Researching employers

Researching employers

You're one of the lucky ones. You've been selected for interview for a fast-track career programme with a well-known employer. But you know for a fact that each year, scores of candidates are chosen to attend an interview, from which only a few are taken on - so how do you ensure you're one of them?

Why research?   

Perhaps you're looking for a new job or about to embark on a change of career. Or maybe you have an interview for your first job. Whatever the scenario, researching information on your new employer is vital during your job search and for your interview preparation. 
Succeeding in an interview depends on many factors such as previous experience, character, skills and ability. However, one of the most common mistakes people make prior to their interview, and also during the job search itself, is to carry out insufficient research on prospective employers. 
Preparation is the essential ingredient for success. Knowledge of the employer's benefits and downsides can help you determine more about an organisation and your potential place in it, and give you the opportunity to ask informed questions during your interview. No doubt, your research will show and impress the interviewer. Preparation is key, and as the old adage goes, fail to prepare equals prepare to fail.

Job research   

During your job search, the information you gather on employers will enable you to formulate views on the type of company you wish to work for. It will also help you select and eliminate certain organisations or environments that do not fit in with your career plan. 
Using available resources, you can gain a better understanding of what career potential exists with a particular employer. For example, important background information on an employer includes the types of activities carried out, the jobs that exist within it and the financial stability of the company. 
A structured way to approach your research is to: 
•    Select industries that meet your needs 
•    Locate the employers within your targeted industries 
•    Research the information and find out whom to address 

Interview research   

Before meeting your potential employer, you'll need to be aware of the following: What the company does and how it runs. The company's financial state - are they expanding or downsizing? Who are their major competitors and what skills they are looking for, such as education, previous experience? What you can offer them? 
Having a general overview about the organisation will also give you confidence during the first interview, so that you can ask relevant questions, referring to your research. For example, if you were going for a marketing executive position within a direct marketing agency, you could say something along the lines of, 'I understand from your annual report you spend a certain percentage on advertising. How much of this is allocated to direct marketing spend?' 
Rather than asking how many employees are in the company, which you could have found out yourself, the above question implies you have taken time and effort to prepare for the interview. The interviewer will take this as a sign that you are serious about the company, your job and your future career. 

Use your initiative   

Initiative is always a good option. Use a few clever tactics to find out the information you require. For example, during your job search make a speculative call to an employer to find out the name and title of the contact you wish to send your cv. Who knows where the call may lead? Find out company information by popping into the reception during a lunch hour to ask for an annual report or a brochure. Or, if you don't want to reveal your identity, ask a friend to go in your place, or make a telephone call. 
Use your own contacts and ask other professionals in the field to provide word-of-mouth information about organisations of interest. Another useful source is competitor information, as it often provides insight into your chosen organisation, allowing you to work out the differences between the two companies and their unique selling points. 

It may be useful to buy newspapers and trade journal to find out industry specific information. Most trade journals can be purchased from large news agents, or can be ordered. A general awareness of the industry press, through reading newspapers that publish major business issues relating to your industry sector, is useful background knowledge. If you make a habit of reading business news each week, you'll be surprised at how much you learn and retain, and how relevant it might be to your interview. 
The key to effective research of employer information lies in your preparation and targeting devices. Once you've identified the industry you want to work, and located potential employers, your next step is to research the specific people that will help you to find out more about the job or get you an interview. There are popular profiles on national businesses in local libraries and on the net, and you can use your initiative by calling them directly to ask for company information to be sent to you.

Whether you are supporting your job search, or preparing for an interview, researching employer information is key.