Here’s something interesting from the Harvard Business Review:
“Employers are researching each of us digitally 24/7/365.”
They’re collecting your online information. Analyzing and scoring you. Evaluating whether to hire you based on their findings.
They’re doing their homework.
And guess what?
You should be doing your homework, too.
You should be researching your potential employer, so you’ll have operational knowledge before applying for the job.
So here, I’ll discuss:
- Why You Should Conduct This Research in Your Job Search.
- What You Should Research About a Company.
- Where You Can Do Your Research.
What Potential Employers Are You Targeting?
Before we get into these things, I must make something clear.
You shouldn’t waste your time with the shotgun strategy to looking for a job. I say this often because of its importance.
You can’t focus your job search efforts with this approach. Instead, you should commit to a targeted technique.
Identify companies you want to work for. Companies interested in your skills and experience. Companies you’ll have no problem working for every day.
This alone takes research. But, it results in less aggravation.
Mary Elizabeth Bradford, Job Search Coach and Certified Master Resume Writer, says the following about targeting companies:
“Developing the right list of target companies for you is so important because, done right, it’s going to save you a tremendous amount of time, increase your interviews and save you from the frustration of doing it wrong, which can create an illusion that the reason you are not getting enough quality interviews is because there is something wrong with you or your resume.”
So, create a list of 30, 40, 50, or 100 companies you find interesting using sources, such as:
If you have difficulty identifying companies with these sources, you might find the following helpful:
You’re ready to see if these companies are filling positions you’re suited for from here. If they are, then it’s time for more research.
Why Should You Perform All This Research on a Potential Employer?
I talk about customizing resumes and cover letters a lot here on the blog. And, you can’t customize your job application materials without performing company research.
How is this so? You learn nothing about the company’s structure, people, culture, and hiring process, without this process.
This helps you shrink you targeted list (discussed above) because you answer these questions:
- What Size Company Do You Want to Work For? Big or Small?
- What’s the Company’s Mission? Do You Support It?
- What Does Career Advancement Opportunities Look Like?
- What Type of Commute Will You Have?
- What is the Company’s Culture and Environment? Will You Fit In? Will You Enjoy Working There?
And, you have an idea of what you’re getting into if you choose to apply.
Does Researching Your Potential Employer Come with Benefits?
Now, I’ll admit: this research takes work. With no assurance of landing a job offer, you might find it easier to skip this step. Especially when you’ve been embarked on a lengthy job search.
But, it comes with an advantage. “By thoroughly researching the employer,” says Nicole of ManpowerGroup, “you increase your chances of making a positive and memorable first impression.”
You’ll increase your understanding of the company’s needs. You’ll know the company (and its values) well enough to connect with the hiring manager(s) – and possibly move forward in the process.
Additional benefits of company research, according to Liz Ryan of Human Workplace in her Bloomberg article, include:
- An Ability to Make Better Decisions.
- An Ability to Ask Pithier Interview Questions.
- An Extra Boost of Confidence in Your Dealings.
The last point is especially important for the first two (if you decide to apply), right?
Your research will increase your company-related smarts and reduce your (job search and) job interview anxiety. Thereby, improving your action, performance, and communication.
You already know: every advantage is beneficial in today’s job market.
What Should You Research About Potential Employers? How Do You Do It?
So, what should you research about a company before applying? Where should you look for this information?
Check out the points below.
1.) You Should Explore the Company’s Industry.
Whether this is a known or new industry to you, it helps to learn (or keep up-to-date) with the industry. Things change over time, and you’ll benefit from knowledge gained by:
- Reading Books, Blogs, Publications, Journals, and Websites in Your Industry.
- Reading the Latest News via Google (and Newspapers).
- Browsing S & P Global Ratings.
- Talking to Industry Leaders about Challenges, Changes, and Trends.
Now, keep this in mind: you shouldn’t stress yourself over learning everything. What matters most is your willingness to increase your knowledge about your chosen industry, trends, issues, and history.
2.) You Should Explore What the Company Does.
Above, I encouraged you to explore the industry. However, you shouldn’t stop there. You should go further and explore the company as well.
