Let’s be real. If you received a dollar every time someone told you to do your research before an interview, you’d have enough money to never have to job search again. Okay, maybe the amount would need to be slightly higher, but the fact remains that everyone tells you to do research, but no one walks you through the specific steps to take. In this article, I share three practical ways to do research that will help you find the most relevant, the most up to date, information on the company and the role that you’re applying for.
I’ll also walk you through some specific situations to show how best to use all that information you just found to impress the interviewer. So let’s get started.
When to use research findings
As you go through the three tips, it’s important to remember how you use the findings from the research you did, shouldn’t just be limited to the answers you give during the interview, but rather also at the beginning of the interview, where there might be some small talk and at the end where you should be asking meaningful questions directed at the interviewer.
Don’t worry if that sounds new to you, I’ll be giving concrete examples as we go through each tip. So without further ado, let’s start with interview research tip number one.
3 Practical ways to do research before an interview
1. Set up Google Alerts
Use Google Alerts to stay up to date on your target company’s latest news and job postings. Google Alerts is a free tool that’s extremely simple to use. You just set it up once and let it run automatically.
In addition, by using a few simple searches operators, along with the name of the company, you turn this free tool into a sort of personal news assistant that provides you with regular updates.
Let me share a few of my favorite examples.
Example1: If you type the job function in quotation marks, followed by the site search operator, you’ll be alerted whenever a new job posting in that team is listed on their official careers page.
One thing to note is that different companies obviously have different website URLs. So you just need to search for that company’s official career page once, copy and paste it here, and just let it run.
For example, for Google, that URL would be careers.google.com. Whereas for Tesla, it would be tesla.com/careers.
If you really wanna get fancy, you can type in the broader organization in that company, followed by an asterisk, like marketing*tesla site:tesla.com/careers, and you’ll only receive job alerts if a marketing role opens up.
Similarly, if you wanna cover all your bases, you can simply input the company name, let’s say Tesla followed by site, linkedin.com, or site indeed.com to see the job postings there as well.
An often overlooked fact is that the first application received, is often read in more detail than later applications. So with Google Alerts, you can be that early bird that gets the worm, but no one really thinks about the early worm.
Example 2: If you type in the company name, followed by the word competition, you’ll receive an alert, whatever the company has mentioned in a competitive context in the news and blog posts.
Not only will this you a good idea of who the closest competitors are, but we’ll also point you to well-written articles on industry trends, and on challenges, your target company might be facing.
This is actually also a great example of how, while you probably can’t use all that information in your answers to the standard interview questions, you can definitely bring that up in other scenarios to show the interviewer you’ve been doing your homework.
For example, in this Apple Spotify case, if you’re interviewing with Apple, you might bring this up the course of small talk and say something like this, “Oh, and congratulations by the way, on the acquisition of Scout FM, it seems like you guys are really doubling down on the AI podcast bet.”
Alternatively, if you’re interviewing with Spotify, this might be a really good question to ask at the end of the interview.
“So I saw that Apple recently made a strategic purchase of Scout FM, I’m curious as to how that impacts, Spotify’s business strategy for next year.”
Example 3: If you type in the company name followed by the words, quarterly earnings, you start to receive more financial-oriented alerts. This is useful if you’re interviewing for financial institutions like banks, private equities, and hedge funds, and you’re gonna be covering specific verticals like energy or tech.
Or if you’re gunning for a sales finance, or an internal investment position at a publicly listed firm, and would like to learn more about the company’s financial health.
The last thing I wanna point out is that these alerts are only useful if you read them. So I highly recommend you set up one or two, and read them on a daily or weekly basis, instead of setting up 10 at once and having your inbox completely overwhelmed.
2. Use Google trends to guage demand
Interview research tip number two, use Google Trends to understand how demand for the target company’s product has changed over time.
Google Trends is another free tool provider by Google, #notsponsored, that’s really popular with research analysts, but can be used for job search and interviews as well.
Jumping straight into a simple example, let’s say you’re interviewing with Tesla, or any automaker that manufacturers electric vehicles. If I type in electric cars on Google trends and show results for the past five years, you’ll see this graph.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when COVID hit around March in the United States, demand for electric cars decreased sharply, alongside many other products.
However, an interesting insight you might draw from this five-year data, is that fundamentally user interest in electric cars and renewable energy is on the rise. And when COVID is inevitably over, the long-term outlook for the industry is extremely positive.
Much like how smart investors, look at the fundamentals of a company, when making a stock purchase decision, as opposed to isolated incidents, you can use Google trends to learn more about the direction that user behavior is moving towards.
On a more practical level, I can easily see candidates using this information when faced with the common, why do you wanna work here, interview question.
You can say something like: Funnily enough, I was playing around with Google Trends when I was doing my research and found that although there’s a slight decrease in demand for electric cars at the start of 2020, I see that user interest has been growing steadily, year on year for the past five years.
With climate change and renewable energy being top of mind for many people, I’m certain that electric vehicles and similar innovations are here to stay. And with Tesla being at the forefront of the EV industry, I’m extremely excited to be able to bring my background and experiences to this role.
Pro-tip, you’re usually able to uncover some very interesting insights, if you do a side-by-side comparison of your target companies product with that other competitor.
For example, if you were interviewing for a business role at Google, you might learn through a Google Alert you set up from tip number one, that over 70% of our 2020 Q2 Revenue came from our Google Ads business.
Taking that a step further, let’s say you decide to compare the interest for Google Ads to that of Facebook Ads, and you see the following graph.
Other than perhaps noticing Google Ads start to outperform Facebook Ads around the same time Jeff joined the product marketing team in 2018, this might be another great question to ask at the end of your interview.
What drove the increase in user interest for Google Ads versus Facebook Ads in 2018? Was there simply a product update? Or does Google run a large-scale marketing campaign to raise brand awareness? Let me know down in the comments below, the two or more products you might wanna search for on Google trends to compare the respective performances. What’d you find?
3. Leverage vault career library to do research before an interview
Interview research tip number three, use the Vault Career Library to get access to exclusive reports and reviews on your target company. This tip is mainly for college students because most universities have access to vault.com premium databases.
And that premium content is the main differentiator between vault.com and free websites like Glassdoor and Indeed. I have lost access to the premium content since graduation, but I do distinctly remember reports like Vault’s Verdict.
I think this is where the writers would do primary and secondary research first, and then I had a very comprehensive summary that is centralized in one location.
But the free version has benefits as well. If you go to Career Advice Section and click on Research Industries, and let’s just click on Best Industries For Undergraduates, and choose the number one Energy Industry as an example. And then we go to Overview, which provides a very good snapshot shot of the pros and cons of the industry. That again provides you with talking points for the interview.
Something I’ve found to be very interesting is this defining event section. Yes at first glance, it’s very, very wordy, and even talks about historical events from the 18th and 19th centuries, probably too dry for 99% of us.
And this information can be used to ask another question to the interviewer, something along the lines of, how will the current energy policies, affect the electric vehicle industry for the next five years.
So even if you don’t have access to the premium content, the free resources are still quite helpful.
All right, there, you have it. Three practical tips you can use the next time you do research for a job interview. Hopefully compared to some of the other articles and videos out there, the step-by-step research guide you should follow before your first interview, showed you number one, where to find all this relevant information. And number two, how to use it throughout the interview process.
Please share this article if you find it helpful and let me know down in the comments below if you have any questions.