Undertaking research into a potential employer means you have both a better chance of getting the job and making sure it is the right one for you.

Usually Job Specifications tell you what is required of you and give you overview on what the company does. But to make sure any decision you make is the right one, you need to know much more, for instance, what’s it like to work there, what is the MD like, what are the prospects for the company etc. the list goes on.

Any research you do will prepare you for the interview and enable you to ask more pertinent questions that will enhance your credibility in turn increase your chances of success. In potentially what is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life, having a good grasp of what the key issues are with a potential employer is vital.

Here is a list of some of the ways to do your homework on an employer both before and during the interview process:

1) Read all you can on the Company

The company website is a starting point, if it is a PLC all the better as the Investor Relations area is always a rich source of information. In addition, search for recent articles on the company in the local and national online business press. Also there are various business information sites (i.e. Hemscott, Kompass, Cocredo) that provide more in depth financial information on companies. Any research you can do into the sector or competitive environment the business operates in will give you a distinct advantage

2) Look up who works there on Linked in

Search linked in for the profiles of who will be interviewing you, as well as the MD or CEO and whoever else you want to find out more about prior to meeting them. You can find out where they have worked previously and how they have arrived at where they are. An additional linked in tool allows you to ask a question on LinkedIn Answers to ask users about companies you’re looking at, many people ask a friend to do this on there behalf so the query is not coming from you.

3) Ask people you know and tap into your own professional network

Ask people you know (and trust) if they know anyone who has worked or works at the company, how did they find it? If you wanted to talk to them yourself, a friendly introduction means you can often get a good insight into what the company is like to work for. On a broader note ask your network of business contacts if anyone has had contact with the company in the past. If they have then what experiences have they had, who do they know there, what have they heard etc.

4) Arrive really early for the interview

If you arrive 20-25 minutes early for an interview you should get an opportunity sit in the reception area and get a feel for the place (if you don’t want to appear to eager or overly early, say you had no idea how easy and quick it was to get there to make it look like a genuine bit of luck). You can sometimes get a feel for the moral of the staff and the culture of a business by being a passive observer to the comings and goings of the people who work there.

5) Ask to meet other people in the in the Business

Although it is not always practical, the more people you meet in a company the more chance you have to see what it is like. Depending on the role you are going for it may be possible to meet with Heads of other Departments or other Managers or Directors at the same level.

6) Research the product or service

If it is a retailer, go into the shop, if it is a food manufacturer, buy the food, basically try and sample your potential employer’s product or service first hand. You could call their customer service department and ask questions about it to find out how they treat customers or contact them and ask for a brochure to be sent out. It is always useful to know how a business treats its customers. In addition, if you have some pertinent observations on your experience then it will give you an excellent advantage during the interview process.

7) Ask key questions during the process

Whilst you don’t want to leave any stones unturned, you cannot rattle off an unduly large list of questions. I have sat in on an interview before where a candidate produced a piece of paper with 15 questions written down and proceeded to go through them one by one (they didn’t get the job). Through the process ask about the competition, the strategy for the business, key challenges and risks/opportunities.

threesixty selection – Management & Executive Recruitment Practice. Specialist Search & Selection in Finance, Purchasing, Supply Chain, Manufacturing and Sales.