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I am a software developer and I am looking for a new job. My current work environment is getting negative by the day and being in a panic mode I am desperate to find a new opportunity. As a result, I have applied to a few open positions based on the job role/responsibilities and not research the company in detail (I do have a brief idea of what they are about) as my primary focus right now is to find another job.

When a recruiter or interviewer asks about what do I think about their company or product, I get a little confused about how to answer it the best. This is mainly because I don't find enough time between my current work, preparing for the interview itself and researching about the company/product. How would you go about doing so? Any advice would help a lot.

Based on some of the comments/answers for this question it is clear that many of you took the liberty to judge a person and his/her situation based on a few wrong words in the description of the problem rather than thinking emphatically and answering it.

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    If you're applying to so many positions that you can't do basic research on the employers, you're likely to end up somewhere that makes you unhappy. Or at best, wasting a bunch of everyone's time. You may be better served to spend more time researching before applying, be a little more selective in where you apply (employers you think you'd like), and then apply to fewer positions. A candidate that spams tons of openings, and then can't even show that they spent a few minutes researching my company's product or service, comes off as a time waster. – dwizum Mar 19 at 20:06
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There are two aspects to this:

1. What job you are looking for

If you don't care about the company at all, but only about the position, your strategy to primarily go by the job description is valid - as long as the job descriptions are providing all the information you need to decide whether you are interested in the position. A job description typically has two types of information, 1) what you are required to know and 2) what you will be doing at the job.

Sometimes there is also a bit additional information that gives you a hint at how you will be doing that at this company, i.e. a flimsy glimps of work culture.

However, for many people other aspects are relevant as well, e.g.

  • what industry is the company operating in: many people do not want to work for the military or for an NGO assuming pay will be bad
  • what size is the company
  • what hierarchy (flat/deep) has the company
  • what age structure has the company
  • what products does the company sell
  • ...

If such general aspects are of no concern to you, i.e. you're primarily concerned what you need to do and what you need to know to get hired, then your approach is fine to decide which job to apply to.

2. What recruiters look for

Another aspect is what recruiters look for in candidates. Many recruiters want to make sure a new hire will stay long-term with the company and really wants to work there. One method they have to gauge how much you want that particular job is in checking how much effort you put into preparing that one application/interview. To do so, they might ask how well you know the company and maybe try to verify any claim by asking specific questions. The more you know, the more time you obviously spent researching the company. It's also always a plus if you can present yourself as interested in the general area the company works in, as this might indicate more enthusiasm to learn the particular knowledge domain.

So, if you do not spend time to get to know the company beforehand, you might lower your chances if a recruiter follows this approach. Note that it's a trade off. In particular, if you really don't care which company you end up with, you can either apply to more companies or prepare yourself better for less interviews and the overall chance to score a job might be about the same with the same time-investment (just invested differently). It's up to you. If you however really want a particular job, it's definitely helpful to know something about the company.

As to what is expected, the more you know the better, but typically it's already enough if it gets clear you know what company you are currently interviewing for and what it roughly does. Let's say you apply with Tesla, you should know they make cars and are pioneering electric cars in particular (and that hopefully is totally fascinating for you).

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I'm going largely the other route from conventional wisdom. As a software developer, our skills translate across most industries without great setbacks. In that light, you'd be weeding yourself out of 90% of jobs you could very plausibly fit because they don't fit the one industry you currently know or that you have researched. We as often are looking more for a work environment or nature of what is being created (full stack, certain languages, etc.) That said...

Do your research. First, before you go so far as to apply at least go to their site and see what industry they're in and what they think of themselves. If you get the callback, dig some more. Go a bit deeper on their site to see what their products are. Check them on GlassDoor, etc. Google for some news. Check LinkedIn. Under an hour the night before allows you to be honest without shooting yourself in the foot.

When you're in the interview speak to a few things that you have noticed, but don't fake it. It's okay, especially in a field-crossing discipline like software, to say you'd like to learn more and one of the things you love about software is not only its portability but the opportunity to learn other fields along the way. The main thing is to demonstrate you've shown at least some interest in their purpose beyond giving you a paycheck.

  • This is a useful answer. Thank you! – user163824 Mar 21 at 21:59
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Is that a bad approach?

Yes.

Why would you apply to a company if you don't know what the company is actually doing and whether it's aligned with your interests and values? Feels like a a potential waste of time for both parties.

It's really not that hard to research a company: check out their website, look them up on Glassdoor (or equivalent) and if they sell products, read a few customer reviews. There are a lot of things you can find out in 15 minutes or less.

If you like what you see, put some comments about your research into your application: this will make it stronger and significantly increase your chance of getting to the next step.

If you don't, just move on. 15 minutes of research just saved you of a lot of time talking to recruiters and/or interviewers that you don't want to talk to.

It's NOT a good idea to answer the question "why do you want to work here?" with "Don't know, what do you guys actually do?"

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