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How to Research a Company

You've stumbled on a job opportunity that looks interesting. But before you fire off a resume, you need to do some homework.

Researching the company is an excellent way to impress the potential interviewer and show respect for their organization. It also helps you learn about the company's history and the challenges it is currently facing. That knowledge can help you emphasize how your qualifications can fill the holes and solve key problems.

"The main things to look for when researching a company are new announcements regarding a change in leadership, major initiatives or new customers," says Beth Hendler-Grunt. She's the CEO of Next Great Step, a company dedicated to coaching new graduates looking for jobs.

"I also suggest reading any blogs or social media feeds about the company. If you see that the company just had a major layoff, this may not be the time to join there. Likewise, if there is an acquisition or new product, there may be a need for more resources.

"I particularly recommend the LinkedIn Alumni feature. It allows you to see alumni from your university and where they are working," adds Hendler-Grunt. "Connecting with alumni who work for a company you have interest is an easy way to learn more."

Here are some questions to consider during the course of your research:

  • How does the company make money? You should know what products or services the company offers and who its major clients are. Most companies are happy to share that information on their website, through their blog, or on their social media accounts.
  • What is its business philosophy? What are its values? You want to make sure you're a good fit for the company culture. Follow them on Twitter or Facebook to see what kind of content they share.
  • What skills and experience does it find appealing? You need to know what they look for in a candidate. You can get a sense of this from the careers section of the company website. Or you could try reaching out to current employees on LinkedIn to see what they can tell you.
  • What is the organizational structure? It's good to know who the key players are. Check the company website for employee bios. You might also want to go on LinkedIn to see what these people have to say about the company.
  • Who are its competitors? You want to find out what makes that particular company stand out. Use LinkedIn to find related companies. This is very useful for finding out how the company you're looking at fits into the overall industry
  • What is the work environment like? Websites like Glassdoor can help you get the inside info that doesn't appear on the company site - things like salary ranges, company reviews and details about the hiring process.

But be prepared to go beyond online research. "I recommend to recent graduates to reach out to people for informational interviews or shadowing experiences," says Hendler-Grunt.

"It is always best to speak with people who know about the company or have direct experience working for the company. I highly recommend networking as well-- even if it's a simple informational interview to understand what the company experience is like and how the person got to that role. Face to face will always get you further than searching solely online."