A targeted job search focused on quality over quantity is the best approach. Instead of applying to any organization with an open role, try to find a good fit where you know you can be a value add. This is why researching target companies is so vital to your search.
You’ll save yourself a lot of time and potential heartbreak if you research a company before applying to see if it’s a good fit for you. And doing prior research makes it much easier to tailor your resume to that company and gain an edge over your competition. If you’re not sure what to look for in your research, start with these eye-opening topics.
Look into the culture and values
The first place you should begin your search is with the company’s website. While the materials will clearly be written in a pro-company way, you’ll be able to see the organization’s mission statement and values. Knowing what the company prioritizes will help you decide whether your values are aligned or not.
According to Indeed, 43% of candidates say they are attracted to a role because of meaningful work opportunities. Mission statements generally aren’t hard to find on a company website—it’s usually one of their most important marketing tools. But you can see if they practice what they preach by looking at the ways they try to achieve their mission. Many companies will show examples of charity work, commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion, or educational efforts on their website. You can also look for press releases or what they’ve done through news websites.
Use your network
A company’s website is a great place to begin, but everything they’ll include will paint them in a positive light. If you want a deeper look into day-to-day life there, it’s worth seeing if you can find an inside source. No one has better insight than a current or former employee.
If you know someone who works there, try contacting them and seeing if they can give you an inside scoop, or even better, see if they’ll let you conduct an informational interview. If you don’t know someone, look to your network. LinkedIn might show you friends of friends who could help. The Balance’s Alison Doyle adds that you can look to college alumni groups or your university’s career office. LinkedIn groups are another great way to find someone. Just be sure to practice proper networking etiquette, and don’t be demanding.
“Once you form an idea of the kind of person they like to hire, find out if you have any first or second degree connections with those employees. This would be a prime opportunity to connect with and direct them to any questions you may have.” –Lindsay Hively
Look into financial health
Company culture is a great reason to target specific companies, but even the ideal work culture still needs to be financially stable. If you’re targeting a dream company, make sure you can still have a job there many years into the future. So don’t be shy about looking into the company’s financial health.
The Muse’s Lily Zhang suggests looking at “Investor Relations” tabs on the company’s website. The reports you can find there will often show revenue sources, new products, company risks, and other resources that can otherwise be hard to find. You can also research stock prices and funding history, though Lily doesn’t advise necessarily bringing that up in your interview. Instead, use it to gauge how you feel about the long-term future of the company and whether it’s worth investing your time there.
Finally, round out your research by looking at third-party sources. Reviews from customers, former employees, and competitors can provide that final bird’s eye view of what this company is really like.
Glassdoor is one of the best sources for anonymous reviews about life at that company. One bad review isn’t a death sentence, but a plethora of them might mean to take your search elsewhere. Other companies like The Muse have company profiles where you can watch interviews with employees and hear about what makes that organization unique.
Hiration also says that by looking at the company’s main competitors, you can gain more insight into the overall industry and that company’s place within it. You’ll get a better idea of how they fare in that industry, the unique challenges faced by the entire industry, and what things they do better or worse than their peers.
“Read articles on Google, watch related videos, and read reviews shared by employees on Glassdoor and Indeed. During your research, you should consider all relevant factors– remote work policy, work culture, growth opportunities, anonymous feedback from employees, and the work profile for your target role.” –Careerflow
By researching a company through its own materials, looking for inside scoops, and checking third-party sources, you’ll have conducted a well-rounded search to give you a clear picture. This knowledge will allow you to make an informed decision on whether that role is a good fit long-term or not. You might be with that company for a long time, so make sure it’s a place you want to work before you waste your time!