Researching a Potential Employer – Techniques & Tips

 

Your “Journey of Differentiation”

Let’s reevaluate our goals for a moment and the purpose of this blog.

This blog is about differentiation. How to rise above the pack in order to get that next job, or the job of your dreams by using tried and tested techniques which will;

  1. Help you stand out as a job candidate compared to the majority of applicants;
    • Every job advert will attract hundreds of CVs. The majority of these applicants will, however, trust in the recruitment process and will do nothing more than apply to the role. This lazy approach assumes that their CV and Cover Letter will be enough to grab the attention of the people in the screening process. As differentiating candidates we can take advantage and with some effort rise above the pack in the eyes of the Hiring Recruiters and Managers
  2. Allow you to “Break the Recruitment Process”;
    • If you are applying to job after job and are experiencing either consistent silence or rejection, it’s time to change things up. Similarly if you are passionate about a company, role or job posting, it is time to take actions which will give you the greatest chance of success. This is what I mean by breaking the recruitment process.
  3. Get you more interviews, more discussions with Hiring Managers
    • The techniques this blog outlines will make Hiring Managers want to interview you. Because not only will you have grabbed their attention but if you have submitted a presentation of how you will execute the role, you will have done something no one else in the process will have done. You will have shown, pre interview, how you think about the role and how you will work once the role is yours
  4. Make you stand out in interview
    • When you have done the above you will find you are totally prepared for interview. All nervousness about the interview will disappear as you will have effectively taken control of the topics and likely flow of the conversation

How to Differentiate

The steps to differentiation are as follows, (We will cover these topics in detail, I have left links to previous blog posts covering topics in detail);

Deep Research

So you have found a Job Posting that you like. You have read the requirements of the role, the experience and skills needed and you have learned something about the company and their culture.

You have identified who the role reports to and you have found their email addresses,

– How to do all this is covered in detail within this blog post;

Job Postings – Spot Opportunities to Differentiate & the Techniques you can use

Now you want to Research before you reach out to the Hiring Manager Directly.

Where to find information and what to look for

I have listed the various resources I will search when investigating a company either for a Job Role or because I am selling to them. I will cover each in more detail;

  • The Job Advert
  • The Corporate Website
  • The Annual Report
  • Company Blog
  • Hiring Manager Interviews
  • Linkedin/Twitter/Facebook
  • Competitor Corporate Websites
  • Corporate News
  • Corporate Presentations (Slideshare)
  • Product or Service Comparison Websites
  • Glassdoor Employee Reviews
  • Gartner ‘Magic Quadrant’

This I am sure is not an extensive list and you may have discovered assets or favourite places to discover information. I’d love to hear about these.

The Job Advert

As discussed in previous Posts there are really two types of Job Posting. The External Recruiter Job Advert and the Direct Hiring Company Job Posting.

The former are tricky as the recruiter is deliberately suppressing information as it is not in their interests to expose too much information to you the candidate. The second of these, the Direct Hiring Company Job Postings, are great as they usually go into great detail. Topics usually covered in these postings are;

  • Company Overview
  • Product Information
  • Job Reporting Line
  • Job Function Details
  • Required Candidate Experience
  • Required Candidate Skills
  • Soft Skills Required by the Candidate
  • Managerial Culture
  • Corporate Culture
  • Corporate ambitions
  • Investment sites (Motley Fool and others)

It is important to carefully read these adverts and pick up on the clues and the language used.

The Corporate Website

A rich resource indeed.

The Corporate Mission Statement & Values

The first step I would advise would be to discover and note down the Corporate Mission Statement and Values. You will want to mirror language in your CV, Cover Letter and Correspondence to these. This will also give you a sense of the core values and passions of the organisation you seek to join.

If they are a startup, you may in some cases find there is not a clear articulation of the mission. In this case it is helpful to have a go at developing your own using the WHY, HOW, WHAT process (Please refer to previous blogs on this topic).

Company History

Understand the Corporate Journey and their current position and focuses within their industry, technology, corporate growth journey.

Products & Services

Get a thorough overview on these.

(How likely are you to go and buy a product without researching reviews and alternatives. Why would you not do the same for the company you are intending to interview for?)

The Annual Report

There is so much great information in a company’s annual report. You will find these and other statements and presentations in the ‘Investor Relations’ part of the Corporate website.

In essence, the Annual Report is the report card that the company has to issue to the investment community every year. It looks back over the past year’s trading performance and forward to the next year.

The report will openly cover successes, challenges and the competitive environments faced by the management team. You will also discover the focuses and plans the company is concentrating on for the next year.

You do not have to be an investor or a financial guru to understand these reports, please do not be intimidated by them. Areas that you should concentrate on are;

  • The Annual Report Introduction
  • The CEO or MD’s Statement
  • The Finance Director’s Statement
  • The HR Director’s Statement

Of course get a sense of how the business is travelling financially, is it profitable, has revenue increased over the last five years and so forth.

Company Blog

Increasingly you will find corporate blogs as part of a Company’s Content Marketing Strategy. Check whether your Hiring Manager has posted and get a sense of where they see focuses and competition.

