How and Why to Research a Company

{Click here to read the original article on The Balance.}

Why spend time on company research? There are several good reasons why it’s worth investigating companies.

Reasons to Research Companies

First of all, spending some time looking for and at employers will give you an idea of what companies are in your industries and fields of choice.

You will also be able to determine which companies are hiring and what types of job openings they have. If you’re applying for a position, you will want to find out everything you can about the company before you sit down for an interview.

In addition, after all your research, you will be a well-prepared candidate for the job. Knowing specifics about the company’s products, policies, and culture will impress upon the hiring manager your keen interest in the position, and your ability to assimilate quickly into a productive role.

Focus on your industry – or on your area of interest and expertise

Spend some of your valuable company research time investigating the needs and benefits of organizations in your industry that appear to offer much more than the others. Do they specifically need people in your field?

Or are they generalizing to, as they say, “cherry pick the workforce.” If you can, talk to people who work there to determine whether it’s a place you want to work, and if they would really appreciate your particular skills. You don’t want to find yourself welcomed one day and then laid off six months later.

It is also helpful to find out the company history, financial stability, products and services, personnel, and perhaps some information about the company culture and how you will fit in; most companies, large and small, have web sites (see below) where they strut their best stuff.

Preparing for an interview is another reason to research employers. You’ll want to know as much about your potential employer as possible.

Standard interview questions are “What do you know about us?” and “Why do you want to work here?” Research will enable you to have an informed, detailed response – and the right questions, remember: “an interview is a dialogue.”

Use your connections

If you have a connection that will help you find inside information, use it. Do you know someone who works there? Ask them what the company culture is like, and how accurate and current the information on their website is. If you’re a college grad ask your Career Office if they can give you a list of alumni who work at your target company. Then call or email and ask for advice and assistance. Use directories which will help you find those companies.

You can search Hoover’s Online by company name or keyword. Big Book Yellow Pages allows you to search by business name, category or location. Vault and WetFeet offers job seekers an in-depth look inside some of the hottest industries. They also provide and company and industry profiles.

If you’re interested in big business you can browse the Fortune 500 top companies list. Then take a look at the snapshot for company details, revenues and contact information. Fortune provides similar lists for the 100 Fastest Growing Companies and the 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Want to ace that interview?

Read anything and everything you can about your target company. Use Google to find the employer’s web site. Then review the site to see what the company is saying about itself. Many times, you will find articles or links about new products or technologies where the company is mentioned. That’s a good place to explore for more in depth research.

Next, take a look at what the rest of the world is saying; Vault Reports is a good resource to find specific, detailed information about a particular employer.

Spending a little extra time to research the company before your interview can make the difference between getting a second interview (or a job offer), and being passed by.

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