How to research the company you want to work for

You want to stand out from the other candidates in the job search, and one easy way to do this is to research the company at which you’re applying for a job.

Doing your research is key to the job hunt, and hiring managers expect it of top applicants – but the reason this immediately sets you apart is that a majority of people don’t bother to do it. And we know this drives hiring managers crazy.

“It’s nuts to me how many people show up to the job interview without any clue about what we do,” a friend, who works at a software company recently lamented. On the other hand, it’s an easy way to narrow the candidate pool – by immediately rejecting those who don’t do it.

So, if you are not researching companies before applying with them, it’s time to start doing so. It’s actually part of what marketers do in their marketing strategies to promote a product or brand. Here’s how to go about it.

First off, don’t wait until the interview to start researching. Start before submitting your application and cover letter – so you can include details pertinent to the company in those documents. The research process begins before the application process starts, and it ends when the job offer is made.

Here are some of the things you should research:

What does the company do? What sort of goods or services do they offer? Do they make cakes or provide financial services? Are they a software company? Let’s say they are a software company. And let’s say the position you’ve applied for is in sales.

What kind of software is it? What does it do? Let’s say it’s photo editing software. Is it cloud-based or on-premise/packaged? Let’s say they offer both.

What does the photo editing software do? Does it do the same things as other photo editing software, or does it do different things? More things or fewer things? Does it have a special tool or function that sets it apart?

Who is the competition? Who else makes similar software? Is that software for the same market or a different market? How is this software different from that software? Who are the big players in the market, who are the newcomers, and who is on the way out?

Who are the customers? Is it for business customers, consumers, or both? Let’s say both.

Who is the target market? Is the product designed to appeal to professional or amateur photographers, or both? How do they reach that market? Do they advertise online or on social media? Do they have a Facebook or Twitter page? What does their Instagram look like?

What’s it like to work there? What’s the company culture like? Do the employees wear jeans and arrive whenever they like at an open concept office with a basketball court in its middle? Or does everyone dress in business attire and work 9-5 in cubicles?

What are the company’s mission and values? Do they place a premium on good works and corporate social responsibility? What charities are they involved with? Do they value diversity? Or are they all about the bottom line?

Who are the managers? Who will you be interviewing with? What do they do? What is their specialty area?

What’s going on in the industry? What are the industry trends and challenges in the news? For example, is the improving quality of camera phones presenting a challenge for the photo editing industry? Or is it helping by increasing market opportunities, because everyone is now a budding photographer?

There are probably many other things you could look into. This list should get you started.

How/where do you find these things out?

Go first to the company website and blog (if there is a blog) to learn as much as possible about the place, the products, and the people. Follow this with a visit to their social media pages — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. Then Google the company and see what comes up, whether they’re mentioned in any news, if people are talking about them, and what they are saying.

You should also read the profiles of the management on LinkedIn, and see what employees and former employees have to say about the workplace on Glassdoor. And, if anyone in your own network works there, ask them if there’s anything they know of that would help you land the job. I’m sure you can also find your own resources.

Doing this research will probably tell you more than you need to know about the company.

And I can almost guarantee it will impress the hiring manager, and put you one big step closer to landing the job.

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