Research Strategies and Resources to Drive Job Search Success
By Don Straits, CEO and Dragon Slayer, CorporateWarriors.com
No question about it. We all know that you should conduct research on a company before you go in for an interview. The problem is that almost everyone does some superficial research, so you really haven’t gained a competitive edge. Let’s take a look at how to conduct in-depth research that will set you apart from all other candidates.
First, you should conduct comprehensive Internet research on the company and its competitors. Second, you should research the people who will do the interviewing, and third, you should do some field research on the company. Through your research, you will learn about products, services, management strengths (or weaknesses), financial condition, competition, corporate culture, and community reputation.
You are right! This is going to be a lot of hard work! But how serious are you about landing the job?
Despite the vast resources of the Internet, conducting Internet research can be a time-consuming and exhausting process. To make it as simple as possible, I tapped the expertise of one of our nation’s top Internet research authorities, Mr. Randy Guffey, senior partner of E-Clarity (www.e-clarity.us). Randy has developed a concise list of 12 tips to launch your research. Most of the resources are free, but in some cases there are nominal fees.
1. Obtain basic information from directory listings such as Hoover’s www.hoovers.com, Standard & Poor’s www.spglobal.com, or investment advisory websites. This will give you information on the type of company, size, age, number of employees, and revenues.
2. If the company is privately owned, look for local news and business sources in the area of the company’s operations. Your local newspapers typically have Internet archives that can be searched easily. In difficult cases, find state corporation records at www.nass.org/sos/sos.html, then select regulatory, county, and city sources.
3. If the company is non-profit, start with Guidestar, where most results are free after registration: www.guidestar.org. Some information can also be found in the Better Business Bureau site www.bbb.org for all types of companies, including non-profits.
4. Use several search engines, utilizing their advanced search features to find general information. Alter your search phrase to get the most effective terminology.
5. Be sure to find information on the company’s products or services. To learn the best way to use search engines, look at www.searchenginewatch.com/facts/index.php.
6. Search news reports to find reputation, solvency, key competitors, legal or regulatory issues, and details of the marketplace in which the company operates. General news from over 4,800 news sources is found at http://newsbot.msnbc.msn.com and state resources are found at http://newslink.org/menu.html. Global news is found at http://globaledge.msu.edu/ibrd/ibrd.asp, and scholarly sources at http://infomine.ucr.edu. Many sites such as www.msnbc.com and www.google.com allow you to create "News Alerts"-you can register to receive email news links on your selected search topics.
7. Read industry publications. Also view major industry news in the menu bar on www.msnbc.com in the pop up window in Business, Tech/Science, Health, Multimedia, or Local News.
8. For biographical information on those who are interviewing you, see if the company website provides a profile of your subject. Also use all search engines and news sources using variations of the name or combining the company name with the person’s name. Typically you want to put the name in quotation marks for effective search results.
9. If the person is an officer of a public corporation, look in SEC filings of the S-1 form, 10-K or 8-K filings found at http://edgar.sec.gov/cgi-bin/srch-edgar. Also use the SEC people search at http://people.edgar-online.com/people to find leads.
10. Free biographical and news resources are often provided by your area library and can be accessed over the Internet using only a computer and a library card: Ask! Two excellent biographical websites exist at http://networking3.eliyon.com/PeopleFinder/ and sources identified at http://home.istar.ca/~obyrne/biog.html.
11. Three of the top overall information sources (newspapers, magazines, journals, newsletters, market studies, etc.) allow free searching but payment is required to retrieve articles: www.factiva.com, www.lexis-nexis.com, and www.dialog.com.
12. If you wish to expand your research efforts after you have conducted the basic or core research on the company and people, here are three outstanding tutorials on how to research companies on the Internet: (1) www.learnwebskills.com/company/index.html, (2) www.nypl.org/research/sibl/company/c2index.htm, and (3) www.llrx.com/features/co_research.htm. They are all comprehensive and highly effective.
While Internet research is imperative and extraordinarily valuable, nothing replaces good old-fashioned field research. Get out in the marketplace and learn about the company’s products or services. Visit stores or distributors to view the products and see how they compare to their competition. Talk to customers or people in the distribution channel. Write up summaries about what you learned and develop questions from your research to use during your interview.
To illustrate the power of effective research, here are a couple of real life examples:
A lady with about six years of merchandising experience wanted to become a merchandise manager for a major premium coffee franchise company headquartered in the Pacific Northwest. Prior to contacting the company, we had her conduct in-depth field research by visiting several franchise locations, observing their current merchandising activities, and interviewing the store managers. She developed a three-page summary of her results and submitted it with her resume directly to the Vice President of Merchandising. It generated an immediate interview and she landed the job in two weeks.
A recent graduate was seeking an entry-level position with a company doing laser technology research. His first step was to research and identify all companies conducting pioneering research in laser applications. He followed tradition and applied to HR with zero results. We then had him research articles on emerging laser technologies. He wrote a letter to the authors that basically said: "I recently read your article on laser technology. As a recent graduate with a science degree, I am seeking the opportunity to learn from the best and contribute to the industry. I would consider it an honor and privilege to join you in your ground-breaking research." Within a few weeks he had multiple offers.
Research can be the key to securing a challenging opportunity. Take the time and effort to conduct in-depth research in order to become the candidate of choice.
Don Straits, CEO and Dragon Slayer, Corporate Warriors.com
Don is recognized as a nationwide authority on contemporary job search strategies. His organization provides world-class outplacement and individual marketing services to senior-level executives. Corporate Warriors has earned industry acclaim for its world-class multimedia resume portfolios. Don can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 889-9852. Website: www.corporatewarriors.com.
© Copyright 2004 Don Straits. All rights reserved. This information is strictly for personal use. Any other use of this material is prohibited by law unless permission is otherwise granted in writing by the copyright holder.