By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman

Whether you’re interviewing for a contract assignment or a regular full-time position, the engineering manager will probably ask: “So, what do you know about our firm?”

How you respond to this seemingly innocent question could mean the difference between an offer and rejection. According to a survey of 2,000 bosses, failing to research a company before an interview is one of the top mistakes job seekers make.

Knowledge is power. Here are three areas you need to check out before you meet with an engineering firm.

Your Mission: Understand the Firm’s Business Rationale

To prevail as an interviewer, it’s important to connect the dots between the firm’s business needs and your engineering experience. Being able to discuss a firm’s challenges, mission and customers in an intelligent way will position you as an insightful and diligent professional.

To get a complete understanding of the firm’s business rationale, start at the highest level you can and work your way down. Investigate the latest trends in the industry and subset and the factors that shape the competitive landscape. Then, delve into the firm’s capabilities, products, customers, awards and news.

The firm’s website, Google News and your recruiter may give you more than enough information to meet your objective.  But just in case, here are some additional resources:

Your Mission: Get to Know the People

Your success may come down to how well you connect personally and professionally with the engineering manager during the interview process. Plus, a firm’s culture, priorities and business practices emanate with its leaders. Go undercover to find out more about the firm’s principals and the manager you’ll be meeting.

Do you have anything in common with the engineering manager? Do you belong to the same groups? Did you attend the same college? Have the firm’s leaders published any articles or papers? Do they blog or Tweet? Do they have any patents? Have they received any awards or honors: Have they spoken at conferences? Do you have any shared connections? If so, give them a ring. Your colleagues may not only be an excellent source of information about a prospective firm and manager, they may volunteer to put in a good word for you.

The firm’s website and LinkedIn may provide enough information, but if you need more try Spoke or ZoomInfo.

Your Mission: Examine the Culture

While skills and experience are important, standing out from a well-qualified pack often boils down to cultural fit. Researching a firm’s work environment can uncover tidbits about its reputation, policies and practices and help you answer interview questions that explore your cultural fit.

Start by checking out the firm’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages to see what employees and customers are saying. Consider the firm’s rating by the Better Business Bureau. Then, search the specialized websites listed below to see what your peers are saying about the firm’s culture and leaders. Finally, if you want to know what an engineering firm is really like to work for, be sure to leverage your network.

  • Glassdoor offers reviews, salaries and interview questions shared by employees and candidates.
  • Vault provides employee ratings and feedback on some engineering firms.
  • Indeed has thousands of reviews submitted by current and past employees.

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