How to Get a Great Job: Researching Individuals


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The second aspect of researching an organization is when you’ve decided to contact a company about a job opening, or after you are invited to an interview. The timing on this type of research is crucial, because the more you know about the organization, the industry, the geographic region, and even the individuals you may interview with, the more likely you are to impress the hirers, stand out from your competition, and get the job!

When to research a potential employer:

  • Before you write your cover letter and customize your resume
  • Before you visit a company at a job fair
  • Before you contact a hiring manager for an information interview
  • Before your initial job interview—including telephone interviews


What You Should Learn—and Where

“Do your research before you send out your resume. That way your resume will be custom-made to that job. Match your qualities listed in the resume to the job ad—and come up with three stories for when you interview. I have my [job-seekers’] class write their resume to a specific job opening for practice.”

— Bernice Kao, job/career specialist and job service outreach librarian at Fresno County (California) Public Library

OK—you’ve found a promising job opening, registered for a job fair, or earned an appointment for an interview, and you’re ready to start your research on a specific organization. What information should you gather on the company you’re targeting?

Start with the basics:

  • The history, size, and scope of the organization
  • Its financial health and stability
  • Any recent news involving the organization
  • The organizational chart for the department or location you’ll be working in
  • The corporate culture  

And don’t forget to educate yourself on…

  • Current state of industry, area
  • Latest news in industry
  • Most recent changes in the organization (executives hired, layoffs, awards, etc.)


binocularsFor a company’s history, size and scope, look… in the “about us” section of the organization’s own website.If the organization you’re targeting is owned by a larger corporation, has changed its name, or has a second identity, try a Google search on additional names to see what information you might unearth.

binocularsFor financial health, look…  at a number of financial sites. If the organization is publicly traded (that is, it is owned by stockholders), you can easily check its financial performance. Start with the Edgar database of the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission ( And Yahoo! Finance ( compiles financial news on specific publicly traded companies—just type the company name into the search field. Also check the organization’s own website for an annual report, which will include the year’s financial performance. Nonprofit organizations as well as publicly traded ones may post their reports online.

binocularsFor recent news, look… on sites for industry trade journals, local newspapers, and perhaps professional associations. A carefully worded general search may yield recent news articles and announcements as well. 

binocularsFor org charts and corporate culture information, look… on the company website.


How to Use a Company’s Website

Of course, you should take time to thoroughly review the website of the company you’re targeting. Pay attention to these areas of information:

About Us/History/Mission:> In addition to a broad overview of the company, you may be able to figure out values, corporate culture, and even key words to use in writing or conversation.

Products/Services: A great way to introduce yourself to what exactly the company does, and imagine how you might fit in. Memorize product names or at least categories before you interview.

What’s New/Press Releases:> Glean the latest news about the company for excellent points to bring up in an interview or cover letter. Past news provides an instant timeline for developments, product releases, even new hires—and demonstrate what the company thinks is newsworthy.

Leadership/Staff Directory/Structure:> Find out who the major players are as well as who you may be working with and/or for in the open position. Note the names and titles of all of the above before heading in for an interview.

How to Keep up on Industry News

It’s a good idea to read up on general news about your profession, industry and area throughout your job search. That way you’ll be knowledgeable and insightful on cue when you unexpectedly meet a potential contact, while you’re networking and especially while you’re applying for and interviewing for positions.


“You just have to pay attention to your own industry. Read all media and talk to people at [networking events]—and expand your interests to the bigger picture.”
— Bernice Kao, job/career specialist and job service outreach librarian at Fresno County (California) Public Library

Here is the bare minimum of industry research and news reading you should do throughout your job search:

  1. Select one to three sources of industry-specific news (most likely trade journals) and at least skim every issue or update. If a publication is not available online for free, see if you can sign up for a trial subscription, borrow hard copies from a subscriber you know, or consider sharing the cost of a subscription with one or more fellow job-seekers.
  2. Bookmark the website of a trade association. Check for recent updates to discussion forums or press releases. If you’re a member, you may be able to get automatic news e-mails.
  3. Join a profession- or industry-specific group on LinkedIn, and monitor the discussion forums.
  4. Scan the headlines in a your local or national newspaper every day. (Do this online for free.) This will prepare you for “small talk” at networking events or targeted comments in an interview situation. Job hunters can sometimes be isolated—demonstrate that you know what’s happening in the world!

How to Use LinkedIn

More and more companies are adding a corporate profile on LinkedIn, with basic (but valuable!) information. Perhaps most important, you can see which employees are on LinkedIn and whether you have any first-, second- or third-level connections.

Find companies through people’s profiles, or search LinkedIn for a company profile by name or keyword.

You can also choose to “follow companies” on LinkedIn, which enables you to receive automatic updates on changes to the profile, new developments, and job openings.

How to Learn from Employees

Several websites offer information and insights into companies from current or past employees. All organizations are not included, of course, and remember to take comments with a grain of salt—a disgruntled employee may be settling a score. Try these: lets employees post reviews of the companies they work for.’s “Employer Reviews” give you a peek at insiders’ comments on current and former employers. You need to create an account and log in to view many of these.

Off-Line Research

“Use your research to connect. When you read a news article where someone is quoted, write to that person to let them know you agree or disagree with what they said. Be a little aggressive, be alert and connect to your own interest.”

“Build your own network, so people will know you.”— Bernice Kao, job/career specialist and job service outreach librarian at Fresno County (California) Public Library

Bernice Kao recommends doing some in-person research using what she calls “guerilla networking” techniques:

“See if you can find an inside source within the company. Maybe you’re in a coffee shop or a [restaurant] near the company and you see someone wearing the corporate nametag. Ask them for a couple of minutes of their time—and buy their coffee. Tell them you’re interested in the company and ask questions. Get their name, and give them your business card. It may just work out that when there’s a job opening, they can deliver your resume to the personnel office.”

If this is too aggressive for you, at least ask the professionals in your network if anyone has information on the specific organization you’re targeting. You may find out important information on corporate culture, history of layoffs, etc.



book cover: How to Get a Great Job: A Library How-To HandbookThis article is adapted from the book How to Get a Great Job: A Library How-To Handbook by Editors of the American Library Association published by ALA Editions.



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