It’s hard to really know a company, without digging for more information. When you perform research, though, you learn more about:
- Who Founded and Now Runs the Company.
- The Customers and Their Problems.
- The Company’s Products and Services, If Any.
- The Company’s Advantages, If Any.
Usually, you can find this information on the company’s ‘About’ page using Google Search. You can also explore additional pages on the website – and the blog, if there’s one.
3.) You Should Explore Why the Founder(s) Started the Company.
Is the work meaningful to customers and the world? Will it motivate you to give your best daily?
It’s important to understand your potential role within the position and why you want to be a part of this employer’s community. It’s also good to know if the company’s values match yours.
Check out the company’s Mission Statement for this information.
4.) You Should Explore the Company’s Culture.
Company culture is what separates one company from another. This matters, too.
Liz Ryan, CEO and Founder of Human Workplace, says in an LinkedIn article:
“Corporate culture isn’t just important — it’s everything. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the leadership team is; if the culture is dark and fearful, nothing good can happen. If the culture is toxic, good ideas can’t bubble up. Good people won’t stay.”
You can learn about an organization’s culture in several ways:
- Analyzing the Job Posting.
- Checking Out Its Website’s Leadership Page.
- Watching Its Hiring Process.
- Watching Online Videos (If You Find Any).
- Checking Out The Muse’s Company Profiles.
- Visiting Vault Rankings and Reviews and Researching the Company.
- Looking at Glassdoor’s Company Reviews.
- Bonus: Checking Out the Interactions of People at Your Job Interview (If You Apply for the Job and Make It to the Job Interview Stage).
You also can take it one step further when interviewing by asking culture-related questions, according to Meghan Rabbit on Learnvest:
- Question the Handling of Rookie Mistakes.
- Question the Focus on Team Development.
- Question the Role of the Position At The Company (for the Interviewer(s) Views On It).
5.) You Should Explore Your Potential Boss.
Not only do you want to learn about the company itself, but you also want to learn about your potential boss. Gallup research found:
“One in two [employees] had left their job to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career.”
Knowing this, it’s important to learn what you can about this person. In his Fast Company article entitled, It’s Not About You: How to Interview Your Potential Boss, Harvey Deutschendorf, author of The Other Kind of Smart, Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Effectiveness and Success, lists several ways to learn more about your future manager:
- Talking to People Within the Company.
- Asking Questions, such as: “Describe a problem that you had with one of your staff. How did you go about resolving it?”
- Watching Out for Negative and/or Positive Signs.
6.) You Should Explore Who Had the Position Previously.
This is an additional step, but I’ve found it helpful. It doesn’t hurt to explore who had the position before it became available.
You might possibly learn something about the company and role in this person’s own words. You might also learn if this person received a promotion or left the company.
You can see if the person is on LinkedIn for this part of your research.
Will You Do Your Company Research Before Applying?
You’ve reached the end of this article! Now you know the value of performing – more than basic – research in your job search.
Researching a potential employer isn’t hard to do these days, but it takes time and effort. This time and effort is worth it, though.
It allows you to learn more about a company (in its own words and the words of others) and whether you want to apply for a position there or not.
If you decide to move on and apply, then you can use your findings to relay ways you’ll contribute to the employer’s mission.
Should you receive a job interview request, you’ll rightly answer questions, such as, “Why do you want to work here?” You’ll also have enough information to ask the interviewer(s) relevant questions.
It’s difficult to “market” your skills, abilities, and experiences, without company research. I hope you consider these things before submitting your next cover letter and resume.
P. S. Do you research a prospective employer before applying for a job? If so, then what’s your research process? Please share with me here.
Disclaimer 1: I am not an HR or Career Professional by training. When I write on job search topics, I write from the perspective of a job seeker with experience in job searching.
Disclaimer 2: This article contains outgoing links to the work of others on the following websites/blogs: Harvard Business Review, Elana Lyn, Knock Em Dead, Salary Tutor, Mary Elizabeth Bradford, Tim’s Strategy, Forbes, Jobipedia, Bloomberg, Business Insider, Learnvest, Gallup, and Fast Company.