How to research a company before your job interview

Tips for effectively researching a company before you are asked in to interview & the things you should bring with you to wow a hiring manager.

So you have made it to the interview. Congratulations! Obviously you have already impressed the employer &mdash on paper. Now it is time to impress them face-to-face, and that means bringing your A game, or maybe your A+ game.

Preparing for the interview is the very first step in the right direction towards success. Bringing your résumé and references are safe starting points, but you may not realize that there are other tools that will help you stand out. So what should job seekers bring to an interview, exactly? Here are five things that can make a difference in today’s job market.

1. The “Brag Book”

Scott Brent, a surgical sales representative and interviewing expert believes that the age of strict résumé and references are gone and job seekers should look to other outlets when impressing an interviewer.

“Traditionally, people going on an interview would bring only a résumé and themselves to the interview,” Brent says. “Those days are gone. I don’t care if you are interviewing for a C-suite level job (CEO, CFO) or a job at McDonald’s, what you bring to your interview is crucial. In my industry, it is called a ‘brag book.’ This is the most important thing you can bring to your interview. Basically this is a book you put together showcasing all of the accomplishments in your career.”

The “brag book” is meant to be left behind for the employers so they can remember you. In the folder, a job seeker can provide things such as a current, clean copy of your résumé, a list of references and samples of work that would be relevant to the job. Other things to include in the folder are news articles you may have published or been mentioned in and any awards you may have received. This is your time to show the employer what you can do for the company.

2. An iPad or Tablet

Used correctly, an iPad or tablet will help to demonstrate your work to the employers and show your ability to adapt to new technology. Plus, information just looks more visually appealing on a tablet than on a piece of paper.

“Something that I’ve been impressed by and think is quite valuable is the use of an iPad or tablet to demonstrate a job seekers work, display samples, show applications they have developed, etc,” said David Chie, COO, Palo Alto. “Doing so definitely sets the candidate apart and really helps demonstrate their abilities.”

3. 3-month, 6-month and year-long plan

Constructing a plan for your role in the position is extremely helpful. This tactic not only shows initiative and hard work, but also demonstrates your ability to plan ahead. While researching the company and position, think of new ways to achieve your goals. In the plan, you can include new ideas for achievement or examples of how you will execute any assignments as given. This plan can be left behind for employers.

“I believe that job seekers should bring their ideas and plans on how they would do the job they are interviewing for,” says Kathi Elster, executive coach and co-author of “Working with You Is Killing Me” and “Working for You Isn’t Working for Me.” “You would do this by researching the company and reading all you can find about them concerning their goals and initiatives. So many job seekers are focused on what they have done, but letting a company know what you could do for them is just one step further.”

4. Relevant news articles of the company or industry

Not only should you research the company on their website, but you should also take the extra step and research the company and industry extensively. Understand what challenges may be present in the industry. Staying on top of the company and industry will help you succeed in not only the interview, but will help you if offered the position.

“As one who has interviewed candidates on numerous occasions, the thing that impressed me the most was candidates who had done some research on the company,” says Ann Middleman. “Nowadays it is as easy as looking at the website. But they can also Google the CEO, check out the stock price (if it is a public company), even look at an analyst’s report or the annual report. They might even bring written materials about the company, if possible. This shows initiative, intelligence, research skills, and the confidence to understand that the candidate is choosing the company just as much as the company is choosing the candidate.”

5. Cheat sheet

Yes, it is okay to cheat during the interview. Outlining a plan is imperative to an interview, but sometimes the nerves take over and you forget key points that you want to mention. There is nothing wrong with pulling out a piece of paper with questions and bullet points. As long as you don’t read directly from your paper, you will be fine.

“Bring a cheat sheet and questions. There is no rule that says you can’t bring a nice portfolio with some notes and question on it so during the interview you glance down at it,” says Mark Lyden, author of “Professionals: Do This! Get Hired!”. “What should be on the cheat sheet are little reminders of situations (your life experiences) that you may want to give as an example to answer one of the interview questions.”

The interview is an exciting, but nerve wracking time. It is your chance to prove your ability, experience, knowledge and enthusiasm for the position. Being prepared is the key to nailing an interview. Of course your credentials are first and foremost, but most employers can usually tell if the person is right for the job within the first two-minutes of an interview, believe it or not. Just stick to the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared” and you’ll be ready to impress.

Have you used one of these tools in your job search? Do you think there are other items that can help your interview? Or do you think a simple résumé and good answers are all you need in an interview? Let us know.

Watch part II of how to effectively research an employer before your interview.