Interviewers will frequently test your knowledge of the position you’re interviewing for and the company you are interviewing with to see if you’re worthy of serious consideration. If you do not have a response or it’s general, such as, “Because it’s a great company,” you’re in trouble before the interview has really begun. A great company already knows it’s great. Interviewers want to know specifically why you want to work for this company and why you want this position!
It’s a good idea to conduct company research before you interview, so you can step up to the challenge and answer such questions intelligently. At minimum, know what a company’s products and services are, why they interest you, and how you can help support them. Employment is a two-way street. You should also make sure that this is a company for which you want to work. You want to show the interviewer that you care enough about obtaining the position that you took the time and effort to learn about the company.
Find out everything you can about the company, including:
- A description of the position you are interviewing for, including specific functions
- Typical career path of persons who obtain this position
- The company’s products and services
- The number and makeup of the employees and corporate culture
- Annual sales or profits and stock performance/history
- The President’s or CEO’s name
- The company history, current news, and any future challenges
- The company’s competitors
Where to find company information
Probably the single best resource of company information is the company’s website. While the trend is certainly for companies to place a multitude on their sites, private companies (not traded on any stock exchange) tend to have less need to provide sensitive information. What can you do in these situations? The next best solution is to read outside reviews and profiles of companies. Among the two best sources for gathering information on public companies are: BusinessWeek Online: Company Research and Hoovers Online. And, of course, there’s always Google.
Finding information about private companies — and the vast majority of all companies in the U.S. are private — is a bit trickier. Two good sources are the Forbes Largest Private Companies list and The Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest growing privately held companies.
If you are interested in working for a non-profit organization or association, the best research tools to use include: Volunteering and Non-Profit Career Resources and General Professional Organizations and Associations.
Another great source of company information comes from articles and stories published in various media outlets. There are literally thousands of media outlets, from national news and business publications to specialized industry-specific publications. Good sources for finding media that cover your industry is NewsLink and Lexis-Nexis. One other tool, where several hundred companies are organized alphabetically, as well as by rankings, is: Quintcareers.com’s Guide to Researching Companies, Industries, and Countries.
Additional sites include:
- Business Week Online — Company Research: a great resource!
- IRIN — The Investor Relations Information Network: a clearinghouse of annual reports, fact books, and press releases.
- Web100 — Big Business on the Web: tracks the largest American and international companies on the Web (ranked by revenue).
- CorporateInformation — a great resource for researching companies and industries in the United States and around the world.
- Vault.com — well-known for its insider reports on thousands of companies.
- StockMarketYellowPages.com: allows you to search for public companies.
- The Public Register’s Annual Report Service (PRARS): includes the ability to order printed versions of annual reports (for free).
- The Forbes 500: a comprehensive database of the 500 largest American public corporations as measured by sales, profits, assets, and market value.
- Fortune.com Lists: a variety of lists of the “best” and largest public companies, as well as links to industry information, and other lists.
- Better Business Bureau: includes links to companies that are members of the organization.
- Small Business Administration Online Library: offers a great collection of information about business trends and small businesses.
- Allstocks.com’s World’s Largest Investors Links: where you can find links to all kinds of information about companies and industry analyses.
- Yahoo! Business and Economy: Companies: provides links to company Web sites.
- Searching for Company Information: From the New York Public Library’s Science, Industry, and Business Library, this site is a guide to conducting basic research on companies.
Getting Industry Information
The next level of sophistication in conducting research is getting a handle on the competitive nature of the industry (or industries) that your potential companies operate within. It is within the competitive environment that you might be able to spot trends that are either opportunities or threats for your prospective employers. One source of information is Industry Portals, Industry Portalsa listing of links to many different industries. Another excellent source is a U.S. government publication: U.S. Industrial Outlook, at: U.S. Industry & Trade Outlook 2000.
Additional sites include:
- Yahoo! Industry News Select an industry for press releases & current news.
- PR Newswire Industry information & links for automotive, entertainment, health/biotech, technology, financial & energy.
- Industry Week 1000 Annual ranking of 1,000 largest global manufacturers.
- Yahoo! – Magazines: Business and Economic Links to trade and general business magazines on the Web. Everything from “Beef Today” to “Business Week” to “Mushroom Grower’s Newsletter.” Many trade publications feature articles on their industries, suppliers, growth trends, classified ads.
- MagPortal.com – Business News by Industry Select online articles for a wide range of industries.