When applying to and interviewing with a company, research is mandatory. You can’t formulate your strategy until you understand the personality and priorities of a company. Here are the five bases you need to be sure you cover:
1. What they do. This is square one. You probably have an idea what an organization does or you wouldn’t be applying, but dig a little deeper. For example, if applying for a position with a college, do they offer degrees in addition to undergraduate? Graduate? Post-graduate? Accelerated programs? Who is their target demographic? Being conversant in the scope of services they offer will allow you to follow and contribute as your interviewer discusses what your position would involve.
2. Where they came from. Is it a centuries old institution steeped in history or a cutting-edge new startup borne out of Silicon Valley? As super hero movies have taught us, origin stories matter and explain our current motivations.
3. What they care about. What are the driving values of an organization? Pay attention not just to the what, but the how. How does a company present itself on the about page on their website? Is it bold and verbose or subtle and sparse? Know what matters to them and how your strengths are complementary.
4. How they are different. How do they differentiate themselves from their competitors? What are the distinctive attributes that provide them an edge? Be able to discuss and describe how you can contribute.
5. What’s keeping them busy right now? What is their current priority? Are there current initiatives or new products that are dominating the horizon? If there were a company paper, what would be on the front page? Know why they are getting attention and what they are seeking to accomplish.
Far too many individuals stop with the research without taking the time to think about how that will influence and alter their answers. Once you know more about the company, you should be able to articulate why and how you are a perfect fit for the position.