The Very Best Sources of Company Information
The one aspect of job search preparation that can truly set you apart is employer research. Employer research is what brings you together and keeps you together with those who have the power and authority to potentially offer you your first position.
Employer research serves a dual purpose. First, you will need to identify and target specific hiring companies in your job search. Last column we discussed some of the best research guides to accomplish that purpose. Second, you will need to gather detailed information about each target employer in order to be adequately prepared for making direct contact. While the research guides provide the basic information that will give you a broad overview, it will be the detailed information that will set you apart from the crowd.
Sadly, most college students know little if anything about the employer they are contacting or even interviewing with. The quickest showstopper can come when I ask (whether on the phone or in person), "What do you know about our company?" If you haven't even taken the time to do this basic research, why should I commit a segment of my busy day to speaking with you? Unfortunately, few are able to respond with even the basics. Strike one. Fewer still are able to articulate any information specific to our company. Strike two.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Employer information, even detailed information, is usually available for the price of some simple digging. It's out there waiting for you to discover it and bring it to the surface.
The source location for this information will be (in order of ease of access): your Campus Career Placement office, Campus Library, Public Library, and direct company contact.
There is one source of employer information that is usually easily obtainable and unsurpassed in value: the annual report. Why? Because the annual report contains that marvelous insider report known as the "Letter to the Shareholders" that is written by the President or CEO, which catalogues not only the history of the past year, but even more important, the corporate vision for the future. Therein is contained all the insider information on what is important to the company; the insider information on what the managers are focused on for the coming year; and all of the insider "hot buttons" that you can push in getting the interview and getting the job.
You might rightly ask: "Why do you call it insider information? It's available to the public, right?" Right. It's available to the public. But most people only look at an annual report if they are interested in stock ownership of the company, not if they are interested in the company as a potential employer. Want to truly impress me? Study and understand our company via our annual report. You can gain access to most annual reports through any of the above listed locations, or call the company directly, ask for its Shareholder Services department, and ask for a copy of the most recent annual report to be sent to you.
Another excellent source of company information is any specific recruitment literature that may be available. This source of information goes by a variety of names, but is typically titled "Employment Opportunities with ..." or something similar. Often this information is geared directly toward the entry level job market and lists the entry level jobs available and corresponding departments (or business units). The best source for this information is your Campus Career Placement office, although many libraries also have extensive employer information files. If not available in those locations, contact the company directly, ask for the Human Resources department, explain that you are planning to interview with them in the near future and request that they please send any appropriate company literature direct to you.
Although the above noted information can provide you with very detailed information, it is usually only available from larger companies. Yet nearly every size organization has a third type of information that can also greatly enhance your job search. Marketing information. This is one type of information that will not usually be available through public access, so it typically requires a direct call to the company. Ask to be connected to the Marketing Department, then ask if they would please send out some general marketing information on their company to you. This could be in the form of general company information or specific product information. Most companies are happy to oblige. Do your best to become familiar with the company's position within the marketplace and how they position themselves with their customers. Get to know what they really "do for a living" and what your potential role could be within that greater company purpose.
Ironically, most students don't attempt to access any of the above information until after their first on-campus interview. But if you are serious about your job search, do your best to acquire the information before you make contact with the employer or its representatives. It is those who are well-informed from the start who consistently are given the opportunity for the company-site interviews and eventual job offers.
Job search is a two-way street. Don't just go begging for any job. Doing detailed research on each potential employer will assist you in better understanding which companies you may have an interest in working for. And it will give you the ammunition you need to be successful in eventually landing a job offer from the employer of your choice.