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Research like a recruiter

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You would be surprised how often I hear from a hiring manager that the candidate didn’t research the company. At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, a jobseeker has to do their homework. Today you are not being hired just for your skill at your profession. Companies today also want somebody who understands the business of what they do and more specifically how your job impacts the business.

With that in mind, it is vital to understand the true point of doing research. No it is not to spout off esoteric bits of trivia like a walking Snapple cap. Rather it is another way to convey interest in what the company does.

Let’s face it, hiring managers hate to hire. If they liked hiring, they would be a recruiter like me. One of the many boxes you have to check with the hiring manager is to give them some sense that you are committed to the role and company long term.

Besides a quick Google search, there is other low hanging fruit out there, starting with the company’s own website. If they are large enough, perhaps there is even a Wikipedia entry. And if they are publicly traded you can find information from sites like Yahoo Finance.

However, that my friend, is only scratching the surface. You should first define the parameters of your search. To do that, you need to understand what is it about the role that caused you to apply to begin with.

What caught your eye? Was it the chance to learn a new skill or improve a current one? Advance in title? Increase in responsibility? Or was it something else entirely.

These are important questions to consider, because not only will they frame how you research a company, but they will be the same questions you ask the hiring manager and others as you go through the interview process.

Let’s separate research along two lines. First there is the job itself. Next there is the culture and the environment of the company.

The Internet is awash with sites like Salary.com where you can query their database about what a specific role pays. While it is useful to have a ballpark figure, remember every company has their own compensation philosophy.

Very often a larger company will rely on their benefits or their variable compensation plans to make themselves more attractive to job seekers. A smaller company might play the siren song of options. So understanding how a position is compensated is a good place to start. But just don’t stop there.

The next part is a little less obvious. Spend time on the career site of the company. Take a look at the role you applied for and understand the level. Spend time examining the other levels in that same job family. This exercise will give you some sense of your potential career path.

And while you’re on the career site, do a quick search for all the postings at the location you’re applying for. Look for trends. Is there a lot of hiring in one group? If so, what is the reason for the openings? Is it growth? Or is turnover? As a job seeker you will likely ask about the role YOU applied for and why it’s opened, but always look beyond the immediate. Look for trends.

In your research, determine who the competitors are to the company your interviewing with. Go to those career websites as well. Are they hiring for the same types of roles? If so, what is the title and how do they define the job?

The goal here is to understand the health of the marketplace. If their closest competitor is hiring for the same sorts of roles, it can be a sign of overall strength in that specific industry.

Now let’s examine the culture piece of it. It has been my experience that the environment is an integral component in determining whether or not a role is the right opportunity. And luckily once again, the internet has a host of sites to gain insight in to a specific company.

The site that comes most readily to mind is Glassdoor.com. For those of you not familiar with it, think of it as a virtual water cooler where you can hear all the scuttlebutt about different companies. It will give you reviews of companies from people who work there, worked there, or just interviewed there.

Of course no article about job searching would be complete without mentioning the monolith that is LinkedIn. No doubt the savvy reader will have guessed that you should research the hiring manager and perhaps even the profiles of the interview team. Of course you should. But once again that is low hanging fruit.

What you should do is search for people that are no longer at the company you are interviewing with. Under advanced people search click on past company and then click on the + add which then changes to a text box and then enter the company name. And then you reach out to those former employees through LinkedIn.

Ideally they respond and give you additional insight in to the company you’re interested in. Admittedly this is a time consuming proposition and you may not get any responses. However this is the level of research that can give you that piece of information that you just can’t dig up on a website.

The idea here is to talk with people to gain insight about the company, the role, and the employees, not to mention your potential new boss. The benefits as outlined previously are plentiful. It will help you stand out as a candidate. It will convey interest. Your questions will grow from the research you did. But most importantly the end result of gaining all this information will be to help you assess whether this is the right opportunity. In business verifying information before reaching a decision is just common sense. Employers do it all the time in the hiring process. It's called reference checking. Shouldn’t you do it as well?

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