Before going on an interview, you need to know as much as possible about the company. How secure is the company, and the position you're considering? Does the company have a good business model?
With the number of companies to choose from, the research you do will help you make the best decision possible as well as help put your best foot forward in the interview.
Where to Look for Company Information
The Company's Website:
Look at the website where you're considering taking a position. Go into the interview knowing about the site, how their company works, and the management. Most companies have a 'about us' section where they list management personnel as well as press releases. This is a good way to get the company's history. Questions to ask yourself are:
- How are they funded? Privately held? Venture Capital?
If a company is privately held, find out how profitable they are. If stock options are important to you, ask about intentions of going public
- How many rounds of funding have they received?
These references are important and you may want to get alternate contact information in case of more layoffs. If possible, collect letters of recommendation as well.
- How are they monetizing?
Most companies have advertising through their site, what you'll want to find out is the other ways they are making money and how much they are making.
- Is the Business Model a Good One?
This is one of the harder questions to ask. The best way is to look at what the company does and how they do it. If you can, look at a company's business plan even if you need to sign a confidentiality agreement. What differentiates this company from it's competition? Remember to use your networking contacts (without violating a confidentiality agreement) as well to find out information about the company's model. They may give you questions to ask that you hadn't thought of.
The Annual Report is a good way to see the financial status overall of a company. These reports give the company's plans and background as well as more detailed information on their financial health.
- Financial Review:
This is a review done by the CFO based on the financial data. Look at the 5 to 10-year summary.
- Financial Statement:
These are the numbers on how the company did the previous year. You can use this information to compare to the information in the Financial Review section.
- Balance Sheet:
The balance sheet tells you where the company stands. Items you want to look at are the liquid value, the debt due, and the current and total liabilities and assets.
- Income Statement:
Lets you know how much the company earned. Important things to look at are the Dividends and Net Earnings Per Share.
There are many ways to research the public records of a company. Go to the public or college library. They will be able to help you look for documents and trade journals. Below are a few sites with search options to look up company information:
- http://www.sec.gov/cgi-bin/srch-edgar: This site lists any SEC Filings a company has submitted.
- http://www.gomez.com/certification/index.asp?topcat_id=0: Gomez.com validates e-commerce sites. Criteria varies by industry but some include customer service availability, transaction systems security, and privacy and return policies.
- http://www.hoovers.com: Hoover's Online gives company and industry information. Subscription is necessary.
- http://www.corporateinformation.com: CorporateInformation gives company information and research.
There are many instances where the job description of the position doesn't match what you actually do after you accept. Sometimes this has to do with technology that they want to launch isn't on time, sales aren't happening as quickly as they thought, or they'll change your job duties.
Ask to speak with people you'll be working with at your interview. Find out from them if the job they're doing is the one they signed on for. Ask if they're happy with what they're doing, their likes and dislikes about the company, and remember to ask for specific examples. Find out all you can from them.
Environments vary from company to company. Know what kind of environment you are looking for. A startup will have a very different feel from a large, established, corporate company. There is generally longer hours in a startup, though there are fewer people so there is a lot of 'fly by the seat of the pants' feel to it while in a larger corporation there are more procedures and it is established with a polished feel.