Conducting simple research into a prospective employer is a necessity in this day and age, but when is the right time to start? Many experts encourage job seekers to look into a company in preparation for an interview; however, your investigation should really begin before that. A job application is a big investment of time and effort, so it makes sense to learn a little bit about an organization prior to writing/editing your resume, creating a customized cover letter, and completing any additional documents required for the hiring process.
In the pre-internet days, researching a company would require a large amount of legwork, but nowadays a wealth of information is only a few clicks away. The amount of time you spend will depend entirely upon how thorough you want your investigation to be. To make things simple, we’ll split our list of advice and resources into three categories: general research, second-level scrutiny, and face-to-face/in-person inquiries.
The first place to go for basic information about a potential employer is their corporate website (if they don’t have an online presence or their site appears outdated, consider whether you really should spend time looking for other sources or if you even want to apply for a position with them).
Once you’ve read up on the organization’s industry, products, and/or major clients on their site, you can delve a little bit deeper at directories such as CorporateInformation, Hoovers, or ZoomInfo. These types of sites provide insight regarding the enterprise’s senior leadership team as well as annual revenue, operating income, growth rates, and other performance-related data.
Other places where you can quickly and easily perform initial research include the company’s LinkedIn page (if you’re trying to identify the hiring manager for the position you’re considering, this is the place to look) and GlassDoor reviews. Don’t forget to check out mentions on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
If you want to keep digging, start by searching for recent news articles and press releases. Local news outlets are great resources for information about smaller companies. Many publications even have special business sections where you can find company spotlights or profiles of management personnel and other key employees. Press releases are very useful if you’re looking for details regarding a new product, recent acquisition, or other noteworthy announcement.
You can also examine court cases to find out about some of the inner workings of the enterprise or industry (if you don’t have a background reading these types of documents, however, it can be difficult to wade through the legal jargon and glean useful insights in a timely fashion). Information related to civil suits and/or criminal proceedings could also alert you if the company is prone to disputes or flat-out dishonest.
If you want to get the most comprehensive understanding possible of a corporation and its business environment, look through industry-focused or professional journals to identify trends or opportunities that you may be able to help the organization capitalize on. Finally, for a completely unbiased opinion of what it’s like to work for that employer, join an appropriate online forum or discussion group and find out what others know or have heard.
There’s only so much you can learn by reading about a place; sometimes the best strategy is to visit in person and conduct your own fact-finding mission. One approach you can utilize is to simply show up to your interview a bit early and take note of the “vibe” around the office. Are people chatting while they work or does everyone seem a bit on edge? Is there a collegial atmosphere or is the office silent as a morgue? These are the types of judgements you can only make by having seen an operation with your own two eyes.
Aside from observing the work environment, you can (and should) also ask your interviewer if you can speak with one or two of your future coworkers and/or someone from a different department entirely. An impromptu discussion with a current employee will help you make an informed decision on whether the business is the right place for you. Conversely, if the hiring manager seems reluctant to allow you to speak with staff members, that’s a pretty clear indicator that something’s not right.
The final tactic you can use to uncover details about your potential employer is by speaking with a vendor or customer. Again, if your interviewer or company contact doesn’t have anything to hide, they should be willing to arrange a brief chat between you and a supplier or client. Happy partners and customers are usually key indicators of an organization’s overall health and growth prospects.
Knowledge is power. This is especially true when it comes to the modern job search. As an applicant, you’re scrutinized and judged throughout the entire hiring process, but you should also be just as vigilant as the employer you’re seeking to impress. Don’t waste your time by blindly applying for open positions. Find out first if the company is the type of place you can see yourself thriving before you put forth the time and effort applications and interviews require.