Researching a company not only proves to a potential employer that you're enthusiastic about the job opportunity, it also helps you to pitch your application and perform better at the job interview. If you've done your homework, you will be better able to demonstrate that you're a match to the organisation's culture and values. You will also have a better understanding of the career potential that might exist with a particular employer, company or within an industry sector.
Key background information includes:
- Type of activities carried out
- Job roles that exist
- The financial stability of the company
Finding the information
Much of the information you need is easily available online. Almost every industry sector has professional membership institutes or trade associations e.g. Engineers Ireland is the professional membership body for Engineers. These may produce a membership directory, or publications that provide information about current trends and issues in the particular field.
Once you've identified the industry sector you want to work in, and located potential employers, the next step is to research individual companies and identify specific people that will help you to find out more about the job or get you an interview.
There are no excuses for not being able to find out the relevant information on your prospective employer(s). Before meeting a potential employer you need to be aware of:
- What the company does and how it runs
- How many employees work for the company?
- The company's financial state - are they expanding or downsizing?
- Who are their major competitors?
- What skills / education / previous experience do they typically look for?
- What social media presence do they have?
- What can you offer them?
Having a general overview about the organisation will also give you confidence during the first interview. You can refer to your research when asking questions. For example, if you were going for a Marketing Executive position within a direct marketing agency, you could say something like, "I understand from your annual report you spend XX percent on advertising - How much of this is allocated to direct marketing?" rather than asking "how many employees are in the company? which you could have found out yourself. The first 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.
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Check out the 'Working with us' page on the company's website – not just to find out about vacancies or the typical application process, but also to get an idea of what they look for in employees, in terms of technical skills or personal attributes.
If you are applying for a particular job vacancy, the Job Description is an obvious starting point. Does the role fit within your overall career strategy? Will it give you career-building opportunities or allow you to develop new, marketable skills?
Understanding the role requirements and potential also help you work out where your strengths intersect with company needs, and whether you'll need to address any skills or experience gaps in your application. However, if the job description is vague, be prepared to dig deeper.
Contact the recruiter or HR department with a brief, polite email to ask for more detail.
Read the company website and press releases for information about the company's history and progress: innovations, key milestones and so on, as well as their corporate values, often written into mission or vision statements. This information will help you with the almost inevitable interview questions
- Tell us what you know about the company or
- Why are you interested in working with us?
Read publications, newsletters or blogs for in-depth information and analysis on the health of the sector as a whole, as well as for snippets of news or gossip.
Find out all you can about the main players, current threats or opportunities, which companies are doing well, and so on. This knowledge will help you ask thoughtful questions at interviews and shows your interest in working in the sector.
IT's happening here - Enterprise Ireland information website for finding jobs in the Irish Technology Sector hosts a range of tech company profiles including current career opportunities.
Social networks / Social Media
Social networks help you develop contacts who can share information. They enable you to build relationships with other industry professionals and with those who have hiring authority.
The majority of companies now use social media. Check if they have Facebook, Twitter and a LinkedIn company page and follow them.
LinkedIn is especially useful. Recent data shows a high percentage of members aged between 25 and 54 in higher income groups.
|On LinkedIn - use the 'company' tab to search by industry keyword for a list of companies sorted by relevance (relationship to you, for example). You can see primary or shared connections, and then request an introduction to that shared connection to get an insider's view on working for the company.
Digging around on the company's page also gives you useful information on hiring statistics and patterns (where employees come from or go to), annual company growth, key skills of employees, and job postings.
Other social networks such as Google+ allow you to connect with employers directly.
Use Twitter to follow people within companies you're interested in, and the company pages on Facebook to find out more about their working culture.