In a just-released survey, Software Advice, a research firm that reviews and recommends software, reports that almost half of job seekers they surveyed used the website Glassdoor.com when they were job hunting. Glassdoor is the equivalent of Yelp for job seekers, providing reviews by employees and former employees, insights into a company and information about their salary and benefits.
An in-depth knowledge about the organizations where a candidate is seeking employment is essential to success in landing a job. As Alfred Poor, author of “7 Success Secrets That Every College Student Needs to Know!” notes, “researching a prospective employer is not optional; it’s a flat out requirement if you ever hope to get the job.”
Employers aren’t looking to hire people who want a job, he adds; they are looking to hire people who can help the company succeed. “If you don’t know how you can help the company be successful, why do you think they’d ever want to hire you?”
Dana Manciagli, author of “Cut the Crap, Get a Job” suggests that, in addition to Glassdoor, the best sources to research companies are LinkedIn groups for those companies, their company websites and your local business journal (in 43 cities across the U.S. at bizjournals.com.). Once you’ve gathered the necessary information, she suggests that you use it to “drop insights into the body of your cover letter” when you submit your résumé. “Then, apply your research to answer ‘Why I am a fit for your job’ right in the cover letter.”
Tony Lee, publisher of Pennington based CareerCast, suggests that you search the internet for articles not just about the company, but about the department where you’d work so that you can find names of your potential colleagues. Then search for them on LinkedIn (you can also search the company’s name) to see their professional and educational backgrounds so you’re interview-ready.
Patty P. Lundy, president of Profile America, suggests going beyond just looking at the company. “It is not just a prospective employer that a job applicant needs to understand, it’s also the prospective employer’s industry that should be investigated, the employer’s position within the industry (e.g., market share, competitive set, future prospects for growth and the like), and how that prospective employer is positioned for the future.”
Joseph Terach, CEO of résumé writing firm Resume Deli, points out that the key to researching a company is “relentless focus.” If you’d like to work for a specific company “then 95 percent of your research efforts should be dedicated to learning about that company and demonstrating to them that you’re not only the best candidate for the job, but that you’re destined to work there and nowhere else.” Specifically Terach advises:
- Research the decision-makers: Learn their backgrounds, responsibilities and interests. Figure out who you know who knows them. Then follow through and create informational interviews with them.
- Read news reports about your target company: Determine their business strategy, who their partners are, who’s in their supply chain and so on. These are the people and things you should get to know in order to be able to speak intelligently about the company’s operations at an interview or job fair. You also might learn something about the company that will help you better understand what they truly need in a new hire.
- Conduct informational interviews before you apply: You’ll interview better with the insights gained from these interviews.
- Draw up a company-comparison grid: Compare the attributes (e.g., number of employees, markets, client demographics, products and services, etc.) of your target company with those of its competitors. Developing and studying this grid is an exceptional way to figure out just how much you’re interested in the company and wow them when you answer the question: “Why do you want to work for our company?”
Suzanne Garber offers the following little-known research trick. Search for either the name of the company, owner or CEO with their name followed by ‘v.’ She notes that “this tells you if the company has been sued, by whom, for what and the outcome. This is an objective way to determine if the company you’re thinking of applying to is financially or reputationally viable.”
Any job search begins with research. No matter how well qualified you are, unless you know enough about the organization to show why those qualifications are important and how you specifically can add value in ways that the company would deem important, your chances of being hired will be greatly diminished.
A veteran human resources executive, Lee E. Miller is a career coach and the author of “UP: Influence Power and the U Perspective — The Art of Getting What You Want.” Mail questions to Lee@employability-expert.com