I recently worked with a client who scheduled a coffee meeting with an employee from…
A key piece of advice I share with job seekers is to research a company before applying for a job and, certainly, before an interview. In either situation, this detective work will pay off: you’ll be more informed and better positioned as a candidate. Because this advice may also sound vague, here are best practices that walk you through how to research a company you’re interested in. When you implement these strategies, you’ll be a super sleuth!
Research a Company by Scouring Its Website
The ubiquity of this advice speaks to its importance. You should thoroughly read the website of a company if you are interested in potentially working there. Here are key points to look for on some of the most common pages on a website.
- Home page: What does the home page tell you? Does it announce a corporate value? Ford Motor Company, for instance, welcomes the reader and then proclaims its purpose: “to help build a better world, where every person is free to move and pursue their dreams.” Home pages are crucial to analyze because they have the potential to tell readers so much about how a company wants customers to perceive it.
- “About” section: Smaller companies might have an About Us section, while larger companies might have a section about their story or history. This page might include important clues to a company’s values and culture.
- Services/Products: Critical information will be here to educate you on what the company produces and offers.
- Blog: What does the company blog about? Who writes the blogs? Is it the founder of the company? Is it the marketing team? Or do employees write various articles?
Take the time to scan each page of the company’s website and think critically about what it tells the reader—and potential employees.
You should thoroughly read the website of a company if you are interested in potentially working there.
Set Google Alerts
You can set a Google Alert for any company to make sure you are aware when it makes the news (for good or bad reasons). These alerts take only a few seconds to set up, and they save time and effort because company-related news will automatically appear in your inbox.
Research a Company’s Social Media Presence
What is the company pushing out on Twitter? Facebook? Instagram? LinkedIn? In particular, what appears on the LinkedIn company page? Following the company on its social media channels will give you a sense of its corporate values, its mission, and where it stands on certain issues.
Silence can speak volumes. If you want to work for a company that values diversity, equity, and inclusion, a company’s lack of a post on International Women’s Day or on Martin Luther King Jr. Day would be telling.
Get Inside Perspectives from Employees
Talk to employees! This may sound like simple advice, but it can be difficult to implement on short notice. I’ve stressed the importance of building your network to include people at companies you have an interest in; if you have done so and have an existing contact at the company, requesting an informational interview may be a good approach.
Even if you don’t have an established relationship with an employee, reaching out on LinkedIn can be helpful. In these instances, I encourage job seekers to write a customized LinkedIn connection request to many company employees. From there, as people accept the request, you can follow up with a request for a brief informational interview.
Read the Financials if They’re Available
A company’s financial situation is another important factor to consider when doing research. For any publicly traded company, it’s a great idea to have a clear understanding of the company’s financial health. For companies that aren’t publicly traded, you can still sleuth out information: Has the company recently been in the news because of a new investor? Or has an organization just received a large grant? Some of this information might also be on the website.
Researching what the company CEO has said on record can be informative as well. I recently read an interview with a CEO of a privately held company in which he discussed how many organizations they work with, their aggressive growth, and their plans for innovation in the future. What a gold mine for an interested job seeker!
Visit the Company if Possible
If you are applying to a company that has a brick-and-mortar location to visit, it’s in your best interest to visit it in person whenever possible. When doing so, you can observe how the company runs, what the customer experience is like, whether employees seem to be happy, and what the service and/or products are like. Much like a “secret shopper” experience, this reconnaissance mission can provide invaluable insights into the company.
By researching competitors, you can accomplish two objectives at once: you can learn what competitors are doing similarly and/or differently from the company you are most interested in, and you might identify additional companies that interest you. For instance, if your goal is to work for a company that caters to outdoorsy clientele, you might research REI. In the process, you might also research Patagonia and The North Face and decide to include those companies in your job search campaign.
Researching a company proactively is part of an effective job search campaign because it allows you to focus on companies that truly interest you—ones that align with your values and what you want from a workplace. Researching a company reactively once an interview has been secured will help you be more informed and able to position yourself strategically as a good fit because you will have done research in advance. Either way, it’s always a good practice to do detective work into companies that appeal to you!