As a savvy job hunter, it is critically important for you to continually research potential employers for two reasons:
1. You can tailor your cover letter and interview performance to demonstrate that you care about the company, and have given serious thought to ways in which you can contribute to it.
2. You can make an educated decision about whether the job you're applying for is an excellent fit for your experience, skills, personality, and long-term aspirations. Before you make a commitment, your eyes should be open wide to both the challenges and opportunities that come with the job.
It is worth the effort to use multiple inquiries. You can learn much by researching a company on career management sites like Glassdoor.com and Vault.com. And simply searching by the company name on both the News and Business sections of AOL, Bing, Google, or Yahoo! will give you different results.
Through the "Advanced People" search on LinkedIn you can find people who used to work at the company you're researching. This, in turn, can lead to a gold mine of information. If you network appropriately with former employees you can learn a great deal about the kind of people who work at a company, its corporate culture, and more. While people sometimes have an ax to grind with a former employer, often you will be able to find individuals who are happy to help. As you amass your data and hear the stories of others, you'll be able to discern the unique combination of challenges and opportunities present within any given company.
By scanning many LinkedIn profiles of former employees you can see the kinds of places where people land after having worked at your target company. With this information in hand, you can determine if this is the kind of career arc you envision for yourself two or three jobs in your future.
Here are general areas of inquiry that should guide your overall research:
1. How solid is the company? If you're looking at a start-up, you need to find out: How well capitalized it is, plus how long it can last without a new infusion of capital or income. What are some realistic expectations for corporate growth and profitability?
If the company is family owned, find out: How stable is it? How likely is it that it will fall to the competition of a larger company that swoops in to compete with it or buy it out? How much direct control of day-to-day operations is exercised by family, and how much can an "outsider" really accomplish?
If it's a large corporation, find out: what is its culture and reputation for treating its employees? How much executive support is there to make sure your department has the budget and tools it needs to fulfill its responsibilities?
Learning about the company can help to educate you about how solid the position is that you're looking at, your chances for promotion over time, and more.
If accepting this position would require you to relocate, learn as much as you can about the place where you would live. What is the character of the community? What is the housing market like? What is the comparable cost of living? How accessible are quality healthcare, good schools and educational opportunities, plus cultural and recreational activities? How much of a salary will you need to just maintain your current lifestyle, and how does that compare with what you're currently earning?
2. What is the on-boarding process? How much orientation training for your specific role will be offered in your initial weeks or months? How steep is the learning curve in your intended role? Does the company encourage mentoring or coaching for its employees? While this goes well beyond on-boarding, what are the opportunities for corporate support if you'd like to receive continued professional education and training?
3. How would your position fit into the overall company? Is this department a part of the company's core function and mission, or might it be eliminated or sold off in a corporate restructuring? What are the long-range plans for the department? Does it have adequate personnel, budget, and other resources to perform its function in a first-rate manner? Does it have support from the top levels of corporate executives?
It takes a great deal of time and effort to do all the research necessary. But if your job is to get a job, this will be a key element for your work; producing not just "a job" but the "right job" as you develop your overall career.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.