What Sources Can You Use To Conduct Research for Your Job Interview?

In order to increase the chance for your interview success, you need to put in enough effort to prepare and research for the interview. What are the sources you can use for the research?

Yinso:
All right, Mikhail, we’re back to doing another session of Ace That Career. So, what are the questions that we might be discussing about today?

Mikhail:
I have another interview related question.

Yinso:
Okay, interview.

Mikhail:
And I wanted to ask you, what sort of information sources would you use if you are preparing for the interview? So you need to do a bit of research about the company, and I think that it will help you a lot to answer many interview questions. So if you’re well prepared, if you know a lot about the company and what they do, and perhaps how can you bring additional value to this company, I’m sure that this will help you a lot on the actual interview. So what kind of information sources would you use and how would you go about collecting that information and analyzing it?

Yinso:
And this is definitely something that a lot of people need to spend some time to prepare for. One of the things that people do and when they preparing for interview is that they are thinking about a list of questions, right? So books that are talking about interview questions, they sell like hotcakes basically. Because everybody wants to know, okay, so what are the likely questions I’m going to come across? How am I going to get asked about them? So if I know the questions that’s going to pop up, I can answer them, right? And this is interesting because if you think back in school, this is also how a lot of people prepare for their exams. They try to say, okay, so what are the questions that are going to come up on the exams? Let me study, try to answer those questions, and then that should maximize my chances of being successful in the exam, right?

And interview, people treat interview actually quite similarly to that particular concept. So for people like developer, whoever, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a developer, it can be anybody. A lot of people are focusing on trying to answer the skill questions. And we talked about this earlier, that there’s two general type of questions, right? There’s the general questions, but also the skill questions. And so people prepare for what they feel like that they are more likely to have difficulty. And a lot of them do choose to try to answer skill questions, but people also need to put in some effort on the general questions as well. And most of these questions, there’s honestly a lot of questions out there, a lot of question sites, and there’s also quite a bit of books that actually just captures these questions. Talk about how to answer them, giving you examples so that we can practice and try to answer them yourself.

Now, questions about the interviews, while they’re good from your perspective of trying to answer the questions, it’s not enough by themselves. We have to make sure that the questions, the answers are tailored toward your examiner, and basically your interviewer in this particular case. So people, when they’re asking you a question, they don’t want to just hear about the answers to your question, they want to hear that your answer actually means something to me, right? So if I’m working at, say Facebook, and then I’m asking you a question because you’re applying for a job at Facebook. Now you starting to give answers that doesn’t sound like you’d benefit Facebook in any way or related to Facebook in any way. Then the answer is going to sound a bit off, right?

So this is where researches comes in. And your research needs to happen at a few different levels. One, the company that you apply for. And then two, the industries the company belongs to. Maybe the company belongs to multiple industries. So by the very minimum, you should have a good, clear understanding of the industries that the company plays in. Three, who are the competitors, and what do they do? So, these are the type of information that if you’re in a particular industry, if you follow, say the news for a particular industry, assuming that company is decently well known, you should be able to come across these information fairly easily. Now, it’s also possible the company you’re applying for is a tiny company. In that case, you need to do a bit more digging. You have to try to find out more information yourself, but a lot of times these information are still available on the internet alone. You can just Google and then you’ll be able to find the information on them. You can find some public informations, basically.

All right. So these are public info. Chances are that you can do quite a bit of an understanding about what’s going on there, okay? Now you should also try to find out about the position that you’re applying for. So perhaps you’re applying for a position as a developer, but not every developer position is the same. What is the particular type of developer position you’re getting into? And what is the project that you’re likely to work in? Maybe you will be working on the flagship product, but maybe you’ll be working on something else instead. Maybe you’ll be working on some internal tools. So what is about the project that you can try to gain as much information from as possible, right? So positions, projects, department, and finally, you should find out who will be interviewing you.

So how many? Is it one person? Is it multiple? What are their positions within the company? What do they do? What is their relationship to your eventual position? Maybe they will be coworkers of yours, or maybe the person will be HR and maybe potentially you may even interview with say, a general manager that’s potentially your direct boss, or maybe some other related department, right? So you should find out who will be interviewing you and how many of them so that way you can gain a sense of what type of person they are. So as you gather the names, then you probably want to do more research on their name as well. So just try to find out as much as you can. Now, where are the sources? So if we look at this list here, we can see that for the public info, a lot of time internet is likely going to provide you with a lot of information, right?

You can probably just do a lot of readings just by searching on the internet and you might never exhaust the information that you’d be reading about, okay? But the public info isn’t going to answer anything about the position that you’re applying for and who is going to be on your interview. So for this, you need to be able to talk to primary contacts. So for example, perhaps the person that you’re dealing with is somebody in the HR department. So you should feel comfortable say, “Hey, would you mind telling me who will be on my interview loop, and potentially how many people I will be interviewing with?” Just ask about them, and then they say, “Oh, it’s this person, this person.” Then you say, “Okay, so what’s their position? What do they do?” So try to gain as much information as you can. And then potentially after you gain the information, you can leverage sites like LinkedIn to try to look for their information.

