Job search advice everywhere tells you to research the organization before an interview. But it's also important to conduct some research before applying for a job.
The goal from pre-application research is twofold: to know when it's not worth the time to apply to a company, and to quickly glean insight into the company that can help with a stronger application (like an improved cover letter). Your goal in this phase is to quickly learn just enough information to support your application.
A good rule of thumb is to conduct enough research pre-application to know what the organization might find attractive about your background. You don't have to decide if you want to work there yet.
Before an Interview
For pre-interview research, your goal is to determine more about how the company operates. That way, you can tailor your interview answers to their concerns, and ask better questions that provide a clearer picture of their organization.
Here are some of the best ways to glean insight into an organization:
- What do they talk about on their homepage?
- Do they have a mission statement? What is being emphasized in it?
- Look at their leadership page and/or staff list: If they have bios, are they buttoned up and professional, or light-hearted and whimsical?
- What openings are listed on their Careers page?
- (Information on other pages may also be relevant, depending on your functional area.)
LinkedIn Company Page
- How many employees work there? How do they describe their jobs in their profiles?
- Do you know any of the current employees, or have a strong connection to introduce you to someone?
- If you do know someone, what can they tell you about the organization?
- Do they have any insight into the hiring manager for this position, and what that person likes from a candidate?
- What kinds of pages show up in the results? Are they internal pages or external mentions of the company? (Quotes may help eliminate irrelevant results.)
- Click on the News tab: what is happening there? Positive or negative press? Signs of organizational turmoil?
- Have they received any recent awards, been a part of any movements, planned any major events, or been at the center of any controversies? Any philanthropic ventures?
- What do the current and former employees say about working there?
- Are there any themes from the most recent set of reviews?
(For nonprofits) 990 information from FoundationCenter
- What was the organization's revenue? Last year? In years prior?
- What are the top executives’ salaries?
The job description
- Does it telegraph what is important to the employer? What the organization is looking for?
- What skills seem to create the business impact you would be judged on?
- What are the 4-5 key competencies that may drive those business results?
A good rule of thumb is to conduct enough research pre-interview to know what questions you can anticipate from the hiring manager. Once you know what is important to the employer, you can prepare for their tough questions. And equally important: you can prepare your own tough questions for them. You need to conduct your own due diligence to determine if this is the right career move for yourself.
The Staffing Advisors team has successfully completed hundreds of executive searches. We know from experience that the job search process is stressful for even the most accomplished executives. But it doesn’t have to be.
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