It’s safe to say most students are aware they should research a company before they send in their applications or go through an interview, but the reality is many do only a cursory amount of research, and some do none at all.
The benefits of effectively researching companies as part of your job hunt are:
- More efficient use of your time- Digging around on Google can quickly lead you down endless rabbit holes; having a process to follow will keep you on track if you lose focus, and keep your research focused to make sure you get a clear picture of the business.
- Confidence in your preparation - ‘Those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail’, as the saying goes; having a process that you
- You’ll be able to spot any red flags - Once you start poking around on Google, you may discover some negative reviews or information about the company. While things you dig up should in many cases be taken with a grain of salt, you may come across concerns that are important to you and relevant enough to be raised in an interview later.
In this post, I’ll cover why you should research companies as part of your job search, what information you should be looking for when doing your research, and finally offer some tips on organizing your research effectively so you can knock your next application out of the park.
There are three key advantages held by the candidate that does the proper research:
- Your research will help you (tailor your resume and cover letter ) to be as attractive as possible to land you the interview.
- The amount of research you’ve done will be apparent pretty quickly to the person interviewing you, and this applies whether you’ve done a lot, or little to none at all. It goes without saying that showing that you have taken the time to research the company and think about how you can add value will reflect positively on you as a candidate.
- Your research will give you the confidence of having some idea of what you’re talking about when you go into the interview.
It’s also possible that researching a company could lead you to the realization that you’re not really interested in working for them. This fits with our goal of effective and efficient research; if it rules a company out altogether, you can put more energy toward the ones you do want to work for.
What should you research?
In a nutshell, you want to have a solid grasp on what the company does, who the key people in the company are, and how the position you are applying for helps the company achieve its goals. This information will help you laser-focus your resume and cover letter, and help you in the interview stage of the hiring process.
To get that robust picture, you might do the following:
- Visit their website and look at their products/services pages, the ‘about us’ page, and any page about the team
- Look up any social media profiles, in particular Facebook, Twitter, & Linkedin
- Look up their executive team on Linkedin
- Google search the company using the ‘news’ search
- Figure out their top 3 competitors
- Come up with at least 3 questions you have about the company or the people in it
Also, see if you can (establish what the company’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is, and what the company’s values and mission are. The USP is the one factor that differentiates the business from its competitors, the company’s values will tell you what’s important to them, and the mission statement will tell you why they exist in the first place.
Other things you might research, depending on the company size and industry:
- The company’s website data on sites like similarweb.com, spyfu.com, and semrush.com
- The company’s stock market position and financial status
- The company’s profile on Glassdoor.com, which has employee reviews, company ratings, and salary information
How to organize yourself for success
The three keys to researching effectively as a job seeker are:
- Knowing what you’re after
- Consistency in approach
- Keeping the information you gather organized
We’ve covered the point number one already; points two and three are about organization and execution.
Consistency in approach means you apply the same research process each time you sit down to do it. Maintaining a consistent approach will help you become more efficient over time, as you will discover reliable sources for certain information that you can come back to repeatedly, and you’ll train yourself against getting distracted down a Youtube or Facebook rabbit hole.
So how do you maintain a consistent approach? The answer lies in point #3...organization.
If you know what you’re after and you have your approached locked down, storing your results in an organized fashion is the last piece of the puzzle.
If you have your own system that works for you, use it! If you’re not a naturally organized person, (there’s a free spreadsheet for you) here that will help you both organize your research and keep track of applications and follow-up.
To make your own copy of the spreadsheet, simply click file and choose ‘Make a Copy’.
Once you get your company research process down pat, it will take you less time to do it and you’ll be writing better cover letters and resumes, as well as performing better in your interviews. Organization is a skill that eludes many of us (including the author of this piece); don’t let it sidetrack your job hunt!
Do you have any more job research tips or tricks? Add yours in the comments below.
Author: Lauren McAdams is a career adviser and hiring manager at ResumeCompanion.com. She’s been quoted by sites like Forbes, TechRepublic, and Careerbuilder.com. When she’s not busy helping job seekers, she’s sipping on coffee or a glass of wine - depending on the time of day of course.