A huge part of successfully finding a job is doing your homework. You need to have an understanding of the companies that you are targeting if you are going to be a competitive candidate. You should be spending at least a few hours researching your key companies before even submitting your resume. You can use this information when customizing your resume and cover letter and at your interview. Here are some areas where you can focus your research:
Company mission and organizational culture. Even companies with the same products and services can be drastically different in the way that they conduct business. It is important that you understand the company’s mission so that you know what to emphasize when approaching them. Most companies post a mission statement on their website. The organizational culture is also key because it can give you a good sense of what it would be like to work at the company. The best way to get an understanding of the organizational culture is to talk to people who have worked there. Look at your contacts on your LinkedIn profile and see if you are connected to any current or previous employees. Be professional and clear about what you need and they will probably be willing to share that information with you.
Key products and services. You need to have a good understanding of exactly what the company does. Go through the website and make yourself clear about what products and services the company is providing to their customers. It is also good to know what role your job would have in delivering these products and services.
Organizational structure. Depending on the company, you may find it difficult to understand the organizational culture. Look at the different divisions, locations and subsidiaries and try to decipher the relationship between them. You should also try to understand the reporting relationships so that you know who your position would report to.
Industry information and key competitors. If you have been working in the field for a while then you probably already have a strong understanding about the industry. However, if this is your first job, or if you are changing industries then you have some work to do. It is important that you understand the challenges that the organization is facing and that you can demonstrate some knowledge of the industry. Read lots of industry material so that when you are in the interview you can show the employer that you ‘get it’.
Career paths. Of course the whole reason that you are doing all of this work is to get a job. You need to understand the advancement opportunities within the company so you know how this position would fit in with your future career goals. Try to get a sense of the career paths of most of the employees that start in the company. Many interviewers will ask where you see yourself in five years. It would be great if you answer that question with a realistic goal of attaining a specific position within the company.
Many job seekers skip the company research because they feel that it’s not important. Instead they invest their time into uncovering job leads. While it is important to find and apply for a lot of opportunities, they won’t turn into job offers unless you impress the employer and you can only impress the employer if you understand the company.
(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)