Career Advice

How To Really, Really Research Your Future Employer

You’ve looked at the organization’s website and Google’ed them.

Now it’s time to go onto a deeper dive into researching your future employer, their past and their future. Certainly you can and should read up here on Glassdoor, and then to really, really research a company or non-profit, prepare to chat with a librarian for a bit – or log onto their website.

Many public libraries subscribe to databases that aren’t available unless you go through the institution, and those can open up riches of information on companies and non-profits. A few also run job search programs that teach how to target companies for your search, said Bonnie Easton, Cuyahoga County Public Library’s career and business specialist.

“Know whether the company is public or private, a for-profit or a non-profit,” she said. If it’s a public company, with stock on the NASDAQ or another exchange, locate its annual report. “Get the players, the mergers, new products,” said Easton, as well as a look at their financial picture.

Yet most companies hiring are not public – and their information is less accessible.

“The smaller the company, the harder it is to find information,” said Katie Chynoweth, a librarian who organizes job seeker computer classes at the Ann Arbor District Library in Michigan. (She believes she landed her job at the library three years ago in part because she spent more than three hours reading its website and understanding its priorities, mission and direction.)

Here’s a variety of research tools recommended by Easton and Chynoweth, with the first three most likely to be available through library databases:

ReferenceUSA: Good for small company research; says it lists 14 million U.S. businesses.

Standard & Poors Net Advantage: Besides a look at public companies, this provides industry profiles, which can be important for career changers or those switching from a declining industry to a growing one, Easton said.

Million Dollar Directory by Dun & Bradstreet: Good for investigating mid-sized and larger companies, even though it has no size criteria.

CareerOneStop: Check the employer locator in the career tools center; you’ll find a HR specialist’s name and some details on the organization’s size.

The Thomas Register: Good resource for manufacturing and industrial companies. and Workers share their view of the organization, and their experiences there. Before an interview, be sure to review the interview section for questions asked and other insights.

LinkedIn: Check the employer profile and look at top managers’ profiles too. This site is useful in many ways for job seekers and they need to get to know it, the research librarians said.

Local newspapers and business weeklies, also trade publications: They will carry profiles of local businesses, and even if it’s a few years old, it can give you an idea of the history and plans of the organization. Use other resources to see if those new products proved profitable or not. Research non-profits, discover their total budgets and much more. Free membership may be required. Another non-profit site, it’s good for trends and a look at comparable jobs available in the charity field, said Easton.

Other worthwhile sources may be Fortune and Forbes, for their business rankings and lists. When you’re digging in, try to find out about their chief competitors, how their products or services stack up, their target markets and what trends are affecting their prospects, she suggests.

Commit a half hour or an hour of time on company research before you create a resume to send to the hiring organization, said Chynoweth. That will allow you to tailor it to the company and its goals and mission. Then spend another hour or two before the first interview.

“Spend the time – it ends up being worth it,” she said.