How to Research a Potential Employer

It’s been said that the business of finding work is a job in and of itself.

It takes time to evaluate your capabilities and experiences, match your skills to likely positions, fine-tune your resume to play up your credentials, craft effective cover letters and figure out how to stand out when the interview happens.

Here’s something else to tackle: Arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible about prospective employers. It will give you a better perspective for asking thoughtful questions during an interview.

Even more important, the hiring team expects you to be able to articulate exactly what it is about the company that makes you want to work there. When you’re armed with relevant and easily accessed information – market expansions, new product launches or financial performance – that’s a good thing. You’re seen as a potential advocate for the company, not just yourself.

Good research entails conducting a background check of sorts on a company to deepen your understanding of the people, culture and policies that make it tick. Some of the basic facts to dig out include organizational structure and life stage, number of employees, history, client composition and reputation. What’s the tenor of any news coverage? Any Yelp reviews or Better Business Bureau citations? And what’s the business environment like? Competitive and/or regulatory pressures, for example, can signal instability.

Once you know the types of things to look for, numerous resources are available and easily accessible. Here are some great places to start:

  • Company website. Take a deep dive into a company’s website for information about products or services, as well as the company’s mission and values. Check out profiles of key executives. What are their backgrounds and longevity at the company? The press section is helpful, too; it’s where announcements like earnings and financing deals are located, along with other significant developments and news coverage.
  • LinkedIn. You’ll want to look at the company profile (search companies from the drop-down menu on top of your LinkedIn home page). Beyond company information, you’ll find who you’re connected with that works there (consider dropping them a message requesting insights or a recommendation) and current job openings. But also check out the profiles of the people interviewing you. It’s a chance to uncover common ground and get a sense of their backgrounds and interests to help break the ice.
  • Career review sites. Websites such as Glassdoor and CareerBliss give you an “inside look” at jobs and companies in the form of information supplied about employers by employees, such as salaries and job postings. Anonymous reviews rate companies on benefits and culture. While it gives a good sense of an organization, reviews should be taken with a grain of salt.

The more you know about prospective employers the more prepared you will be to identify positions most likely to fit with your skills and personality. Use your insights to ensure you stand out in person. Your genuine interest and knowledge reflect the kind of work you’ll do for their company, and, odds are, bring a successful end to your job search.

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