Crack the Job Search Code by Researching Companies
If you find yourself frustrated by your current job search, you may need a refresh of the tools you have relied on in the past. In today's competitive job market, job boards and online listings can leave you behind in a race with job seeking competitors. To stand out, you may need to shift gears and embrace a more energized approach.
By harnessing the power of company research, you can proactively target organizations aligned with your values, interests, and aspirations. Below I will share step-by-step tactics to research prospective employers to unveil the hidden job market. Rather than passively waiting for the announcements to appear on job boards, this approach sets you up to proactively uncover unique opportunities and position yourself as the ideal candidate as a part of your overall job search strategy.
Step 1: Define Your Ideal Company
Before diving into research, take a moment to define your ideal company. Consider factors such as culture, mission, values, number of employees, industry, and location. By clarifying your preferences, you can focus your efforts on companies that align with your aspirations, increasing your chances of finding the perfect fit. Take time to get clear about what your deal breakers are – if it’s important to you that a company has a certain number of women in leadership or that it offers support for LGBTQI+ Pride, add this to your list of criteria.
As you see companies that pique your interest release job announcements, look for clues that speak to your priorities. Ask yourself, are there job announcements written in a robotic, tiresome style or, alternatively, do they reflect a sense of humor or irreverence that you appreciate? This distinction may not matter to you, but if it does, be sure to clock it. (Maybe you appreciate a more serious tone, and irreverent humor annoys you – that’s a worthy case to make since you’re looking for a place where you can find a sense of belonging, not be forced to “fit in.”) As you explore a company website, look for evidence that they are a good fit for your personality and priorities, paying close attention to images, copy, and overall tone. Read news articles to find out more, and don’t forget that career websites like Glass Door and FairyGodBoss offer reviews that can give you glimpses of company culture.
Step 2: Leverage Online Resources
The internet is a treasure trove of information waiting to be explored. Begin by visiting company websites to understand their key initiatives, mission, vision statements, and values. Study their leadership team, organizational structure, and recent news to gain insights into their strategic direction and potential growth opportunities. Dive into their blog posts, social media presence, and press releases to get a sense of their brand identity and culture.
Online database tools accessible from your local library can get you started – Reference Solutions, for one, offers an exhaustive national database of companies and is accessible from home with a library card to most major libraries. Most major cities also offer a publication like Portland Business Journal’s Book of Lists, which offers comprehensive lists of given sectors like nonprofits, real estate, retail, tech, creative agencies, etc. Most major cities offer some type of publication similar to the Book of Lists.
Step 3: Network and Connect
Building a strong professional network is an essential job search strategy. Leverage platforms like LinkedIn to connect with professionals working in your ideal companies. Reach out, introduce yourself, and express genuine interest in their organization. (Most companies now have their own LinkedIn pages where they sometimes post jobs before they appear on Indeed or Monster.com. Engage in conversations, ask for informational interviews, and seek advice. (Don’t be afraid to ask people you are “linked” to for introductions to people to whom they are “linked.”) Cultivating meaningful relationships will open doors to unadvertised roles and provide vivid insights into company culture and hiring processes.
Step 4: Attend Industry Events
Industry conferences, seminars, and networking events are excellent opportunities to meet professionals from your desired companies. Arm yourself with knowledge about the organizations you're interested in and engage in conversations, ask questions, and showcase your expertise. Take time to craft an elevator pitch that clearly states what types of opportunities you are seeking. This critical practice will not only bolster your confidence but also plant seeds of ideas in the minds of people with whom you are networking. As you come across individuals with insider knowledge or potential job leads, you will stand out among the competition if you establish a memorable presence and demonstrate your passion. (Also, keep in touch with the people you find memorable and inspiring. Follow up for a coffee date or an informational interview.)
Step 5: Set Up Informational Interviews
Informational interviews are invaluable for deepening your understanding of a company and build worthwhile connections. Reach out to professionals employed by target companies and request a short meeting – coffee/lunch dates or phone calls – to learn more about their experiences and the organization. Approach these interviews as learning opportunities rather than direct job inquiries. By demonstrating curiosity, active listening skills, and industry knowledge, you can make an impact and be top-of-mind for future employment opportunities.
Word to the wise – prepare carefully for these interviews. Make it clear that you have no intention of wasting their time by having interesting, insightful questions that not only express your sincere interest in the organization but also your full understanding of the field and the initiatives that are prioritized by the organization. To this end, do your homework as you ready yourself, making it clear that you are someone who is prepared, motivated, and trustworthy.
Step 6: Tap into Professional Associations
Joining professional associations related to your desired industry or field can provide access to a wealth of resources and networking opportunities. Attend association events, participate in forums or discussion boards, and engage with fellow members.
Go a step further and see if Facebook has a group specific to your industry that you can join and find people with whom to network. You can also join Groups on LinkedIn specific to certain fields like Agile Technical Writers or Creative Directors Network and ask for informational interviews or otherwise seek out insights and opportunities. These connections can offer valuable insights into job openings, industry trends, and potential company fits.
Step 7: Tailor Your Resume and Applications
Armed with your newfound knowledge, tailor your application materials to align with each company's specific needs and values. Customize your resume, cover letter, and online profiles to highlight relevant skills, experiences, and achievements that resonate with the organization, keeping your ear to the ground for appropriate keywords and phrases that populate job announcements.
Showcasing your understanding of their mission and culture will demonstrate your genuine interest and dedication. This is best expressed in your cover letter as well as the About section of LinkedIn and the career summary section – a short narrative section that summarizes your experience – of your resume.
It may seem time-intensive, but investing time and effort into researching companies will utterly transform your job search. Career success lies not only in finding a job but in discovering an organization that aligns with your values and offers growth opportunities. By positioning yourself as a well-informed and passionate candidate, you will open more doors and make unforgettable impressions on prospective employers. The power of company research enhances your ability to network strategically, tailor your applications accordingly, and confidently take steps towards a job with long-term resonance.