Copywriter, Digital Asset Manager, Business Analyst
“What do you know about our company?”
This is an easy one to get wrong. After all, maybe you’re super excited about the interview. Maybe you’ve focused on other important questions.
That said, there are no excuses for having nothing to say here. It’s a common question, and if you go to the company’s website, then there’s probably no end of information there. If, for some reason you’re struggling, larger employers will typically have information in various online locations such as:
- LinkedIn presence
- Presence on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.
- Wikipedia for big companies may provide a company’s history
- You could also enter into a search engine, including the double quotes: “<company name> press release”
Companies are keen to get the word out all the time. So you should have no problem sourcing information as varied as:
- Products or services
- Executive board
- Vision or principles
- Heritage (for older companies) or general history
- Financial results
- Number of employees
- Which markets are they in?
All of these examples, and more, can give you a real insight into a company. New products or quarterly financial results will give you something to talk about anytime you are asked what do you know about the company you are interviewing for.
While those are great examples, we are also going to give you some insight into why the hiring manager may be asking you what do you know about the company, and different responses you can give.
Why are they asking this question?
In an interview, it’s safe to assume that any question you’re being asked is being asked for a reason (rude questions not included of course!) The trick can be understanding, ahead of time ideally, why a specific question might be asked.
This question is asked because recruiters want to know whether you’ve bothered to learn something about them. They’ve clearly read your resume, CV and your LinkedIn profile or else they wouldn’t be able to decide whether you’re someone worth interviewing.
Think of it as the table stakes, the ante, in poker. They’ve ‘anted up’. Have you? If it quickly becomes clear to them that you haven’t, then you’ll be easy to rule out because it’ll be clear to them that you’re not serious about playing the game.
They also want to know that you’re focused your job search. They want to know that you’re taking the time to understand how the two of you, company and potential employee, align, and if so, how.
Put simply, they want to know if you’re genuinely interested and professional. That’s important for a recruiter, don’t you think?
Potential Answers to “What do you know about our Company?”
Though we give you proper responses to this interview question, it is important to note that all of these responses require some level of research. To find the right answer that fits your personality, skillset, and expectations, you’ll have to do do some digging for yourself.
Your company was founded in <insert date> to <insert founder reason>
Heinz was founded by Henry Heinz who began by marketing Horseradish. Virgin Records’ first release was an album with just two songs and no lyrics: Tubular Bells. The founders of Microsoft, Paul Allen and Bill Gates, were university drop-outs.
Can you give a summary of the humble beginnings of the company that you’re interviewing with? This is worth scouring their website for. If you can find a moment in history that kicked the company into high gear, then even better. This can also be followed by…
I know that you’ve just launched <insert product or service>
This is a great thing to talk about because it shows that you’re up-to-date with the company and what they’re offering. Together, these two answers show that you can trace the history of the company and its origins through to the present day.
Make sure that you can lay out why you understand that this is significant for the company. You need to show that you understand why this is an advancement or a paradigm shift for the market. If you can’t, then this answer risks falling flat.
I appreciate your ethic of <insert reason>
Perhaps the company only hires local employees. Perhaps they source locally-made products. Perhaps they hire homeless people or people with a criminal history looking for a break. There are lots of reasons why a company might genuinely appeal to you. Can you find one?
If you can’t find one, don’t try to fake it. It’s not likely to be convincing, and this isn’t a good time for insincerity. Can you connect the dots for the recruiter to some aspect of your own life or some moment you decided to make a change for ethical reasons, for example? You don’t have to offer up anything too personal, but you are looking for a real connection here.
I’m impressed by the vision of your leadership.
There’s a difference between sitting in the big chair and sitting in the big chair AND leading. Look at Dan Price, founder of Gravity Payments. The company had a minimum salary of $35,000. When an employee, not known, complained about being ripped off and saying that they had to work at McDonald’s as well, Price was shocked. Not long afterwards he:
- Doubled the minimum salary to $70,000
- Cut his own salary from $1.2 million to $70,000
- Sold his second home
As Dan Price put it:
Since we raised our minimum wage to $70k:
*10x more employees had kids
*10x more employees bought homes
*Our retention rate doubled
*Head count nearly doubled
*401(k) contributions grew 155%
*70% of employees paid down debt
*Zero big companies followed suit – Source: LinkedIn
His employees later said thanks by clubbing together to buy him a Tesla.
Doesn’t that sound like leadership? Doesn’t that sound like someone you want to work for or just know?
You do know why you’re excited about it, right? If you can’t lay this out for the recruiter, connecting the dots to your skills, experience or career, then this answer instantly falls apart.
I went to school/university with <insert employee name> and they love working here
If the company has hired a friend of yours who can’t stop talking about how they love the company, then that’s a great opportunity. Get the full details from your friend. Why are they talking about it so much? Is it the work? The culture? The commitment to training? Some combination? Dig a little bit with them to figure it out. Does your research of employee surveys in the public domain back this up? Are they on ‘good place to work’ lists and if so, why?
Then, when you have the interview, you’ll have a good perspective on the nature of the company. Also, the recruiter will appreciate that your friend had good things to say about the company and that you cared to research this.
Your interest or excitement has to be genuine because fakery is going to show. The recruiter you speak to interviews people for a living, so there’s no reason why you should be able to get one past them. Connect the dots: show why what your friend enjoys about working there matters to you too.
Is it ok to admit that you didn’t know much about the company?
If you didn’t know anything about the company when you saw the job, then that’s ok. But you did research them before applying, right? If you did not, then it’s ok so long as it’s a smaller company or one that doesn’t have a big public reputation, irrespective of their success. Saying that you hadn’t heard of a sector-leading company isn’t credible.
With that being said, you know that you have applied to the company, and you know that you are going for an interview. Soon you will be face-to-face with the interviewer asking ‘what do you know about our company‘.
Saying that you don’t know anything about the company looks lazy and unprofessional. Saying that you didn’t know anything is barely tolerable. However, saying that you didn’t know anything, but once you started researching the company you were really impressed by the success of a particular product series and why that impressed you is much better.
Be positive. This isn’t a good place to get into ‘full and frank’ discussions or to labor negative points. Instead, be positive and demonstrate your interest.
To quickly cover negative points: every company is going to have them. Maybe the last quarter was rough and a few people were let go, but perhaps they’ve announced some new funding. Maybe some former employees complained on Glassdoor, but they always do. By all means, see if there are red flags, but keep your conclusions in the back of your mind. Then, if the company makes you an offer, you can use it as criteria for judging whether you want to accept.
Lastly, don’t overcook your answers. Just as not every musician gets to be Bowie, so not every company gets to be Microsoft. If they’re a small company, they likely know it. So if you lay on the praise too thick, then it could do you more harm than good.
Goodluck in your interviews and Happy Job Searching!