Acton Networkers


Tips for Researching Companies Before Your Interview


Your Comments on This Section Are Welcome

(Reprinted with permission of Vincent Pelliccia, Nutfield_Networking)

       You'll hear it time and again: Having a good handle on a company's business and background will make you shine in your interviews. Here are some things to consider when researching the company of your choice.


1. The more you know about the company the better

2. Almost all of the information you should learn about should be on their web site - Like

a. Products & services
b. Key Management Personnel
c. Annual Reports
d. Stock Symbol

3. Other Resources

a. Finances & Competitors There are many research outlets.
      Here's one

ii. DON'T rely on this to give you competitor lists - They are usually wrong


Congratulations! You've landed an interview. But even as you're thinking about flying around the world and climbing the corporate ladder, the stress has begun to set in. What are they looking for? Do you have what it takes? Most important, how are you going to convince your interviewers that they'd be making the biggest mistake of their professional lives by not extending you an offer . . . or at least inviting you back for another round?

While there are no easy answers when it comes to the job search, recruiters tell us that one factor clearly distinguishes the best candidates from the also-rans: their knowledge of the company and the industry.

Stand out from the Crowd

The first rule of effective company research is simple: do it! Surprisingly few candidates take the time to get to know the companies and the industries with which they're interviewing. Those who do so clearly stand out.

The second rule of effective company research is a little harder to swallow: do it early! We can give you all the tips in the world for planning a successful company and industry research effort, but if you don't get started until the night before your interview, good luck!

Here are a few additional tips from the research experts at to help you research companies, industries and careers. Follow these steps, and you'll be well on your way to a successful interviewing season!

Plan Your Trip

Conducting industry and company research is a little like planning a trip. Although many people wing it, your journey will be a lot more fun if you plan ahead. Make a list of the top 10 or 20 questions you need to answer to really feel on top of this industry and the companies you'll be exploring.

By spending a little time up front thinking about the key issues and questions you want to address in your research efforts, you'll maximize your chances for success.

To get you started in your industry and company research, we've put together a short list of questions you'll definitely want to explore. Add to this list to make sure it reflects the issues that are most important to you.

Industry Questions

Who are the key players in the industry?

What is the history of the industry, and where is it heading in the future?

What are some of the major industry trends?

What skills are required to succeed in and contribute to the industry?

Company Questions

What role does the company play in its industry?

What are the company's key products, and what is its market share?

How has the company made money in the past, and what will be its sources of revenue in the future?

What skills are in demand at the company-marketing, engineering, finance, sales, product development?

What types of jobs are available for recent college and MBA grads?

Does the company have special training programs for recent college and MBA grads?

What makes this firm different from other firms in the industry-its customers, products, culture?

Visit the Business Library

There's a key person inside every business library who can help you make sense of all the mystery and intrigue about a company, as well as understand their annual report: the business reference librarian. Introduce yourself. He or she may well end up being one of your best friends in the job search.

Ask for a tour of the resources available in the reference room. Researching companies and industries is a little different than researching your honors thesis, and the business reference librarian knows the tools better than you do.

But once you learn the ropes, you'll be darting through the stacks and flying through the electronic databases like an old pro . . . and when you get stuck, the reference librarian can help you dig out.

Conduct Informational Interviews

Informational interviews should be set up at your initiative with people in your network (alums, people referred to you by the career center or your personal network, or other people you have identified in companies or industries you are eager to learn about). They should last about 30 minutes and held in a place convenient to the interviewee.

During the informational interview, ask about the person's daily responsibilities, career path, company and outlook on the industry. You might also ask for suggestions about how to find a position within the industry, what kind of preparation is needed for a successful career in the company, and whether the interviewee can recommend any other people to meet with.

However, although the interviewee understands implicitly your interest in finding a job, most people do not want to be solicited for a job during an informational interview.

Need some help in coming up with good questions for your informational interviews? Here are several sample questions to get you started.

What are the backgrounds of most of the people in the company and the industry?

What are some of the exciting areas to be working in across the company/industry?

What is the culture of the organization like?

What do you like about your job?

What don't you like?

Which companies do you think are the most exciting places to be working in this industry?

What opportunities are there for people with a background in (my major) in this industry?

What types of qualities or experience do recruiters look for in this industry?

What kind of people do well here?

Is there a lot turnover? Why or why not?

How much autonomy/responsibility do people get?

Is this a good place for women and minorities?

Do you know anyone else with whom I can speak to find out more about (the company or the industry)?

Surf the Web

Start by visiting your career center's website. They'll have all the campus-specific information you'll need to know, plus links to other helpful sites. For industry research, we recommend Careers in Business. For company research, visit the company's website. Think of this as an online brochure.

For a more objective view of what it's like to work for the firm check out WetFeet's Company Profiles. Finally, read the latest news on the company in The Wall Street Journal online.

Call the Company

As you begin to narrow your search and focus on a few companies, don't be afraid to call the companies directly and ask for information. Just be creative about it! Ask to talk to somebody in a department you're thinking of joining; if you're asked why, explain that you're conducting a job search and want to learn about the company.

Most people will be happy to talk to you, provided you ask them questions that show you're informed about the company and industry. If somebody doesn't have time to talk to you, ask if they could refer you to somebody at the company who might have more time.

Make the People Connection

Many candidates don't take advantage of one of the best resources they have available to learn about companies, industries and careers . . . their personal network! If you're a student, you're surrounded by people who can be helpful in helping you learn about companies and industries with which you may be unfamiliar. Talk to them and use your network. Even if the people you try first don't know the answers themselves, they can often point you in the right direction.

If you take the time to research the industries and companies you're exploring in your job search, the payoff can be tremendous. You'll certainly stand out from the crowd, and that will impress your interviewers. But most important, you'll learn more about whether this industry and this company are the right place for you. Ironically, that's something most people don't figure out until it's too late. Good luck with your research!