An HR is trained to speak corporate without giving out the real thoughts behind decisions and situations. However, to truly judge the situation well enough and extract the greatest value from a negotiation round in your favor, you need to be able to read the person (company) and their real motivations!
Some tricks to evaluate the true hiring or negotiation motivations and context can be determined by the following steps:
Reach up on recent news - all significant news will either be shared on LinkedIn or in the most common journals. The recent news will inform you who their outward-facing key people are, where they can be met - which events
Check out the company website and check out Events, Blogs and News - these are sections where the company is speaking out to investors and for branding - if the company has raised funds, this information will be available. If the company has reached a landmark - say 100th employee or even 10 years in operations- this will be shared. This can help you understand the scale of their operations
Check out what they are saying about their products and services on their website and other SM channels - this is where the company is speaking to potential customers. This will show where their product focus is and also their product strengths.
Check the number of employees on LinkedIn- this will reflect their financial performance - growing revenue and a company on the upcurve is always growing its team.
Check out the profiles of key people on LinkedIn - see what the founders and HoDs have for work ex - check out if they have been at the company for long or if people are constantly joining and leaving. A lot of fluctuation in senior and C-level roles means the company is going through turbulence and not really sure of its future path, which is why no senior experienced leader wants to stick around for too long! On the other hand, if the leadership is stable and long-staying, it shows that they have confidence, and clarity about the path and security of their future.
Check out the Co-founders and their history - this is very important - especially for the long-term stability of the company and thereby your future job. If the founders are stalwarts with proven experience, it means that they have access and networks which are propelling the company forward.
Check out your team lead - see what are the connection points with him to craft your interview more consciously in the direction you want to take it.
By doing the above, you will have created a good overview and should be able to answer the following questions.
What are they looking for in me - skills and quality-wise?
What values do they stand for?
What is the company culture like?
What is the experience in my future team - what is the added value which I will bring, that they value
And with the answer to these questions, you are prepared to take on the salary discussion and crack that interview!