The Blog will also give a sense of how the company positions it’s products or services and which topics they feel are necessary to inform their customers about.

Hiring Manager Interviews

In the previous Blog Post I outline how you can easily find the Hiring Manager’s identity and email address.

Armed with these you can now search on Google to see if they have written about, been interviewed or posted any material which may be helpful. Interviews are usually fantastic and you may find these in video format or printed format.

Use a simple search like this;

TargetPersonName + TargetPersonJobTitle + CorporateName + Interview + Article + Blog

Linkedin/Twitter/Facebook

A simple visit to your Hiring Manager’s Linkedin/Twitter/Facebook Profile will tell you a number of things.

  • Are you already connected to them and by whom
    • This could be a great icebreaker
    • You could also reach out to connections to get some insight into the person before you write to them or meet them
  • What is their Job History
  • Are there any recommendations or endorsements on the Profile
    • These could give you an insight to the person’s qualities, skills and passions
  • Have they posted any articles
  • Do they have personal blogs/Twitter/Websites
  • What content are they posting
  • What are their personal interests to help find common ground, language, connection in the interview
Competitor Corporate Websites

It is often informative to see how the nearest competitors represent their product and services.

Do they do a better or worse job and why? How do those companies represent themselves and what topics do they focus on in regard to their content marketing.

Of course if you have time you may want to read the competitors Annual Reports as well. This step is probably better for the 2nd interview and beyond or if you are making recommendations in your 90day plan or other presentation you send as part of “Breaking the Recruitment Process”.

Corporate News

This is a very quick and easy search you can make to see what news is trending right now about a target company. This is usually commentary from the investment community. If the investment community is bullish or otherwise about a company it is good to understand why.

Simple put the company name, perhaps their stock market ticker as well, into Google and hit ‘News’

Corporate Presentations (Slideshare)

Slideshare is owned by Linkedin and is an incredible resource for those wanting to learn about companies. It is also a great resource when making your 90Day plan or other presentations as part of the recruitment process. (We will cover this topic in greater detail in later posts).

There are two ways to go about finding target company presentations.

  1. Enter a search on Google for example; “CorporateName + .ppt
  2. Go to Slideshare, sign up (This allows you to download presentations) and search directly on the site. Slideshare
Product or Service Comparison Websites

Understand who the main competitors are to your target company. If you do not know, you can undertake a simple Google Search such as;

TargetCorporateName + Competition + Reviews

There are many industry or software specific comparison sites on the internet. Some will allow you to directly review a product or service against a selected competitor. These sites will also often contain customer reviews which is also great to give you a sense of how the product is received in the marketplace.

Be careful, some sites will not fully understand a product or service and may not categorise against competitors on a true ‘like for like’ basis. Still this is a great question to raise at interview, if there are bad reviews or to ask whether a site has correctly identified and grouped the company’s products.

A quick word of caution regarding reviews. Happy users or customers do not always endorse or review products or services. Particularly if they are simply ‘content’. Unhappy  or angry customers will ‘shout loudest’. That said, you may well find out issues or complaints that will inform you prior to interview in terms of questions you may be able to ask your Hiring Manager or Recruiter.

Glassdoor Employee Reviews

Glassdoor can give you a sense of what it is like in a company. You will find information on the interview process, the management and employee reviews past and present.

As above, the angry will be more vocal. That said, there could be trends or topics you can uncover which could inform your approach.

Gartner ‘Magic Quadrant’

Gartner provide comparison and commentary on a number of industries by essentially rating competitor companies within their ‘Magic Quadrant’. This is a commentary on the scope of vision and execution of corporate vision compared to other players.

Reports are usually a paid for resource. However, you can often find the reports for free. If a company are proud of their Gartner placement they will often provide links to the free report directly from the Corporate Webpage. All you have to do usually is sign up and download.

Alternatively, you can use searches and image searches on Google like this;

TargetCorporateName + Gartner Magic Quadrant

If you search on image you can often find the placement, or the magic quadrant itself.

The Full report is useful though as each company is covered in some detail which can provide you with a great deal of information.

Again, however, be conscious that Gartner are an outside agency commentating on an industry so may incorrectly categorise or understand a product or offering. This still offers you the opportunity to ask great questions or position statements effectively in any format, interview, presentation or email.

Investment Sites (Motley Fool & Others)

Much like the news search this is a resource of information from the investment community offering insights on trading performance, challenges, industry issues.

A Hunter Mentality

Treat the research like a game. You are stalking out the information that will provide you with compelling approaches to the hiring manager.

Remember all the while you are doing this you are in effect preparing for interview. You will be so much more confident and at ease having researched and developed your understanding.

Remember, no one will know a company as intimately as the people working at that company. It is ok to get things wrong but know this, the hiring manager will see your initiative, your passion and will appreciate you have gone to such lengths.

Now you must take all this information and shape it into approaches that will get you an interview and more importantly, get you that job!

Until next time; Be strong, be positive. Do reach out with comments or questions, I’d love to hear from you, @OpenCandidate or opencandidate@outlook.com

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” – Benjamin Franklin

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