Have an important job interview coming up? Before you begin rehearsing your answers to those potential interview questions or polishing up your portfolio, first take a step back.

While it may be exciting to be presented with a job opportunity that seems like it will be a good match for your talents and career aspirations, it always pays to dig deeper into the position and into the firm that’s offering it.

What you really want to know is:

  • How is this company performing? Is it profitable? Is it growing?
  • What is it’s reputation? How happy are their employees?
  • Who are they targeting with their services?
  • Does it hire talented people and then nurture them, or are they left to fend for themselves?
  • Who are the principals and how are they choosing to lead the firm?

Don’t assume that a firm is well-run or pleasant to work in just because it has enjoyed some high profile projects. You may be unpleasantly surprised. Researching your prospective employer before you even step in the door for an interview will help you to avoid a bad career choice that you’ll regret later on.

On the other hand, doing your research is one of the best ways to become a stand-out candidate during the hiring process. Your legwork will help you to make better decisions. You’ll have the confidence to make smarter answers and ask smarter questions, and you’ll know the best way to highlight your strengths and talents.

To drive the point home, according to one study of 2,000 leaders, having little to no knowledge of a prospective employer is actually one of the most common mis-steps made by candidates on an interview.

5 Tactics to Research a Potential Employer Before the Interview

But not all research is created equal. As a candidate, you want to put your efforts into the right places- the places that will give you most useful information and payback. Below are five of the best sources of that information:

  1. Review marketing materials and communications. The first thing that candidates should consider is how the firm is representing themselves. Pour over their website. Take a good look at recent projects, awards, press releases, mission statements, and information about their services and culture. What language and imagery are they using? Who is this firm targeting? Does the firm have social media accounts? Take a few moments to visit them and see what they are posting.

Not only will this give you vital information about the firm and its core values, but it will help you to craft your approach during the interview. You’ll have a better idea which concepts, impressions, and suggestions will make the most impact.

  1. Take a look at the firm’s senior leadership. The senior leaders in a firm will directly influence the culture and “atmosphere” at work. So, you definitely want to go into an interview with at least a basic understanding of who is running the firm and how.

Aside from the bios found on the firm’s website, search LinkedIn for the firm’s leaders. Take a look at their profiles. There you’ll find bios, employment and educational histories, as well as a list of skills, talents, and any associations they belong to. All of this will provide you with valuable information and “fodder” for the hiring process that you can use to guide your responses

  1. Find out who your interviewer(s) will be. Make sure you have the names of the leaders who will be involved with the interview process. Here too, you want to take a look at their profiles- both on the website if available and on other platforms. As you do this, see if you can find some common ground, such as a shared hobby, association, or experience. Even if you aren’t able to find something in common, getting a sneak preview of your interviewers and how they express themselves can help you to tailor your message.
  2. Read up on the projects they have completed. Most architecture firms display a portfolio of their most recent and high profile projects. Don’t just look at what is on their website. Find out if there is any press on the project. Pay attention in particular to what is being said “on the street” about the project and the firm behind it.
  3. Understand the objective of the role. Finally, make sure that you understand the position you are interviewing for or the potential opening. Find out what skills, talents, and experiences they are after. I’m amazed how often candidates actually miss this step, and it becomes painfully obvious during the interview.

While this pre-interview work will help you to get a leg up in the hiring process, it doesn’t stop there. What you ask your potential employer during the interview is just as important as what you answer.

I’ll address this in the next article…