Interview Preparation: Researching Internet Buzz
By Wim Dodson
So you’ve finally bagged a face-to-face interview with a company. Hopefully, it’s a company you’re really excited about possibly joining. Excitement is important since the key to managing a great interview is knowing more about the company than the people you’re going to be interviewing with.
The reason it’s important to know as much as you can about a company is that the information you gather helps you develop success stories that are relevant to the problems the company has to solve. After all, they wouldn’t be hiring anyone for the role for which you’re interviewing unless they had problems to solve.
Showing you’ve thoroughly researched a company also illustrates that you’re a self-starter, analytical and a problem-solver -- attributes in employees that companies are always bemoaning they lack in abundance.
Most important, though, thoroughly researching a company develops in you a level of comfort and relaxation that is difficult to feign. It will be difficult for interviewers to catch you off guard, and you can always rebalance the conversation with informed questions about the company.
The channels you should definitely investigate before an interview include:
Talk with former or current employees, if possible
Most people are familiar with going to a company’s website to find out more about a company. Of course, check out their products and services, their employees, their blog and their News section. The News section will typically have the latest awards the company has won, information about new partnerships and perhaps even shareholder news.
Also, check out how well organized and maintained a site is. Are there any dead links? What is the most recent blog entry? Is there even a blog? What is the quality of the writing of blogs, case studies, and white papers? Answers to these questions will give you an idea of the extent to which the company knows and has articulated its objectives, and how well-coordinated staff is to execute activities to achieve corporate goals.
For the real news, though, go to Google. Type the company’s name in the search engine, then click on the News item in the menu bar at the top of the window. You’ll see the good, the bad, and the ugly about the company.
You’ll use the good news to do a bit of cheerleading for the company at the outset of the interview. Use the bad news as cautionary points with which to probe interviewers about how the company may be responding to the negative PR. And if the news is ugly, cancel the interview appointment. Most likely, you’d be walking onto a sinking ship; or, in a best case scenario, an ship in which all hands are on deck fighting fires or trying to avoid them.
Glassdoor.com is an absolutely brilliant look through the basement window of a company. The website is a platform on which current and previous staff can anonymously write about their impressions of working in the business. Short of talking with friends who either still work at the target or recently worked there, there is no better way to get a sense of the benefits and downsides of working inside the company.
However, beware of an overwhelming number of positive, glowing reviews. If you like working in cults, it’s ok to buy into what may be manufactured comments; observations by the ignorant or mislead; or by souls who do not know what they’ve gotten themselves in for, yet.
Of course, there is always a chance the Koolaid the staff is drinking at the company really is that hallucinatory, so then it’s a matter of taste, where you are in your career, and the sector. The average age of people in Technology startups is 26 years old. So if you’re in that demographic - and use the word “like” frequently, and not to qualify a simile - then that just may be the environment for you.
In the next installment of Interview Preparation: Following Social Media to Research a Company we’ll take a look at researching a company through its social media feeds.