November 6, 2012
Pre-interview research: 5 great tools to try
Knowledge is power. And given the competitive climate in today's job market, it pays to dig up as much information as possible on companies before you interview with them.
For starters, arming yourself with solid corporate data will set you apart from your competitors and show the hiring manager that you're serious, resourceful and sincerely interested. Having the inside scoop on a company will also help you prepare answers to questions that might come up in the interview process -- as well as thought-provoking questions of your own to ask the employer.
If you have an interview coming up, especially with one of the larger employers around town, go through the company's website inside and out to see what you can glean. But don't stop there. Investigate these additional research tools, which frequently reveal deeper and more subjective data.
1. Glassdoor: What Yelp is to the restaurant scene, Glassdoor has become to the corporate employment scene. It allows users to anonymously rate companies, list the pros and cons of working there, and trade information about company-specific interviewing approaches and salary levels.
Granted, you have to take some of the comments with a grain of salt if a reviewer seems to have an axe to grind. In general, though, the reviews are fairly professional, thoughtful and well-balanced.
2. CareerBliss: Although its database doesn't seem to be quite as deep as Glassdoor, at least in terms of Puget Sound organizations, CareerBliss also compiles anonymous reviews and rankings ("Bliss Scores") of employers. It's worth a look if you're courting a reasonably mainstream employer.
The site does an excellent job of breaking down the pros and cons of an organization's culture. And, as with Glassdoor, it also contains useful salary data to assist you with the negotiation process.
3. Indeed forums: While more and more job hunters have heard about Indeed.com, which aggregates thousands of online job leads into a single searchable site, few notice the "Forums" link near the bottom of the page. If you click this link and run a search on your target company, there's a good chance you'll find some chatter about the employer and its hiring process.
Some quick sleuthing related to Seattle-area companies, for example, reveals discussions such as how to get a job at Costco; Amazon.com interview questions; and the group-interview process that flight attendants must go through at Alaska Airlines.
4. LinkedIn Companies page: If you're a LinkedIn member, pay a visit to the "Companies" page of that site before your interview. You probably know that you'll find a description of the firm and a list of people in your extended network (to whom you can reach out, if you choose). But if you click the "Insights" tab on the right side of the menu bar, you'll see several company facts, including the names of people who have recently joined and/or departed.
5. Google search: Even though it may seem obvious, I still come across many job seekers who overlook the possibility of running a general web search on a company using a specific phrase like "getting hired at Microsoft" or "REI culture" or "Starbucks interview questions."
Whatever your preferred Internet search engine, searching only the company name usually results in thousands of random results. But running a more specific query, focused on the company's culture or hiring process, often turns up a slew of helpful articles and information.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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