How to research a potential employer
Many of the clients that come to Strawberry Seed have been looking for work for a while. As we discussed in a recent article ‘Why research is the key to job search success?’ you need to differentiate yourself from other candidates from the first impression. Effective research can give you a significant advantage over others. Read on to find out how to research a potential employer.
Where to start?
The most obvious starting point in 2015 is the company web site. There are not many companies these days that don’t have at least one basic page that gives you an overview of their business. But everybody will also be starting here so how do you make sure you stand out?
The key is to go beyond the first page. Many businesses will have a wealth of information right there for you to uncover. Every time I hear a candidate regurgitate the company values and mission, I want to scream. Here are some sections to focus on.
- Products and Services – Have you or someone you know used their product? In larger organisations, they may not offer all products and services in all states or countries. The devil is in the detail.
- About page – The history of the company can be really useful and this could be where you find information on the company structure. Where will the job you are applying for fit in? Can you work out who you will be working with? Do they run different parts of the business from different offices?
- Article or blogs – Are they written by different staff? Are they fun and factual or corporate and slick? Do they share information with the reader or are they all about sales? These can give you great insight into the company culture.
Where to next?
Google can really be your best friend when it comes to research but most people don’t click past the first page of the search. What are other people writing about the company? Are they featured in newspapers or journals? Going beyond the company spin can tell you a lot about what they are really like and allow you to ask some unique and interesting questions.
Have you visited their pages on social media? You can learn a lot from how they interact with their customers and employees online. LinkedIn is a great tool to get a background on some of their employees, particularity the ones that may be interviewing you.
I often reflect on how we researched a potential employer before the internet was part of our everyday lives (yes, I am showing my age). Unless you were going for a job with a high profile company, it took time and effort to do your research.
This had many obvious downsides, but the upside was that if you were successful, you often had a distinct advantage over the competition. So my final step would be to go old school with your research and tap into your network. Ask everyone you know about the company. Do you know someone who has worked there? Ask them if you can catch up with them for a 15 minute phone call to pick their brain.
And remember, the more informed you are when you apply for a job, the more likely you will be to stand out from the crowd.