Our Kick-Start Your Job Search 2016 Summer Session is well underway. So far, we’ve covered Professional Reputation Management in our first lesson, which you can check out here. Next, we tackled ways to present your professional profile beyond the typical resume in the Beyond the Resume lesson here. Last week in our 3rd lesson, we looked at Making a Target Employer List and did some career-planning to hone your list. In addition, we covered how to build it and what information you should include.
In this week’s lesson, we’re going to cover researching employers. You’ll learn why you should and how to conduct your research so that you leave no stone unturned.
Kick-Start Your Job Search 2016: Researching Employers
Researching Employers – Why Do It?
With the average professional spending 40 hours or more at their job a week on average, the work you perform is important to the overall satisfaction you’ll have. Just as important though, is the employer you’re working for. Often, job seekers are so focused on just finding a job they’re qualified for and making it through the interview process, that they don’t place as much importance as they should on researching the company before accepting any offer of employment.
Nobody wants to accept a job that after only a short time, they realize they’ve made a mistake and will have to begin the search process all over again. Or worse, leave a job in order to accept one that looked great on paper only to discover that after a few months, they were sold a false bag of goods.
However, if you find yourself suddenly displaced and need a job just to make ends meet, it’s perfectly understandable to want to accept any job that is offered to you, whether it’s ideal or not. But before you accept just any job, we’d encourage you to seek the help of a temp agency that specializes in contract or project work on a short-term basis. That way, you can have some income coming in while you explore your options. Just make it clear that your ultimate goal is full-time employment with an employer who is a good fit for you and conduct your search and interviewing activities on your own time.
Researching Employers – Getting Started
Now that you understand why you should take the time to conduct research on potential employers, it’s time to pull out the list you made in lesson 3, Making a Target Employer List and the answers to the self-reflection questions also in lesson 3.
Your list should have the information for at least 50 employers, narrowed down by your geographical preference and that fit the other personal criteria you’ve set. If you haven’t trimmed up your list, now is a good time to do so. If you have less to start with, this is fine. You’ll be able to shorten it as you go through your research. However you should have at least 5 potential employers to get started with.
If you’ll recall from our lesson last week, we provided you with some ways to find target employers to add to your initial list. These included asking your network whom you should be looking at, reviewing trade and industry publications and tapping into the power of online resources such as Google, LinkedIn and job boards (Indeed and SimplyHired.) Google and LinkedIn are great tools to conduct even more in-depth research to continue to fill-in and really refine the list as you’re searching.
Researching Employers – Digging In
As we mentioned before, Google and LinkedIn are two great tools to begin digging into your research, so we’ll start there. With the answers to your questions and any reoccurring themes that you’ve circled, pick the name of one of the companies.
STEP 1: SELECT A COMPANY OFF YOUR TARGET LIST & GO TO THEIR WEBSITE
In a search engine (such as Google) go to the company’s website. There are a few things you should take note of right away. 1) How up-to-date is the site? 2) Does it offer ways to learn more about the background of the company? 3) Do they have an active company blog or news page where you can learn more? If a company’s website is out-of-date and offers little insight to their business, this warrants further exploration. While browsing the site, try to gather as much information about the company that you can and see if there are any clear red-flags or “deal-breakers” for you based on criteria you’ve set. If there is, remove them from your list and move on to the next one. There are too many good employers out there for you to settle for one that doesn’t meet your standards.
Provided they’ve made the grade so far, before exiting the site take note of the names of any members of their executive team and if possible, the names of any individuals that work in the practice area you’re focusing your search on. This information will be useful to you later on in your search if you decide to move forward with applying to the company.
STEP 2: DO A SEARCH FOR THE COMPANY ON LINKEDIN
A majority of all businesses have a presence on LinkedIn. The exception to this is newly formed companies such as a start-up, but even that is fairly rare. Do a search for the company you’ve selected in LinkedIn and review their company page. Some larger businesses also have additional pages focused on careers, too. If the company has that available, check it out as well. Really review what the company has to say about itself.
You’ll also note in LinkedIn that the company page also provides the names of any employees currently with the company and those who’ve worked for them in the past, usually located in the far-right sidebar. This information can be extremely valuable when researching companies to consider and is the basis for much of the research you’ll do in this lesson.
Jot down the information for 2 current employees and 1-2 current managers and 2 former employees in the practice area that you are considering. For example, let’s say you’re interested in an open role as a Project Manager in the IT department. You’ll want to locate the names of people who work in that department now, including any managers and at least two people who used to work in the department for the company. You can locate these people based on job title searches, or by scrolling through the names of people listed in connection to the company’s name in a search on LinkedIn.
STEP 3: REACH OUT
A basic LinkedIn profile allows you a limited number of InMail each month and in some cases you won’t be able to send messages to people unless you’re connected. If you have an upgraded account (it’s well worth it for job seekers) the cap for InMail and sending messages/connecting is removed. In most cases, the membership upgrade is something you can write off as an expense on your taxes since it is a tool you are using for a job search. (*Be sure to verify this with your tax professional regarding your unique tax situation.)
You’ll want to reach out via LinkedIn to the people whose names you’ve gathered for your research. Don’t be shy about asking for help! Most people are more than willing to help others.
Now to compose the outreach messages to the people you’ve listed. Below are the InMail message scripts that you can customize and send:
InMail Message Script For Current And Former Employees:
Hello [insert name],
I was searching on LinkedIn and came across your name in connection to [insert name of company] while reviewing the information on their company page. I’m interested in learning more about [insert name of company] and know you can only gather so much from online research.
If you’d be willing to share with me your experience working for [insert name of company] as their [insert their title], I would really appreciate it. I could see myself contributing to [name of company] one day, but I want to really assess my potential fit before considering them further. I assure you our conversation will be kept strictly confidential.
Please let me know if you’d be willing to speak with me and if so, a good email so that we can coordinate a date and time for a brief call. If you think there is someone else I should speak with, I would appreciate their name as well.
Thank you for your time,
[insert your name]
Got a few people willing to speak with you? Great! Here are some questions to ask:
Questions To Ask Current And Former Employees:
- What’s the culture like?
- What type of personalities fit best at the company?
- What do you (or did you) dislike about the company?
- Do you have any insight into the management style? (ex: closed door, supportive, micro-management)
- Would you say the environment allows for flexibility? To what degree?
- Is there opportunity for growth in most positions or is there a clear glass ceiling with certain roles?
- What do you (or did you) like most about working for the company?
- Is there something you wish you’d known prior to accepting your role and working there?
You’ll want to be sure to thank them for their time, ask if there is some way you can return the favor and send them an invite to connect on LinkedIn.
Homework assignment: reach out to people on your list that are current and former employees and schedule time to speak with them over the phone, or through a free video chat session such as Google Hangouts and ask them your questions.
Researching Employers – What About Other Company Review Tools?
There are dozens of tools used to gather insights on a company such as Glassdoor, Careerbliss and Vault which have information from current and former employees. It’s good to take a look at those sites, but also keep in mind that you won’t know the “context” of such reviews, or even the validity. Furthermore, some of those sites allow employers to manage their profiles and remove negative information! So take what you unearth there into consideration, but still draw your own conclusions based off of what you can learn through your own research.
Final Thoughts: Conducting research doesn’t have to be intimidating and can help you learn things about a company that you can’t always get from a company website or Google search. Speaking with people who know the “inside scoop” can provide a lot of insight so you can make an informed decision as to if this company is really one you’d like to explore opportunities with further.