Even if researching organizations and their people during your job search is as appealing as a root canal, you must do it – or hire someone to do it for you. It’s that important. What are the benefits?
- You’ll capture hard facts and seize data indicating alignment between your qualifications and the job’s criteria.
- You’ll be armed with dazzling answers when asked, “What do you know about our company?”
- You’ll gain footing to soak up new facts during the interview.
- Your preparedness will illustrate you’re an “A” list candidate who should be seriously considered.
Online research can reveal rich resources
Filling your coffers online with useful (and often free) information on most public and some private companies is pretty much as basic as following directions to “click here.” In a few hours or an evening, you can at least look at these resources:
- Financial data
- Annual reports
- News releases
- Information about products and services
- Industry trends
- Competitor information
And you may well find through digging:
- Corporate culture
- Pending layoffs
- Pending mergers and acquisitions
- Employee views on a company
- Shifts in management or key leadership
- Outlooks for the company from financial sites, i.e. Wall Street Journal, etc.
Size and growth
The size of a company and the scope of its operations can often give you good insight into its mission and opportunities. Strive to answer the following questions:
- What is the company’s industry?
- Has the company expanded globally?
- Is it expanding or downsizing?
- What are its divisions and subsidiaries?
- How many employees does it have?
- How many customers does it serve? What kind?
- How many locations does it have? Are there foreign-based sites?
Strategy and direction
Sleuthing for information on a company’s development and planning efforts can often be found at its website, annual report, news pages, or the industry’s trade publications. Try answering these questions in your research:
- What are the company’s current priorities?
- What is its mission?
- What are its top issues and problems?
- What are its top prospects and opportunities?
- Is it introducing any new products or services?
Products or services
You will at the very least, want to know the staple products and services for the company that you’re interviewing with. Dig for these types of answers:
- What services or products does the company offer?
- What are the company’s areas of expertise?
- How does the company invigorate the industry – by pioneering products, cutting costs, entering new markets, or what?
Culture and reputation
What’s the pace like at this organization? Laid-back? Informal? Formal? Aggressive? Whirlwind? You may well need to talk to folks, but for starters, you can often shed light on an organization’s culture through sites like Glassdoor.com and others:
- What’s its reputation?
- What types of employees does it hire?
- How does it treat employees? Is there a generational imbalance? A history of pushing out older workers?
- What’s the scoop on its management?
- Is it going through – or has recently gone through, mergers and acquisition?
- Does it operate on lean staffing?
Try and get a sense of the company’s place in the work universe. How is it positioned within its industry? A company’s competitive stance often speaks volumes about its stability and hiring people – like you. Get to the bottom with questions like these:
- Who are the company’s competitors?
- What are the company’s current initiatives and projects?
- What have its greatest successes been?
- What setbacks has it had?
- Will technology be its friend or foe? Does it operate with the latest technology now?
- Does it hire cheap labor? Outsource jobs to other places?
- Does it develop, engage and empower its talent?
Gathering timely and correct information about financials is not a quick effort, but it’s advisable to learn about a company’s precarious financial picture before you’re hired than after you’re laid off. Deep dive for these gems:
- What are the company’s sales? Earnings? Assets?
- How secure is its financial base?
- Is its profit trending up or down?
- How much of its earnings go to pay staff?
- Is it a subsidiary or a division of a bigger company? Are there recent mergers or acquisitions on the horizon that might shift financials?
- How deep in debt in the company?
As you gather information for your job search, there will be a plethora of websites and resources to help you. In my next post, I’ll share some of those additional resources to investigate situations like startups, where employees talk, and more.
What are your thoughts on doing company research? I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below.