Crash course on a company

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It’s getting late and your interview at ABC Manufacturing is at 9 a.m. tomorrow. Trouble is, all you know about ABC Manufacturing is … well … they are called ABC Manufacturing.

Ideally, research on a company or organization you’re interested in should occur well before your interview. Yet, sometimes life gets in the way of best-laid plans. In a pinch, a crash course on a company should get you up to speed in an hour or less. Here are some sources of solid information:

The organization’s Web site: Take a good look at the company’s home page to see how they present themselves to the world. Do they highlight a recent achievement or a long-standing company value? Are they fun and edgy, or all business? Next, explore what is usually labeled the “About Us” section that likely features an overview of the organization’s mission, purpose and values as well as executive biographies, recent press releases, and links to the investor relations site.

Google News: It’s absolutely essential to conduct a Google News search that will serve up the latest headlines about the organization. The benefits are two-fold. First, if the company recently scored a big business win or celebrated a milestone achievement, you can mention that success in your interview – a clear sign you are up on what is happening with the company. Second, if the company is generating negative coverage, you won’t stick your foot in your mouth. For instance, if you’re interviewing with a cruise line and yesterday’s headlines were about one of their ships sinking, telling the hiring manager that you’re impressed with their safety and reliability records will quickly convey that you are oblivious to what is happening with the company.

Yahoo Finance: If you’re interviewing at a publicly traded company then Yahoo Finance is a one-stop shop to get a good sense of what a company is all about. While the main focus is on stock performance, the left-hand navigation has links to plenty of great information, including press releases, latest headlines, analyst research, events, and message boards.

Your telephone: You can get unique insight and perspective from someone inside an organization. If you know people who work where you’re interviewing, give them a call and explain that you’re a candidate for a job there. Be conversational while asking their favorite part of working there, and what they could do without. Ask about the culture, the management style, workplace flexibility, and – the bottom line — whether they recommend working at the company. Just remember that one person’s opinion could be vastly different than others based on a wide range of factors.

Annual reports: While a link to an annual report typically exists on a company Web site, a quicker and easier route is AnnualReports.com, a site that provides free access to hundreds of recent reports.  The vast majority of annual reports begin with a CEO “Letter to Shareholders” in which he or she offers insight on the previous year, as well as the outlook for the coming year. If you’re short on time, read the beginning and end of the letter, skimming the middle. If a statement or fact resonates with you, consider starting a sentence in your interview with, “As your CEO often points out…” Just make sure that the CEO you’re referencing hasn’t quit or been shown the door since the report was  published.

Follow these steps and you should be able to get a good night sleep – and walk into your job interview with the confidence that you know your stuff.

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