Interview Preparation: Following Social Media to Research a Company
By Wim Dodson
People talk. It’s human nature. And since working for someone else is so much a part of our lives, we expend a great deal of time and energy sharing our experiences about our time working for “the Man” (or, “the Woman”).
Some of these discussions leak out onto the internet, though. In some instances, the talk is intentional, to burnish a company’s image. At other times, it’s accidental. Separating the purposeful from the accidental helps potential interviewees decide if they really want to go for the interview, and, if they do, how to approach the discussions.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Yelp are great sources for understanding how well managed and coordinated an organization is.
The most useful social media platforms through which to view companies are:
Facebook is a great platform to use to understand how well a company’s marketing department is mobilized. Of course, as is the case with personal timelines on Facebook, company pages and groups tend to show only the positive side of a company.
But check how often the company posts content on the page. And check to see if anyone is “Liking” posts. Do the posts support the company’s brand, or do they go all over the place with seemingly unconnected topics?
If it’s tough to determine a coherent picture of the company’s activities, it’s likely a reflection of the lack of coherence within the company.
You may also see negative comments on the company’s Facebook page. Unhappy customers are the spawn of unhappy employees who failed to deliver on their company’s promise; or who did not try hard enough to turn an unhappy customer into a happy customer.
You’ll often see this sort of chatter with companies “too big to fail”. If management doesn’t show it cares about its customers, how do you think they’ll tend to their staff?
Chatter about a brand can, like Facebook company pages, give you a sense of well employees fair inside an organization. Criticism heaped upon a company typically implies the staff are working in a bunker, or what’s called a “Death March” in project management. Death marches involve long hours of work, arbitrary management decisions, a lack of clarity of the objectives or the steps in achieving the objectives.
LinkedIn, like Facebook, supports company pages. LinkedIn also enables users to follow a company’s posts on the social media platform. Use the same criteria you had with Facebook to determine how well mobilized a company is by studying its LinkedIn company page. It’s also a great way to learn more about the company’s products and services.
See what companies or groups the target company follows. Investigate - and perhaps yourself even follow - the companies and groups they follow.
LinkedIn is especially powerful in the way you can sometimes find the individuals with whom you’ll be interviewing. Their online resumes will give you a sense of their backgrounds and areas of specialty and levels of expertise.
I would recommend not inviting them to connect, though. The invitation creates an awkwardness that may weigh uncomfortably during the interview process. If you do not get the job, though you and the interviewer got on like champions, then by all means connect with them to continue building your network.
Yelp is a great way to learn about how customers perceive their relationship with a company. Many is the time I’ve not continued a conversation with a company after reading customer reviews. I figure, “If they treat people that poorly, then how are they going to treat me?” After all, customers have paid for the privilege of being abused by the company; in your instance, as an employee, they’ll most likely see you as overhead, a much easier object to deride than outsiders.
In the next Interview series installment, Interview Preparation: Leveraging Industry Research, we’ll take a look at knowing a company better through industry research.