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Crucial to a successful job search campaign is knowing how to research potential employers. The more you know about a company, their business objectives and goals, the better able you will be to communicate your value to them. You may wish to convey your understanding of their needs in a tailored resume and cover letter and you will definitely want to communicate this during your interview. The hard work that you put into your research will almost always pay off by reflecting your interest and enthusiasm to employers.
Begin by trying to locate general information about each company you are interested in. Focus on details that will relate to your skills, knowledge, and qualifications. You may wish to develop a filing system to organize the information that you obtain. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- What is the age of the company?
- What is their location? How long have they been established there?
- How many locations are there?
- What are the services and products that they sell?
- What is the size of the company?
- How many employees do they have?
- What are their sales? assets? earnings?
- What has their growth pattern been like?
- What are the various divisions and subsidiaries?
- Who are their competitors?
- What are the names of key executives?
- What is the general reputation of the company?
- Is the company publicly or privately owned?
- Is the company foreign owned?
- How successful is the company? What has been their major achievements?
- Have there been any major issues or events in the recent history of the company?
- What are the objectives and philosophy of the company?
- What is their forecast of anticipated growth?
You may also want to gather several other items on each company whenever possible:
- Brochures and sales flyers.
- Magazine and newspaper articles about the company.
- Trade journal articles.
- Press releases.
- Reports from Dunn and Bradstreet and the Better Business Bureau.
- Employer recruitment brochures.
Although the Internet will be invaluable research resource, your college, university, or local library are still good places to locate information. The reference librarian should be able to point you in the direction of many useful directories and indexes. Examples of resources that you will find there are:
- “Standard & Poor’s Corporation Records” – Contains information about publicly held companies in the USA including financial records, brief history, products, subsidiaries and properties, and more.
- “World Business Directory” – Profiles of 100,000 businesses worldwide.
- “Ward’s Business Directory” – Data on publicly and privately held companies arranged alphabetically, geographically, and by sales volume.
O.K. If you are ready to go onto the Internet to begin your research, keep a few things in mind…
- Know what you are looking for before you go online. Keep a list beside you so that you can cross items off as you locate them. It is too easy to get distracted if you do not remain focused!
- Bookmark major sites as you come across them. Most browsers will even allow you to create folders or directories to organize the links even further. Make the effort to stay organized now and you will be glad you did later on!
- Print out a hardcopy of important information. If you are concerned about saving the trees, you could save a copy of the document to your hard drive instead.
Because there are numerous Internet sites that are valuable for conducting research on employers, it is beyond the scope of this article to list them all. The links presented below will get you started by pointing you to some of the best. You will undoubtedly find many other lists of links by browsing through the sites.
CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE
You may want to begin by contacting the chambers of commerce in the communities your companies are located in. You will find a searchable comprehensive directory of North American chambers of commerce at (http://Chamber-of-Commerce.com)
SEC Documents by company name or ticker symbol.
Up-to-date reports on new filings and initial public offerings.
THE BIG BOOK
This is an outstanding resource for finding companies listed by industry or state.
Search for information about patents by invention type or description.
Search for company information at no charge or order detailed company reports for a fee.
SECRETARIES OF THE STATE CORPORATE REGISTRATIONS
Links to the secretary of state in each of the 50 u.s. states and their corporate registrations; many allow online lookups of basic information.
Search 155,000+ companies by trademark or type of product.
U.S. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
Government Agency homepages can be useful for both research purposes and for finding job-listings. The best directory is maintained by the LSU Library.
Links to annual reports of thousands of companies; a free service.
Company press releases by industry.