Researching Prospective Employers: Why Knowing is Half the Battle

Knowing about the company you are applying to is just as important as knowing how to do the job you are applying for. To effectively sell yourself as a potential employee, you must persuade prospective employers that you are good a fit not only for their needs, but for their work culture as well. It’s all about marketing. As a job seeker, you have to see yourself as a product, and you have to market yourself to stand out from the competition. However, as those in the marketing and advertising business know, marketing is only successful if it appeals to your target audience. As an applicant, you must know what your target audience – the employer – wants to see and hear from a candidate. Here’s why and how research can convince employers that you’re the best choice for the job.

Looking Great on Paper

Many candidates think they should wait until the interview before they do their research. Bad idea. The more tailored your cover letter and resume are to the employer’s needs, the better your chances of getting an interview in the first place. Targeted letters that mention the recipient by name and title are much more effective than a generic “To Whom it May Concern.” More importantly, learning about the company will give you the advantage of being able to send in a cover letter and a resume that highlight facts that are most relevant to them.  

Talking the Talk

When it comes to interviewees, employers are looking for someone with a real interest in their organization. Researching demonstrates that you are interested, methodical and enthusiastic about the opportunity. Knowledge of the company lets you communicate your skills and experience so that they relate to the company and its goals, products and activities. By researching you can answer common interview questions like, "Why do you want to work here?" and "Why do you think you are a good fit for the position?" in a way that places emphasis on those things the company views as important.

Searching for Answers

Depending on the organization, information about your prospective employer can vary greatly. Organizations that have been around for some time, are large in size or are in the technology business, for instance, are likely to have a Web site. If you know the URL, browse their site and take notes of relevant facts. If you don’t have the company’s Web address, look it up using a search engine. In addition to the employer’s Web site, the search engine might also find useful press releases, announcements or even statements made regarding the company which could be of great use to you. Other sources of good information are people. Whether they work at the company, use its product or services, or simply have some knowledge that might give you a better insight, speaking with them can not only help you find answers, but also perspectives and anecdotes (such as end-user feedback) that you can share with the interviewer.

Your Research Checklist

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Remember, you can never know too much about an organization. Interviewers are always impressed when candidates take the time to learn about their organization and are able to ask informed, intelligent questions about the company and the position. Below is a guide you may follow when gathering data on potential employers. The earlier you start researching, the more categories you will be able to cover.

Basic Facts

  • Name, address, telephone
  • Complete product line or services
  • Number of plants, stores, outlets, employees
  • Geographical locations
  • Location of corporate headquarters
  • Parent or subsidiary company information
  • Vision/Mission statement
 Employer History/Image
  • Industrial outlook
  • National and local reputation, awards, other recognition, etc.
  • Associations, alliances and affiliates
  • Major competitors

 Financial Information

  • Size of firm and industry
  • Potential growth
  • Annual sales growth for past five years
  • Stock prices if relevant

 Professional/Work Environment Concerns

  • Organizational structure
  • Position descriptions
  • Types of training programs
  • Salary and benefits
  • Typical career paths
  • Employer's review or evaluation process
  • Background of entry level positions and managers
  • Employee morale

Researching is an important first step in applying for a job and in your success at the job interview. Learning about the company, you'll be in an advantageous position of being able to answer interview questions in a way that effectively fits your qualifications with what the employer is looking for.

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