers, but not in a good way.
But, let’s get back to you. You have an interview coming up, and you know you’re going to be asked a question similar to the ones above. What are you doing to prepare an answer that not only will make the interviewer remember you (in a positive way), but also impress him or her with your knowledge of the company and your fit for the job?
First, understand that this question can take a variety of forms. Here are a few other ways the interviewer can phrase this question:
What is our mission statement?
What do you know about the issues faced by our organization?
Why are you interested in our company/this position?
What interests you about our products/services/etc.?
Do you have any ideas on how to solve or address some of the issues our organization may face?
What do you know about our competitors?
How did you learn about us?
As you can see, the “What do you know about our company?” question can be asked in a variety of ways, and it’s important to be familiar with those various forms.
Secondly, let’s take a look at this question and understand what the interviewer is really asking. To begin with, she doesn’t want to know if you’ve memorized the company’s mission statement or hear you regurgitate some facts you read off the company’s website earlier in the day. What she really wants to know is: how interested are you in this position with this company? Have you done your research? Do you really know what this position is about? What this company is like? Basically, are you interested enough in this job to put effort into getting this position?
Whew! That sounds like a lot for one seemingly simple question, right? So, how do you answer it? For starters, you need to make sure you do a thorough job of researching the company prior to the interview. And let me dispel any notion you may have that checking out the company’s website and scanning Wikipedia count as research. They are, however, good places to start. When visiting these two sites, some information you should find is:
Company Mission and Goals
Products or Services
Industry - historical timeline, industry jargon, etc.
Conducting pre-interview research should encompass much more than simply visiting these two sites. You’ll also want to do a thorough Internet search to gain a good understanding of the company’s recent history - what has occurred within the company within the past year? For example:
New locations opened? Plans to hire new staff?
Locations closed, moved, or staff terminated?
New products or services?
Discontinued products or services?
Change in management? Change in company structure?
Changes in industry that could affect the company?
Changes in competitors?
Challenges the company is currently dealing with?
Company Forecast - what are the company’s goals for the coming year?
Obviously, you’ll want to check out their social media pages and follow them to see what they’ve been up to recently. But again, don’t limit yourself to these sources.
Finally, you’ll want to research people:
Whenever possible, find out the name and title of the person(s) interviewing you. Research those individuals using Google, LinkedIn, etc.
How does their role relate to the position you are interviewing for?
What are some things you have in common?
What are some contributions they have made to the company?
Research the names of key management and anyone that has been in the media recently. While their names may never come up, you don’t want to be caught off-guard if someone mentions the CEO or other high-profile individual.
Now that you have thoroughly researched both the company and individuals within the company, you’re prepared to answer the question “What do you know about our company?” Depending on how the question is phrased, you’ll want to start out talking (briefly) about some positive aspects of the company, such as products/services, strongest business areas, plans for growth, or another item in recent news. But don’t end your answer there! Segue into what makes these particular topics special to you, and why your passion and skills in these areas make you an ideal match for this position. Use this question as an opportunity to sell yourself!
As with many interview questions, asking “What do you know about our company?” allows an interviewer to gain much insight into you as a candidate and potential employee - much more than the question would seem on the surface. Make sure you’re prepared to answer this question in a way that showcases your skills and your match for the position.