After scouring our job board you found an awesome potential lead. Now there’s nothing to do but send in your standard resume and cover letter and hit apply. But wait!
With the high amount of quality candidates competing for gigs, you’ll need to up your game in order to get noticed. And if there’s one surefire way of doing that, it’s showing you really know the company via your cover, resume and—fingers crossed—your subsequent interview.
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Even if you’re not looking to jump ship just yet, researching companies in your field is smart as an ongoing practice.
“The more you know about your industry and the companies in it, the better positioned you’ll be to grow your career when you’re ready to make a move,” says Alison Doyle, the job search expert for TheBalance.com.
Here are some solid tips on getting started.
Comb Through the Company Site
The most logical step to get a feel for a company is to visit its website, where you can find details about its mission, projects, services and employees.
Dawn S. Bugni, a master resume writer based in North Carolina, says reading a company’s website can also help you get familiar with their corporate speak. For example, if a company refers to “customer service” as “client relations,” you can then change one or two references in your resume or cover letter to their language.
“Speaking the language of the rest of the company transmits a feeling of subliminal affiliation or a sense that you already belong,” Bugni says. “That sense of belonging makes initial introductions and contacts more comfortable all around.”
A few other things to research on the company site: the number of years the company’s been in business, the different office locations, how many people the company employs and any notable clients.
Research Outside Sources
There are a variety of ways to learn about a company. Doyle recommends searching Google news results to see if the company shows up. This could bring up details about a corporate event—or a recent complaint.
To get the inside scoop on salary, interview questions, company info and reviews, be sure to swing by Glassdoor. Posts are anonymous, but offer a valuable way to learn more about what a company is like.
You may also want to set up a Google Alert using the company’s name (or your industry) to find out what’s new. This will help you keep on top of your knowledge of the company, and your field in general. Just make the alert name as specific as possible so you don’t get overwhelmed with results.
“Those mentions can be of great importance or some obscure detail giving insight into culture and mission,” says Bugni. “The obscure also makes for great interview fodder, ‘I saw your CEO won XYZ Golf Tournament for ABC Charity. I volunteered with ABC back in high school. What a small world!'” Again, a great conversation piece as long as the news is positive.
Follow Their Socials
Checking out a company’s social channels can give you a good feel for the company’s culture, the people who work there and news about the company and its industry.
Doyle notes with LinkedIn you can view first- and second-degree connections while also researching the company. Bugni suggests looking at specific employee profiles, because you can browse their memberships and affiliations, which will give you another layer for connecting.
When it comes to the company’s Facebook page, Doyle says, “It may give you a more casual perspective than LinkedIn or the corporate website.” Here, you can learn about company culture, events and even business reviews.
And don’t forget about Twitter: Monitoring their tweets will give you an idea of the information they value, trends they’re following and the way they present themselves. Pro tip: It would never hurt to like or re-tweet one of their posts around the time you apply.
Analyze the Competition
Another great way to learn about a company is to consider it in a context with its competitors. Employ the same tactics outlined above, and check out sites like Crunchbase and Hoovers, to find out the latest news and information about similar companies in your field. “This will help you hone in on what’s unique and different about this story relative to what’s already being discussed in the market,” says David Capece, founder and CEO of the digital agency Sparxoo.
Knowing about your industry, as well as a company, is an invaluable asset. Even if you can’t spout off statistics on a company’s earnings or list names of their board of directors, staying in touch with your field—and knowing where you want to go in it—is a true pillar of advancing your career.