How to Research an Employer (Part I)

How to research the hiring company before your job interviewYou’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: when applying to jobs, you need to research the hiring company. This is of particular importance before the in-person interview.

But what are you looking for in your job search? And where do you find it?

Today’s post explains the purpose of your research, as well as what you’re looking for. The second part of the post (stay tuned!) tells you where to find it.

If you have any questions or tips of your own, please share them in the comments!

Why are you researching the employer?

The average job posting today receives approximately 100 applicants, of which 5 pass the phone screening and are invited to interview in person. Presumably, each of these applicants (yourself included) meets the skill and experience requirements, meaning you need to stand out in other ways.

Through your research, you will gain a more holistic understanding of what (and who) the employer wants. This information will help you demonstrate to the hiring manager that you’re the best fit for the company.

What are you looking for, generally?

Aside from making sure this is a company you want to work for, you’re looking for information that will enable you to have a meaningful interview conversation.

You’d be shocked by how often candidates (even the most qualified ones) walk into an interview, are asked to explain what they know about the company, and are oblivious. It’s painful to watch.

Conversely, the most impressive candidates not only know about the company, but are also able to express excitement about what it does and how it operates. They can ask intelligent questions about strategy and initiatives, and can contribute suggestions of their own if/when asked. They can demonstrate their fit with the culture and their alignment with the company’s mission and philosophy.

When these candidates leave, hiring managers have a feeling of genuine excitement (and relief) because they’ve found the one.

What are you looking for, specifically?

By the end of your research, you should know the answers to questions like:

  • When, why, and how did the company come to be?
  • Who are the key players (CEO, president, heads of your department, etc)?
  • What does the company offer, sell, or do?
  • What distinguishes it from others in the industry?
  • Who are its customers?
  • What are the company’s major/recent accomplishments?
  • What is it working on now?
  • What are its goals?
  • What does it value?
  • What is the company culture like?

Each of these is useful in its own way. For instance, if you learn that the company recently introduced a new product, you can ask questions that are relevant to the job you’re vying for. If the employer regularly gives back to the community, you can emphasize your volunteer work. And so on.

Where do you find all of this information?

It’s a secret!

Not really. Just click to read part two of “How to Research an Employer.”

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