Mikhail:
LinkedIn, and also maybe Glassdoor. I think something like Glassdoor will give you at least a little bit of, because people get interviewed with a major company, so then they publish interviews [crosstalk 00:09:21].

Yinso:
True, though they probably not necessarily, I don’t know whether Glassdoor has information on the individuals who’s going to be on your interview loop. But at a minimum, if you want to gather all the information necessary, you have to be able to make some sort of the human contact with the company, right? So, definitely talk to the person that’ll be handling your interview process and whether that’s HR personnel in the company you’re interviewing for, or whether it’s a recruiter that you’re applying the job through, make sure that you talk to that person so that way you can gain as many information about the job specific part of the research as you can.

Mikhail:
I would be curious here, because I’m not familiar with this process and that’s why I’m curious. Do you think it’s possible that if you start asking a lot of questions of the HR person before the interview, they might interpret it as a, because they are also busy people and they have a lot of people to interview. So they might give you a very formal answer or they might not be willing to provide a lot of information.

Yinso:
That’s certainly possible, it’s certainly possible. I mean, we’re talking about very generalized process here, and what is going to happen really depends on the individuals that you’ll be dealing with. HRs are probably not necessarily wanting to give you too much information, because they might feel like you might want to game the system. But at the very minimum, they should tell you the following information, when is your interview, right? Because if they don’t tell anything about this, you won’t be able to show up for the interview, right? Where is it? And how long, right? You should know some of these information, and potentially how many people that you’d be interviewing, right? Some of these information, some amount of these information, you should be able to find out. If you don’t know when your interview is, you never going to be there. If we don’t know how long it is, then you can never make sure that you can reserve that time for the interviews, right? And sometimes they won’t tell you how many until almost the day before, and sometimes that’s just life, right?

Mikhail:
Let’s make a specific case of a person applying for C# developer position in a mid-sized company. And so I’m looking at point number four. So of course I would like to get some information about the position and also what kind of projects they are doing. If I have all these questions, I mean, do you suggest that I can actually contact managers in the company or the HR person and ask them to connect me to a person in the company who I can ask those questions to? Or would it be perhaps too much of work for them to be [crosstalk 00:12:18]?

Yinso:
I would suggest you becoming resourceful, not forceful. Okay. So basically, you want to be as nice as you can, try to gain as much information as you can, but you shouldn’t do it in such a way that if you find that they start to become annoyed, then you should back off.

Mikhail:
[crosstalk 00:12:41].

Yinso:
Because again, this all depends on the individual you’ll be dealing with. So there’s really no certain way of knowing how people is going to respond. So you have to play it on a case by case basis on what’s likely to happen, but definitely ask for as much information as you can. And potentially, maybe you have another contact that you can make. Maybe some of your friends work there, maybe somehow you know someone that knows someone that works there. Try to reach out that way, right? Obviously everybody will be busy, right? But obviously, if you know of a friend or know of a friend of a friend, then you can gain contact through that direction. Then people are more likely to feel like you might be of someone that they want to help to provide these informations.

Mikhail:
I think it also depends on the size of the company. If it’s a startup, I think you might just simply email them and you can just, they agree to sit down with you and just talk about their company. I think it’s very likely to happen. But in case of a bigger company like Microsoft, obviously it’s going to be a lot more formal.

Yinso:
There’s a type of a interview it’s called informational. And it’s basically the type of interview that where you get to ask the type of questions that we were talking about. Not every company do this, and sometimes they only do it for the internal candidates, they don’t do it for external candidates. But basically it’s a chance that you can sit down with one of the person that will be involved in hiring. And then you can ask all the questions that we’re talking about here. Even more detailed type of questions like, what’s the strategic value of the project we’re working on? Who are the customers? What’s the impact? What is the lifestyle that that person can expect from participate in this project? Is this a high pressure project? How much of a profile does this project have? There are interviews that’s called informational that specifically deal with providing these type of information. And if they offer it, and this is the type of thing is that you don’t know whether they offer it or not until you ask, but if they do offer it, you should certainly take advantage of getting into one of those interviews, basically. Gain more information.

Mikhail:
Very often they don’t offer it, they don’t offer it formally but if you ask them, they might find some time to actually talk to you because I think it goes both ways. I mean, they are looking for a good candidate and you’re looking for a good place to work. Obviously it’s a mutual benefit to know as much as you can and vice versa [inaudible 00:15:22].

Yinso:
Right, yeah. And so researching for interviews, it’s always going to be a mixture of just researching through the public sources, like through internet or the older school style will be like newspaper, whatever, right? But also including primary contacts of talking to a live person, because until you do both, you’re not going to have a complete picture of what everything that you can know about this project, this position that you’re applying for. So, okay. Is there any additional questions about this? Okay. All right. Then in that case, let’s move on to our next question.

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