Candidate Advice | 5 min read

6 Things You Must Know Before an Interview: What To Read and Where To Look

Written by Alex Brewer

No matter if you’re an interview veteran or new to job hunting, if you have an interview coming up for a job you really want, then you’ll already know that to put your best foot forward you need to be prepared.

One of the most important things you can do before an interview to prepare yourself is to research; although it may sound obvious, very few people actually do it well.

So many people are still attending interviews with very little background knowledge of the job, the business, or their interviewer, and it doesn’t come across well. Not only does it reflect badly in terms of your desire for the role but going to an interview uninformed can make it hard for you to know if you actually want the role – and can leave you uhm’ing and ah’ing over accepting if the interview goes well and you are offered.

You should walk into every interview knowing if the opportunity is a good match for you and knowing that you can impress the interviewer. So, how do you do that?

To help you out, here’s our cheat sheet of the 6 things you must research before an interview, and where you can find all the best information…

The valued skills and experience 

Why: First and foremost, you need to know what the company is looking for in a candidate. Without this you can’t be expected to position yourself as the best candidate for the position. On the flip side, it is difficult to know whether you want the job if you don’t have a clear understanding of what it will actually entail and require of you. For instance, you might have been pitched a data management job that involves a high level of people management, but you find that the job requirements all revolve around data and analytics capabilities; a disparity like this might indicate that you’re not being told the full story, and identifying this before the interview will enable you to bring it up during your discussions with the business.

Where: To discover what the job actually requires will take some reading between the lines of the job posting or description to determine if this matches up with the skills and experience they are asking for.  Once you work out what the role actually entails, pay a visit to the employer’s career page to get an idea of their desired employee so that you can best position yourself in line with this. It’s also worth reaching out to current employees of the business and ask them what their employer values most in the workplace.

The product or service

(This probably sounds like a pretty obvious one, but it’s surprising how few people will research what a company actually does before their interview)

Why: Although you’re unlikely to be quizzed on the intricacies of their offering, if the interview goes well you will need to make a decision whether you can get behind what they’re selling, and you can’t be expected to do this if you haven’t done the research.  And, if the interviewer does happen to want to test you on their offering, it’s never a good look to draw a blank. It will only work in your favour to be able to demonstrate your understanding and discuss their product or service in detail.

Where: The company website is your best bet for this one, but you can also read through their blogs, case studies and whitepapers to give you a better idea of how their offering actually works past the sales pitch.

The industry and competition

Why: It’s important to contextualise your understanding of the business by looking into the industry in which they operate. Who are their competitors, where does their product sit in relation to other offerings, have there been any major changes in the industry that might impact the future of this business?

Having this broader understand will help you get a better understanding of the space you could be working in, and will help you to answer any curveball questions through at your during the interview; insight into the company’s industry and rivals is bound to impress interviewers and is a great way to formulate some insightful questions of your own…

Where: Sorry, there’s no secret answer here; googling the industry and the competitors is the way to go!

Company culture, mission and values

Why: There’s almost no point attending an interview if you don’t think you’re a good fit for the company in question; similarly, if an interviewer doesn’t believe you’re a good match then the interview is unlikely to end in your favour. Indeed, a Millennial Branding study says that 43% of HR professionals believe cultural fit is the most important quality job seekers can have during the hiring process.

Taking the time to research what a business is actually like is therefore key; can you envision yourself working and thriving in the environment they describe? Doing so also means that you can raise any potential red flags with the interviewee when you meet them.  

Where: Again, hit up the company website as your first port of call on this to get a good idea of what the business stands for. It can also help to look at their social media pages to learn more about their culture; but definitely don’t take their word (or photos) as law. Use websites like Glassdoor to find some unbiased information and the inside details of what the company is actually like, how they operate, and how their way of working is actually received by their employees. 

News and recent events 

Why: It’s all very well being able to go into an interview and discuss the history of the business, but it’s much more impressive to be able to go in and talk about their latest news and updates. It’s also incredibly useful for being able to contextualise how the business is growing and progressing, and to understand how they are viewed by the press and the public in terms of their success, longevity, and general perception.

For an impressive talking point, you can also use this information to formulate some questions for the interviewee in regard to the future of the business is and where they believe they are heading based on recent event.

Where: Most companies have a page on their website dedicated to press releases and events, so this is always a good place to start. However, doing a general Google of the business or the name of the CEO and other key players can also return some good information – and sometimes the information that the business don’t want to publicise themselves….

The interviewer

Why: It might seem counterintuitive to have to research the interviewee; after all, aren’t they more interested in finding out about you than you knowing about them? In reality, knowing about who is interviewing you will give you an advantage because it increases the chance of connecting with them and sparking a meaningful conversation. You might find that you know someone who went to their university, or who worked at their previous employer, and this provides a genuine way to engage in authentic conversation.

Where: Ask your recruitment consultant or the person arranging your interview for the name of who you will be meeting with, and then head over to their LinkedIn for a bit of investigating. Also check out if they have a Twitter account, which could give more away in terms of any potential common interests you both share.


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