Not long ago, PR professionals could stand out from a crowd of job candidates by showcasing their knowledge of the firm with which they were interviewing. Now, applicants are more likely to distinguish themselves if they don’t conduct research before meeting with a hiring manager – and not in a good way.
More than two-thirds of executives surveyed by The Creative Group said job candidates are more informed about their organizations than they were five years ago. Here are some tactics to help you get “in the know” before a job interview:
Dig deep. It goes without saying that you’ll need to visit a prospective employer’s website. Your research will help you better understand the firm’s business focus and engage in relevant dialogue throughout the hiring process. In addition to learning about the company’s services and primary objectives, search for information about the firm’s executives, media announcements and news of product releases.
If the prospective employer is a public company, track down the organization’s annual report, which can shed light on its financial situation and stability, as well as point to areas in which it is expanding or contracting. This can be useful information to bring up during the interview. If, for example, you find out the company plans to expand internationally, you might bring up your experience helping a previous employer publicize its move into global markets.
Search beyond the company website. Perusing media articles and analyst reports, as well as the organization’s social media channels, can provide a unique perspective on the firm. For example, you may find that a company’s plans to offer a new service line, while touted as a huge step forward on its corporate website, has been deemed a misstep by industry analysts. Such commentary will give you additional fodder for questions during an interview and reinforce your interest in learning about the organization.
Utilize your network. Tap your professional and personal networks to see if anyone can offer insights into the company. You want to connect with someone who is familiar with the firm, whether it’s a former employee or a mentor who knows the firm’s executives. Ideally, you’re seeking an individual who can offer you an insider’s perspective on the company’s culture and values. This will not only help you determine if it’s an organization in which you would be happy working, but also one where you can utilize your strengths and grow your PR career.
Taking the time to learn about an organization early in your job search pays off in more ways than one. The information you glean will make you appear more competent during the interview. Perhaps more important, it can help you discover if the opportunity is one you truly want to pursue.
Finally, remember that the best way to leverage your newfound knowledge is to tie your specific skills and experience to the needs and values of the organization – rather than reciting random facts about the firm. Employers not only want to see that you’ve done your homework, but also understand why you’ll be a valuable addition to the team.
The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of firms. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and TCG’s award-winning career magazine, can be found at creativegroup.com.