Before the interview: company and interview research

Researching your target company is one of the best ways to stand out from other candidates during the interview process. Here’s how to conduct both company and interview research.

Company research

Company research is essential to gain a broad understanding of the business you are seeking employment with. Every job, company and interviewer is different, so there are no clear rules on how much study is required.

However, there is no doubt, that the more you know about a business the better. Plus your company background study will enhance your confidence and hopefully impress the interviewer.

Why should I bother to do any research?

At your job interview you may be asked what you know about the company. It is a very common interview question, which you should be able to answer in some detail.

By asking a simple question like this the interviewer is assessing your ability to prepare for an event (in this case – your job interview). Background research requires motivation, time, planning and comprehension. Answering the question with a well researched answer will impress the interviewer and provide a level of your research skills and abilities.


Question: “What do you know about this company?”

  1. “Erm . . . not much, I’d never heard of this company before today.”
  2. “You manufacture circuit boards for computers and other electronic stuff.”
  3. “You’re an established business with over 2000 employees and have branches overseas in England and Germany. Your main products are circuit boards for the ‘SG’ range of graphics cards, which are made in partnership with Supersoft. etc. “

It is not difficult to see which answer would impress the interviewer. Breaking-up Answer 3 we can see a number of key elements which show some study has been done. The size and business locations are described together with detailed product knowledge and business partners.

Where can I find company information?

The best place to do your company research is on the Internet. If you are not on the Internet your local library should have computers which are connected. Libraries also give you access to all sorts of information on businesses, through magazines and journals, some offer searchable computer databases.

Please don’t be discouraged by the time and effort needed for basic company research. It can be done in less than an hour, even quicker with practice.

Your first port-of-call should be google. Almost all companies have their own web site; this will probably give you all the information you need. Perform a search on the company name and see what results you get.

The company website could provide you with:

  • Company history
  • Directors
  • Products
  • Business partners
  • Recent changes
  • News
  • Vacancies
  • Brochures
  • Awards
  • Future projects

When researching a large company it is advisable to go a step further and use independent sources if possible. A good place to start is the BBC at, here you can search for any recent news stories which may not have found their way onto the companies’ web site. Many newspapers are online too; some provide similar search facilities. Independent sources can also provide you with an objective view of the company, plus their competitors and position within the marketplace.

For senior positions

If you are being interviewed for a relatively senior position your research should be broad enough to include other factors such as:

  • Corporate background
  • Current and target customers
  • Industry overview
  • Business market share
  • Competitors and competing products
  • Social / environmental responsibility
  • Stock prices
  • Financial information
  • Competitive advantages

More resources:

Have an interview? 6 reasons why research is key

What should you research before an interview?

Job interview research

Job research is similar to the above section on company research but is focused on the actual job you are applying for.

Some businesses will supply you with information pack detailing your position description, roles and responsibilities. Others can supply very little, making your job even harder to research.

Getting started

If you have been given a limited job description and you are not sure what the job entails, go on the Internet and find similar jobs which may include specific job details. You may even see the job advertised on the companies website with a more detailed description.

Use your initiative and try to gain as much as much knowledge about the position as possible.

Below is an example of how you can use the Internet to get the edge on other job applicants by gaining an insight into the company. Not all positions will be as simple to research as this example, but you should be able to use the Internet to gain some extra information about your job.

Job in IT

The vague job description told you that the business “needs somebody to maintain and modify their online shop, improve the company website and perform Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Must have a good understanding of PHP, HTML, CSS, javascript and SEO.”

Actions you could take

Online shop

Visit the online shop and find out which ecommerce software they use. Research the software by visiting the creator’s website and independent forums. Make some notes on the software’s strengths, weaknesses and other businesses which use it.

Some shop questions to research

  • What computer language is it in?
  • What database does it use?
  • Which web server software does it run on?
  • Does it use CSS?
  • Does it use javascript?
  • Is it optimised for search engines?
  • Does it use effective keywords?
  • How does the site rank on Google?

Some company website questions to research

  • Does it use PHP?
  • Does it use javascript?
  • Does it have a backend database?
  • Is it optimised for search engines?
  • Does it use effective keywords?
  • How does the site rank on Google?

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