Congratulations! You’ve landed the interview. This is a great sign; it means that you’ve taken the time to demonstrate, through your resume and application materials, why your skills and qualifications make you a stellar candidate for the job. What’s more, your interviewer sees a potential for success in your candidacy.
The race is not over, however. By being invited to interview with a potential employer or graduate program, you are being tasked with bringing your written application to life. There are many strategies out there to help you become a stronger interviewer, but one of the first steps that I suggest students take is to research the organization.
What value does this research bring? It helps you to assess whether this organization is the right place for you, while giving you the chance to better highlight why you are a good fit for them. Any Biological Sciences graduate can be an excellent research assistant, because the curriculum is designed for students to consistently practice the skill set necessary for success in research. The most competitive graduates, however, take the time to translate their strong bench skills and experiences in the lab to the identified needs of their audience, the interviewers. If you take the time to connect your application back to the mission and vision of the company directly, you are making yourself more competitive.
Here are a few tips for researching a company before the interview. The most important strategy, however, is to know your audience and understand how these tips can be adapted to your specific area.
Start with the mission, values, and vision of the organization
First, I suggest that students visit the company website and familiarize themselves with the basics. Some questions to ask yourself in your research might include:
- What is the mission and what are the values of this company?
- Is there a strategic plan listed on their website? If so, how do I feel about this plan and where do I see my potential future role fitting in?
- What does this company do, and (if applicable) what do they produce?
- If this company puts out a specific product, are there reviews out there? Be sure to take these with a grain of salt, but it might be interesting to see what current feedback is out there, and concerns you might be tasked with addressing in this role should you be selected.
- What is the size of this company, and what are the job titles of my potential colleagues?
- Where is this company located, and are there other offices located in the US and/or globally? This is an important question to ask yourself if you are interested in working abroad, or if you are an international student exploring postgraduate options.
By finding basic information on the company, you can begin to decide, from afar, if the mission and future trajectory of this organization speaks to you. It’s also a great opportunity to begin thinking of questions that you might ask your interviewers. For example, you could mention that you read online that their mission is X, and you want to know what the mission means to each interviewer. Or, you might want to ask about future growth opportunities within this company because you have noticed that a lot of employees seem to move up within the organization.
Research your interviewers
Be sure to take the time, if possible, to learn a little bit more about your interviewers to help you to prepare more informed questions come interview day.
You should be able to find at least some of your interviewers on LinkedIn, AlumniFire, or through their professional social media accounts. Be sure to review their current job titles and responsibilities, and reflect on how your role might interact with them. If you are able to find additional information, take note of their alma maters and previous roles. There might be an opportunity to quickly connect with your interviewers if you have shared experiences.
This step is especially crucial if you are interviewing in healthcare or industry research; be sure to read about the faculty you might be working with by reviewing their CVs and research profiles. If you are interviewing for a research assistant position, I would highly suggest asking your interviewers more about their projects and research interests, and to be well informed on the basics of their research before the interview.
If you can’t find your interviewers, or you don’t know who exactly you’ll be meeting with, don’t panic! I would still suggest this step, but be a little bit more creative. Think critically about where your role might fit in with the rest of the team, and find similar job titles on the company website and on LinkedIn. Even if you don’t come away with specific information about your interviewers, you can still get a sense of the types of skills and experiences this organization attracts. This information is incredibly valuable, as you can tweak your interview answers to highlight those specific abilities.
Has the company been in the news lately?
In addition to reviewing company-branded materials, it might be worth your time to quickly search for news articles involving the company. It’s a great way to begin getting a sense of how the company is living out its mission and values, and if there is a connection between the organization and the community at large. This information might also inform your questions, and help you to better frame your inquiries. For example, you might want to ask about a company’s commitment to philanthropy after reading an article about a charity golf tournament hosted by the organization. You could frame the question by asking, “I saw that your company recently hosted a golf tournament, in support of Y organization. Can you tell me a little bit more about how this company is connected with Y?”
Best of luck out there! What strategies do you use when you research employers?
Photo courtesy of Matthew Henry.