Using Your Research Skills to Prepare for Interviews



As a transitioning military officer, preparing for a job interview can be incredibly overwhelming. Going straight from college into your first military position took some of the stress out of the job hunt, leaving you with a sense of security and relinquishing the dreaded job hunting jitters. Now as you prepare for a position in Corporate America, you may be asking yourself, “ Where do I even start when preparing for an interview?” Fortunately, for elite junior military officers, Alliance Careers provides a top-notch program to help set you up for success. Though this is true, taking your own initiative to fully research each company can give you the edge you need to land a job.  To get the best out of your research, we have created a list of the top areas of focus:

Mission Statement: Much like a military mission, a company mission is set to guide all employees toward an ultimate goal. So what can you do with this information?  To help with understanding, I have researched online to find a random Mission Statement; let’s review one created by Johnson and Johnson: “To ensure exceptional consumer care experiences that strengthen trust and loyalty, and contribute insights that drive growth. If you were interviewing with this particular company, you would immediately know that their primary focus is positive customer support, integrity, and profit. With this said, when being interviewed, you will want to tailor your answers to share authentic experiences where you have shown proven success in embodying these traits. As someone coming from a military background, this task is easier than you might think.  For instance, a company may ask any one of these questions: “Why are you interested in our company?”; “Why should we hire you?”; “Tell me about some of your professional strengths?” When being asked these questions, you have just been afforded the opportunity to show what you know about the company and how you directly relate. To answer this question, you could potentially say the following: “I would love to answer that question for you (name of interviewer). After researching more about Johnson and Johnson, I saw that your Mission Statement emphasizes the importance of customer support, integrity and profit. This struck a chord with me, because these are all qualities I feel I possess and find important in a work environment. As a military officer, I exhibited these traits when….”.  After this, you can describe a brief description of an authentic accomplishment you had that exemplifies these characteristics.

Values: A company’s core values are an extension of the Mission Statement, and define what is most important to the company’s founders. Core Values are to be maintained by employees at all times, and are the blueprint for every action taken when making future decisions.  As depicted by Forbes, core values provide employees with consistency, focus, inspiration, respect, opportunities for teamwork and ingenuity, and a need for consistent and open communication. So what does this mean to someone interviewing with a company? Much like a Mission Statement, being aware of a company’s values before going into an interview can help guide conversation and provide you with the focus you need to adequately answer the “question behind the question”.  In other words, knowing what is most important to a company can help you truly understand what a hiring manager really wants to learn about you when asking questions. For instance, take a look at Lockheed Martin’s values here. Their primary focus is on passion, risk tolerance, excellence, motivation, innovation, and integrity (empowerment).  Now imagine a hiring manager from Lockheed Martin asked you to tell him/her about a challenge you faced at work, and how you dealt with that challenge. When answering this, you would know they are really wanting to know about a time when you had a challenge at work where you were successful in showing integrity, innovation, excellence in service, teamwork skills, and/or the ability to take calculated risks.  

Financial Standing: Fortunately, at Alliance, we do our research. We make sure to provide our candidates with top-notch companies that are financially sound and of great character. In saying this, when preparing for Alliance conference interviews, researching a company’s financial standing merely provides you with further insight for answering questions and will help you sound prepared, smart, and sincerely interested in employment. This can provide the hiring manager(s) with a positive first impression, and may be the factor that gives you a competitive edge over other candidates. To adequately gain access to a company’s financial standing we suggest using Morningstar for public companies, and Privco for private companies.

Social Media: It is easy to overlook social media as a helpful tool; however, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter can provide you with a window into the heart of a company. These public resources can help you see, first hand, how they interact with customers and what they truly value in business. Though the insight gained from this research won’t likely help you answer behavioral or situational interview questions, it may provide you with material that can promote friendly banter within an interview setting. Needless to say, ensuring a conversational feeling within the interview can help to ensure that hiring managers remember you as relatable and easy to work with.

Competitors: Businesses are constantly researching their competitors to consistently and diligently work toward staying one step ahead at all times. A company’s competitive edge can make or break its success in Corporate America. Sounds like common sense, right? Now imagine you go into an interview armed with some background knowledge on the company’s competition. By knowing this information in advance, you provide yourself with the opportunity to bring this up in conversation during the important “Do you have any questions for me” portion.  Just as an example, let’s say you’ve done some research on AmeriGas.  In an interview, you could potentially ask “When doing my research, I found that the Ferrellgas Partners is a major competitor of AmeriGas. What do you personally feel gives AmeriGas such a competitive edge?”. This question not only shows that you have done your research, but it also helps hiring managers remember you as someone who wants to remain competitive and it allows them the opportunity to show what they truly value about the company.

Hiring Managers and Key Players: It is always a great idea to learn a bit more about hiring managers and key players within the organization. By doing so, you may find areas of common interest or background. For instance, maybe you find that you happened to go to the same college as a hiring manager or CEO; this could be something you bring up at the beginning of conversation to lighten the mood and open up dialogue, making you more personable and relatable. Another example may be that you see a hiring manager came from a major competitor’s company (this has been the case for some hiring managers at conferences before). You could use this opportunity to ask about their decision to transition, and why they have decided to stay. Not only does this show you have done your research on the company’s competition, but you have also opened up conversation and exhibited a sincere interest in the hiring manager’s opinion. Think about it this way, more often than not hiring managers go through interview after interview with candidates telling them what they want to hear and rarely taking the time to get to know them personally. Setting yourself apart from the rest by showing sincere interest in who they are can help hiring managers remember you as someone who will go the extra mile to make others feel comfortable in uncomfortable settings. With this said, the following locations can help in your quest to discover more about key players in any company: LinkedIn, social media profiles, blogs or personal websites, Google search, or the company’s website.

Google Alerts  When researching a company, one of the most common approaches is to “Google” the company.  This method yields not just the company’s website, but other websites that may reference the company.  However, in a fluid economy, information about companies can change frequently.  For example, if a company announces a merger today, you may not know that if you Googled them yesterday.  A good way to not miss out on such breaking news is to set a Google Alert for the company.  That way you will receive an email  notification any time Google finds new results on that company.  There are various settings such a getting a daily or weekly summary instead of instantaneous notifications.

Alliance is committed to supporting transitioning JMOs wanting to start a new career in Corporate America. We provide matchless preparation leading up to every hiring conference, and ensure that each candidate steps into their interviews feeling ready for what is to come. Though this is true, taking the time to use these research strategies can set you apart from your competition and improve your chances of hearing, “You’re hired!”

Jennifer Poole