Researching an Organization
Almost every book or article about job searching includes the advice to "learn as
much as you can about each organization you're applying to, certainly before an interview,
but also before applying. The more you know about the organization and the job, the
better your chances for an offer." Ironically, this is a step that many job applicants
skip. It contains many of the elements of doing a research project or paper for a
class, so you already have the skills. Use all of the resources available; no single
source is likely to have all of the information you need. Identify in advance the
factors about a prospective employer that are important to you, and take good notes.
You may wish to compare similar types of organizations, so research competitors and
colleagues. Finally, don't wait until the last minute to start your research. The
knowledge and insight you gain through your research will give you critical information
to target your job search and confidence for your interviews. Given a choice between
two candidates with similar skills, experience and preparation, an employer will always
be more impressed with the one who shows enough interest and commitment to take the
initiative to learn about the organization. Just as important, you will have a better
idea of which organizations offer you the best chance of making a contribution, being
compatible with the organization's culture/work environment, and being successful.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Call or write the organization you're researching. Tell them you are considering
approaching the organization for work, and ask if they would send you any printed
materials that would help you learn more about them, as well as prepare for an interview.
The public relations office, the college relations office, or the person responsible
for external communications are likely points of contact. Mention any of the following
as the type of information you seek:
- Annual Report - summarizes the year's performance and accomplishments, includes financial
statements, funding sources (for non-profit organizations), products and/or services,
names of key personnel, and a narrative.
- Organization Chart - shows all departments and how they report to and relate to one
another. Sometimes is included in the Annual Report.
- 10-K Report - a detailed financial disclosure required annually by the U. S. Securities
and Exchange Commission for publicly traded companies.
- Recruiting Brochures - produced primarily by larger organizations for the purpose
of attracting college graduates to the organization.
- Other Publications - in-house newsletters or magazines, brochures describing services
to clients or customers, press releases.
Many organizations of all types now have home pages on the Internet. Their purpose
may be to market information about their products and services, or the purpose may
be to provide information to prospective job candidates about opportunities with the
organization. Search the Employer Website Links to learn more about organizations. You can also use a search engine such as Alta
Vista or Yahoo to locate a specific organization.
If the organization (company, government agency, non-profit employer) is prominent
enough to get news space, The Reader's Guide, The New York Times Index, and The Wall Street Journal Index can help you find stories about it. Also use InfoTrak, a computer database that surveys
most newspapers, magazines and trade journals. Talk to the reference librarian for
suggestions about specific publications that may be helpful, such as Dun and Bradstreet's
Million Dollar Directory.
Career Development Office
Several of the directories on the Employer Directories shelves contain information
about products, services, size and location. Four file cabinets of Employer Literature
also contain recruiting literature and annual reports.
Professional or Trade Journals and Newspapers
When you know the field you want to work in, make it a habit to read the related
trade and professional journals. Many of the books on the Career Information shelves
in the CDO identify the primary professional associations for each field. Refer also
to the Subject Index of the National Trade and Professional Association Directory in the CDO. Consult the journals in Reed Library. Make it a habit to read local newspapers
for information about organizations in communities in the geographic region(s) in
which you will be job searching.
People as Resources
Sometimes people are the best source for the information you seek. This is especially
true for small, local organizations, privately held corporations, and some non-profit
organizations. Before you ask someone for his/her time, however, be sure you have
consulted the written sources so that you are not asking for information that can
be easily obtained elsewhere.
SOME FACTORS TO CONSIDER
- Size of organization/number of employees
- Financial size, as measured by annual sales (profit-making organizations)
- Funding sources and annual budget (non-profit organizations)
- Main products, services or programs
- Current initiatives/potential for new products, markets, services or programs
- Organization history/length of time in existence
- Location of headquarters/main office
- Other locations
- Relocation practices
- Patterns of growth and/or layoffs
- Organizational structure
- Organizational culture and philosophy or mission statement
- Structured or informal training programs
- Dress code
- Working conditions/work environment
- Morale of employees
- Internal job description(s)
What else do you want to know about an organization you are considering as a potential employer?
TIP: If you can't find information about the specific organization you've identified,
research similar organizations.
For additional assistance, look on the Job Search shelf in the CDO for these resources:
Job Smarts for Twentysomethings, Chapter 11, Bradley G. Richardson, pp. 77-89.
Researching Your Way to a Good Job, Karmen N. T. Crowther
The Right Fit: An Educator's Career Handbook and Employment Guide, Strother and Marshall, pp. 89-95.