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Research and preparation are always a key component to a successful interview.  But, when it comes to getting asked the question, “What do you know about the company,” during the interview, what information from your research should you share, and what should you investigate about the company so that you are equipped to answer the question?

The Basics

Any interviewer or hiring manager will be expecting you to have at least gone to the company website and looked around, so don’t let them down.  Use this as your starting point for your research.

Make sure you thoroughly explore all of the information here because this is information you don’t have to work hard for.  Many company websites provide ample places to learn not only about what they do, but who their management is, as well as things like community initiatives they support and archives of their press releases.

Take notes while you’re exploring the site on anything you are unfamiliar with or have an interest in learning more about as well as key discussion points for the interview.

Social Communities

After exploring the company’s website, don’t forget to check out their social media presence.  See how active they are and what kind of information they post via the major sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Are they engaged with their audience, how are the utilizing their online presence, is the content they’re posting up to date and relevant?

Don’t forget to check out what others are saying about the company online.  Utilize sites like Glassdoor, WetFeet, Jobitorial, online forums, blogs, and other sources to get a more unbiased view of the company.

Personal Networks

Your second level of research should come from within your own networks.  Some interviews may come up quickly with little notice and, you might not have time to tap your networks for information or connections.

But, if you are targeting specific companies or have the time, you should not underestimate the value of reaching out to gather information from your network.

Alumni groups are a great place to start to see if you have any connections to anyone already working within the company or to see if any introductions can be made.  LinkedIn can also be utilized in this effort as well.

Not only can you get an insider’s view of the organization, but having someone who works at the company who can vouch for you internally can go a long way in getting an offer.

Things to Note

While researching the company don’t just focus on the information the company presents to you.  If you really want to stand out in the interview, delve into other areas like the company’s history, who their competitors are, what’s changing in the industry, the company’s financial status, where are they located and where do they do business, and who the key players are both internally and externally.

The more you know about the company the more intelligent comments and questions you can poise to the interviewer to show your interest in the position.

Bonus Round

While you are doing all this research in order to show what you know in the interview, remember too, this is an chance to answer questions for yourself and understand more about your potential employer.

Use this time to discover more about the organization’s culture, the management styles, and how they are regarded in the industry.  The interview is a time for you to shine in order to secure the job, but make sure it’s a job you want and a company you want to work for.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to use this information in other parts of your interview as well.  You don’t have to wait until you’re asked about what you know to show your thoughtfulness towards the company.

When posed particular questions in the interview, you might want to infuse some of your learnings.

For example, if the interviewer were to ask you what challenges you’ve faced in a past role, you might respond, “Similarly to how your company had a recent issue with x, in my last position we dealt with a comparable issue, y.  Utilizing my skills and experience in a, b, and c, I was able to correct the issue….”  You get the idea.

Your new approach to the question will help you directly relate your response to the position at hand and help the interviewer see how you will adapt in the role.

Also, should you land the job, you’ll already be one step ahead when you start by knowing more about the company and the key players who you may be reporting to.  You can use this information to help you get ahead rather than fall behind in your first few weeks of work.

So the next time you are interviewing and you are approached with being asked what you know about the company, be sure to utilize the opportunity to the fullest to start a discussion with the interviewer.

Use this time to ask valuable questions from your research to illustrate your interest in the organization.  Avoid asking any questions that are already clearly answered via the company website or in any company literature provided to you in advance.  This is a hallmark of an unprepared interviewee, and a waste of both yours and the interviewers time.

Make it clear that not only do you understand their products and services and the position, but you know where they stand in the market, what their differentiators are against their competitors, and what thought leadership they are providing in the industry.

The more you know, the more prepared you will be to not only blow the interviewer away with your knowledge, but also to seek out other opportunities in the interview to stand out.

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