Gill Lambert, Careers Consultant
This blog focuses on how to research a company, an activity which is needed to make your cover letter stand out and also to answer the inevitable interview question “Why do you want to work for us?”
I wrote this blog because my daughter recently asked me how to research a company. She graduated last summer and is looking for work through for graduate schemes. I advised her to use the checklist below to organise the information and then I suggested a number of ways of gathering it.
- Basics: what the company does, who its customers are, who its competitors are
- Size & Reach: how many employees they have, where their offices are
- History: origins and defining moments
- Industry: trends, opportunities, threats
- Financials & Operations: how, where and why it is growing (staying stable or shrinking), future plans
- Reputation: what it offers that’s unique compared to its competitors, its market share, its reputation in the industry
- News: press releases and articles
- Structure: the names of executives and advisers profiled on their employees page, how the company is organised, how the department that you are applying to impacts on the company’s business,
- Ethics: values, aims, personnel policies
- Employer’s website: main corporate site, careers pages, press releases
- Call the company and ask for sales literature, annual reports, technical information, product brochures and information
- The Annual Report, (which may be on the Corporate pages, so it might be easiest to Google it). This should include a form of Directors Report which will summarise the recent trading and spell out plans for the future. I have just done this for Nestle and they called it a “Letter to our Shareholders”
- Speaking to people who work for the company. Here are a number of suggestions that have worked in practice for my clients: 1) Ring to ask the in-house recruiter to put you in touch with an incumbent in the role, 2) Look at your LinkedIn connections to find out if you know anyone who is currently working with the company or has in the past, 3) Use LinkedIn to see if any of the Alumni from your university work there
- Look at the company page on LinkedIn and Facebook, subscribe to their Twitter feed
- Look out for blogs by Googling “blog Nestle”, for example
- Read industry and trade magazines
- Check recent news reports: input the company’s name in the Google News Search Engine
- If your employer serves the public, visit a location or try out the service. (For an interview at Sainsbury’s I arranged a meeting with the local store manager, I also know of someone who endured a lengthy procedure to get an online appointment to check out a company’s processes)
- Websites : 1) Glassdoor: a site that survey’s employees views on a company, including salary rankings and interview questions, 2) The Job Crowd: which gives reviews by employees of their company including ratings for work-life balance, career progression compensation and interview tips, and 3) Target Jobs: which gives details from company publicity and tips to get hired
I hope this blog on how to research a company has helped. It might also be a good idea to consolidate the information you find with a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) or PESTLE review (Political, Economic, Social, Technological Legal and Environmental Issues).
If you do manage to speak to a current employee of your target company, do mention their name in applications, cover letters and at interviews – it will impress. It can also pay off to mention a name included in a careers case study on the website.