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January 29, 2021, by Rosie Pinder

A Guide to Pre-Interview Research Into a Company

By Rosie Pinder, BA English second year

Everything about an interview can be daunting: what to say, what to wear, how to come across as someone who knows what they are talking about. But the area I find most challenging when preparing for an interview is research, both into the company and the role.

Having answers ready about yourself is comparatively easy. After all, you will be talking about experiences and skills that you know very well! Answering questions about the company is so much harder because your interviewer will inevitably know more about it than you. Also, if it is a large company you are applying to, the amount of information out there can seem overwhelming.

Do not despair! As part of my recent Nottingham Advantage Award module Career Skills for English Students, I got some great advice. During a mock interview, led by a recruitment specialist from Enterprise Rent-A-Car, I asked for some tips on how to conduct research into a company.

I have compiled a short guide to help you from notes. Below are four key areas of research to complete prior to your interview.

Research the industry

Find out about the company’s wider industry. Look at:

  • Current news and trends. What are the current problems which the industry is dealing with? Which areas are doing particularly well? Who is the target market/ main consumer base?
  • Who are the company’s main competitors?

Research the company

Develop a good understanding of:

  • Company history including a few key dates e.g. when it was founded, any major developments
  • Why the company was founded – what is its big idea/aim?
  • Products and services – what does it provide?
  • What is the company’s agenda and current key focuses? Look at the latest annual report if it is available. What does their social media reveal?

Research the department

If you are applying for a role in a large company, there are likely to be many different departments. Find out about the one you are applying to be a part of:

  • What is the size of its function and where does it fit into the company as a whole?
  • What is the structure of the department? How many levels of management are there?

Who is interviewing you?

Most of the time you will be told who your interviewer/s will be. It might be helpful to:

  • Look them up on LinkedIn, Twitter etc.
  • What can you find out about their career history?
  • Are they the (or a) decision-maker?

It is important to note that these are just some ideas. This kind of research won’t work for all companies, especially smaller ones which may not have many departments or a very long history.

Final thoughts

These four areas are all important to consider and should help you to gather as much information as possible. Even if these things do not come up directly, they will be able to help you tailor your other answers during the interview. If you understand the values and aims of the company, you are much more likely to know how to show your suitability for a role within it.

Finally, if there is not much guidance given on what the interview will focus on – ask! A simple email asking ‘What will the focus of this interview be so that I can ensure I prepare in the most effective way possible?’ can be extremely beneficial and help to inform your research even more.

Read more information on researching employers and interviews. Book a place on an interview skills workshop or take a look at our online course on preparing for your interview.

Posted in InterviewsStudent BloggersThe Nottingham Advantage Award