Complete Guide: How to research a company for an interview

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 7 October 2022 | Published 30 August 2021

Updated 7 October 2022

Published 30 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Knowing how to research a company for an interview is an important part of a successful job application. The information revealed by your research into the company becomes useful in at least three stages of the job application process. Knowing how to research properly is therefore very beneficial if you're currently job-seeking. In this article, we explain the importance of company research, when it becomes most useful and how to do it.

Related: Research Skills: Definition and Examples

Why is knowing how to research a company for an interview important?

Knowing how to research a company for an interview reveals important information that can affect your decision and chances of securing the position. Generally speaking, there are three stages of the job search and application process where the information you've researched becomes useful:

1. Choosing the company

Before you consider whether the company is going to hire you or if you meet their requirements, you must feel happy about working there. If you have certain beliefs or principles, you're going to prefer working for a company that shares them. The company's culture, working environment and approach to career progression can all play a significant role in how happy you're going to be working there. The only way you can start to determine whether you want to work at a specific company is by researching them beforehand.

Related: Analytical Skills: Definitions and Examples

2. Writing your CV and cover letter

When preparing your CV and cover letter for a job application, it's almost always best practice to tailor them to the needs and expectations of the company you're applying to. This is even more relevant for a cover letter than a CV. To tailor these documents effectively, you need relevant information about the company and the role in question. This could relate to specific skills or competencies, experiences or even your work ethic and values.

Related: The complete CV format guide: examples and tips

3. During an interview

When you're being interviewed for a position, your interviewer must determine if you're the right fit for the role and the company. They have specific expectations of you, and the best way of successfully meeting these expectations is to adequately prepare through research. There are two aspects to this research. The first relates to the position you're applying for, and the second is the company and its culture. To sell yourself as the ideal candidate, you need to research to determine what their idea of an ideal candidate is.

Related: How To Prepare for an Interview

How to research a company before an interview

Depending on how much information is available, there are potentially a lot of insights that you can get by properly researching a company. This allows you to gather information about what's important to the company and to you personally. When you're researching a company, do the following:

1. Search for companies that share your values

Before you consider the company's needs, you must first consider your own. Ask yourself what your preferred working environment is and what constitutes meaningful work. These are very personal in nature and vary greatly between individuals. Perhaps you care most about a company that values its employees and considers their long-term careers. Maybe you'd prefer working for a company that cares about social causes or the environment. You can find reviews of companies written by former employees, which give you a first-hand account of what it's like working there. There are dedicated websites for this, in addition to social media.

2. Check for pay and benefits

One of the first things to find out is how much the company is going to pay you if you get the position in question. This is followed by the additional benefits they provide. Remember that certain employee rights are guaranteed by law, such as a minimum wage, sick pay, maternity leave and paid holidays. Check what rights are required by law, so that you can determine what extra benefits the employer might be offering. Some employers might offer greater amounts of paid leave or higher-than-average pay. Others may offer different benefits, like discounted gym memberships or other recreational opportunities.

Most of this sort of information is going to be detailed in a job advertisement. If you've found the job on a site, you may find additional information regarding pay and benefits on the company's own website. There's usually a link to this in the advertisement. Carefully read the advertisement and you can get an idea of what to expect.

Related: Why work for companies with benefits? (With 18 examples)

3. Look into the company's leadership

The people who founded or run a company generally have a significant effect on what it's like to work there. This might be a single individual or a group, in addition to the other individuals who hold high positions. You can usually find this sort of information on a company website's 'About Us' section. This section often has specific information on founders, top executives and other important figures in the organisation. Once you've found out who these people are and some information about them, you can also check their personal sites or social media profiles for more information.

One of these people could end up being your immediate superior. Getting an idea of their beliefs and priorities can indicate how they handle work and employees. In company reviews by former employees, you may find anecdotal evidence of what certain individuals are like to work with.

4. Find out how the business operates

Consider the following questions:

  • How does the business make money?

  • Who are their primary clients or customers?

  • How long has the company existed?

Questions like these can tell you a lot about a company, which may then be useful in a cover letter or interview. It can also indicate how stable the company is, which has a direct effect on your financial stability if you work there. By finding out how the business operates and generates revenue, you can determine how your skills and experiences can help them.

Many companies share this sort of information on their websites, usually under an 'About Us' or 'What We Do' section. There are also websites that gather information on companies that you can look for. Large publicly listed companies generally publish annual reports on their activities and achievements.

Related: An annual report of a company: definition and importance

5. Check the news and social media

In addition to checking what the company says about itself, it's useful to find out what others have said. One part of this is review sites, and the other is the news. Even small companies may be featured in news items if something noteworthy has happened. Important information could include recent mergers and acquisitions, reports on profits or losses or any actions involving employees. This information can be relevant to your own decision on wanting to work there, in addition to being valuable in a cover letter or interview.

Search engines and social media platforms are the best way of finding this information. You can filter search engine results to only include news items to narrow it down. For social media, find the company's official profiles and see how others have reacted, interacted and talked about them. This may grant you a good idea of the company's relationship with the general public.

6. Ask people you know

Your personal network of friends and family members may have a lot of information about a specific company. Even if they aren't personally aware of anything, they might be able to refer you to someone who's worked at the company or knows specific information. This is even more likely if the company you're considering employs a lot of people where you live. Using your own network can also alert you to job opportunities that you might otherwise have missed.

Related: Networking Tips for Job Seekers

7. Know what information to share

Once you've become sufficiently acquainted with the company, it's important to know what information you ought to share in a cover letter or interview. In most cases, demonstrating that you've researched the company makes a good impression. It shows you're serious, committed and diligent. The best information to share is your knowledge of the company's needs, values and culture and to then demonstrate how you meet these needs. This includes the company's mission and vision, short-term goals and the specific expectations detailed in the job advertisement.

The first thing to check is if the information in question is relevant and up-to-date. Next is how sensitive the information is. If you feel that certain facts are too negative or sensitive, it's usually best to avoid mentioning them unless the interviewer brings up the subject. Positive information regarding recent events relating to the company, such as an expansion or new product lines, are great examples of information to share as you can then show how you can contribute to this.

Related: How to write the perfect cover letter (with examples)

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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