How to research a target company in job search
The easy way to avoid getting the wrong job
Follow these four easy steps to research a target company and avoid working in an environment that doesn't work for you.
Sera joined, let’s call it x company, 6 months ago. She was really excited and looking forward to tackling her new role. Everything turned out perfectly except for one thing; the overall culture. It is not what she expected. She finds it toxic; bureaucratic, with torturously slow decision-making processes. She spends her whole day in fruitless meetings. The career change is turning her life into a misery, so much so she is regretting moving and is thinking of looking for another job. She is beating herself up for her lack of intuition and wonders what she missed in the interview process. If she had understood correctly why she needed to research a target company, and how she should have gone about it, the outcome might have been different for her.
There is no doubt that researching a company well is key to making a successful career transition. There are any number of sources about a potential employer, the industry and even the people in a target company. This helps in making an initial assessment of an organisation and flags up the questions to ask in an interview. It also helps to be thorough before making a job offer.
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4 steps to research a target company
Make sure you check out the company for basic facts: size, number of employees, turnover etc. If you are looking at a senior role you should look at the annual report. If it’s a new sector for you check that out. You should be familiar with the industry, what they do, who their major clients are, and the main Officers, especially the CEO and the person heading up the function into which you are applying.
Research Before the Interview
Before going on an interview is the best time to do extensive research. Reports from Glassdoor suggests that informed candidates are the most successful. You can also contact network connections to get some insights into the culture. This allows you to ask the right questions in the interview to check that the company is in line with your values and vision. Maybe Sera was not as thorough as she might have been. Ask them how they typically spend their day and the communication style of the organisation. If you hate meetings, ask specifically if these are part of the modus operandi. These responses should throw up some useful information.
Research during an interview
This is more about keen observation, which is a form of research. If you are well prepared you will have time to keep your eyes open and take in the subliminal messages. This is possibly where Sera came unstuck. She could have taken in the body language, the way the admin and receptionist behaved. How busy was the office? Were the meeting rooms full and in use? Today, in a modern office where many people work remotely or go into “bubbles” for private meetings, they appear quiet, so it can be hard to get a feel of how an organisation works on a daily basis.
Research on receipt of offer
This is where the real digging takes place. It is not uncommon for companies to be secretive about forthcoming mergers, takeovers or financial problems. These can be checked out on the Annual Reports, Securities and Exchange Commission Documents (US), Companies’ House (UK) or other official bodies. You should check out the web sites and social media accounts. How does the company present itself to the world? Are there any anomalies? Obviously you should check out other new media outlets including Forbes and Bloomberg. You may find sector or professional directories helpful too. There is also data on social proofing sites, especially the ones that highlight conditions for women.
The reality is that it has never been easier to research companies and their employees. But despite this there are still some “dark secrets” that come as a shock. There is no substitute for talking to people who have worked there or who are still working there.
And if despite your best efforts when you research a target company you find you have still made a poor choice then there is nothing for it but to move on and learn.
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