How to research potential employers

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Even during skills shortages, there’s no excuse for not doing your homework before an interview. For trainees in particular, competition is intense.

Start with the obvious

Intelligent research can tip the balance in your favour. Not only does demonstrable knowledge of the organisation show that you’ve prepared well, but it also indicates a commitment to the position and to your long-term future.

Interviewers like to be pleasantly surprised. Aim to make the interview memorable by weaving your market awareness into your answers.

Many organisations proactively bolster the jobs content of their corporate websites. Several large employers even have dedicated careers sites. These should be studied carefully, paying close attention to finance-specific content, and to generic information on training and professional development.

Surf around

But don’t stop there. Have a look at some of the more senior finance jobs - which may be on the site or on independent accountancy job boards. These will give you an idea of the range of future roles the job you’re going for could lead to. They’re also likely to contain information that may be absent from trainee advertisements. They will help you tailor questions that show you are excited about where the job might take you.

Visit the corporate social responsibility (CSR) pages. Look for actual tangible activity - this can provide a good flavour of company culture, and give you something else to ask about at interview, particularly as finance teams often have part or full responsibility for CSR reporting. What charities or causes does the organisation support? To what extent do employees participate? What involvement is there with local communities?

Go beyond

So you’ve found out how the company likes to portray itself. What do others think? Depending on its size and activity, you will generally find a wealth of opinion online - from industry commentators admiring the company’s growth and prospects, to disgruntled customers.

Select and use this information astutely at interview. Avoid potentially embarrassing questions and steer clear of cynical references and rumours. Perhaps bring in wider industry know-how, such as asking about the impact of new regulations (or, indeed, deregulation) or the opportunities presented by the opening up of emerging markets.

Giving your interviewers the opportunity to talk up their company in the light of your well-researched questions will mean they will remember you for all the right reasons.

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