Job Seeker 101: Do Your Research

By: Chris Skaggs | @chrislskaggs


Speaking from personal experience, there is nothing more frustrating than sitting across from a candidate and receiving a blank stare when you ask, “What questions do you have for me?” Well, ok, almost nothing – typos on a resume frustrate the heck out me, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

Seriously, you have no questions? Did you not do any research on our company at all? Were you too busy to spend a portion of your time learning a little about the place you might be spending a majority of your waking hours?

There really isn’t an acceptable excuse anymore for not doing your homework as a job seeker. In our ever-increasing transparent world, company research is easier and easier to obtain. For the most part, employers expect it at this point and there are a variety of places a job seeker can find this insider information.

007-style undercover work will allow you to see what it’s ‘really’ like to work at a particular company and if it is the type of place you want to invest your time and skills into. Even knowing what kind of people will you be surrounded by should provide some clarity.

As a job seeker, you shouldn’t be surprised when you show up to the new job. Sure, you’re not going to uncover every single detail, but you should have a pretty good grasp on the company’s values and culture before ever signing that offer letter.

C’mon say it with me, “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, you deserve this type of information.” I think that’s what Stuart Smalley meant to say.

So how can you as job seekers uncover these hidden gems? Online. The company’s website is probably the best place to start your research. While websites traditionally only housed need-to-know information, more and more companies are putting additional details, even the privately-owned ones. 

First up, you should be able to find the company’s mission, vision and core values. You should also pretty easily locate the company’s value proposition to its potential customers. What does the company sell, what is its promise, strategic advantage, and/or differentiator?

These items should give you the general 30,000 foot view of the company.

Next up on your website treasure hunt, take a look at the “About” page. Here you should find some information about how the company started and who it does business with. Typically, you can also find some of the leadership at the company. Read those biographies and see if the people at the top would inspire you to work hard every day. Bonus points if you take it one step further: check your network to see if any of your friends have any connections to those decision-makers at the company.

Also in this section of the company website you might be able to find some awards and recognition for the company. I mean, who doesn’t want to join an award-winning team?

Next up, check the “Press” pages and any links to the company’s official social channels. If a company is putting out press releases, there is a wealth of information you can obtain from a quick review. What awards were won, what employees are doing great things and being recognized for their efforts, and what new services or products are now being offered, to name a few.

We all know social media is consuming our lives and a company’s social presence is increasingly becoming a favorite for that behind-the-curtain look at the company. In fact, some companies even have entire social accounts devoted 100% to “Life at Company XYZ.”

Does the company you are interested in joining have a robust social presence? If not, how come, could they be hiding something?

Secondary to searching the company’s official social channels, turn your search to other employee social accounts. What are employees saying about the company? There can certainly be extremes, but using good research skills you can see the trends and cut through the noise to find the truth.

Finally, companies such as Glassdoor, LinkedIn and The Muse all house a ton of information about potential employers that you might be considering. Photos from recent events, employee testimonials, and even videos are popping up on these sites regularly now. 

Glassdoor goes even further by soliciting anonymous feedback in the form of company (and job role) reviews. Just as with employees’ social networks, you will have to search for the trends and weed through the reviews from folks who complain just to complain.

Now, to you recruiters and talent acquisition folks, the standard rainbows and butterflies on your company career pages doesn’t cut it anymore. Job seekers want the nitty-gritty… don’t worry, they can handle it! Plus, they’re pretty savvy and can see through the rhetorical web copy.

I firmly believe the interview is a two-way street. The company is seeing if you are the right person to join the team, and you should be making sure this is the type of team you would like to be signed with.

Therefore, companies are investing time and resources into really developing their talent brand. Forward-thinking companies know the candidates they are after and, more importantly, know those candidates are highly sought after. In today’s war for talent, companies have to be desirable to attract top talent. If there’s nothing for a candidate to run from, there must be something for them to run to.

Lars Schmidt of Amplify Talent said, “a good talent brand should both attract and repel top talent.”

It’s not inherently bad for an organization, especially in the start-up world, to embrace and work long hours, but that’s not for everybody. Companies being upfront about this information and giving job seekers this type of behind-the-scenes information ensures those individuals who might not appreciate a particular environment self-select out of the process.

As you can see, there are many avenues for job seekers to do their research – and remember, it goes both ways. A well-prepared candidate can leave a great impression with the interviewer, so the ball is in your court now. Happy hunting!