Researching an employer
As well as using the recruitment process to find out if you have the skills, knowledge and experience required, employers want to see how you'll fit in with the culture, aims and values of their organisation.
Therefore, researching a company is essential to help you target your applications, perform confidently during interviews and show an organisation that you have a genuine interest in being employed by them.
Giving evidence of personal connections you've made through work experience and networking and how this connects to the values, culture, policies and mission of an organisation helps put you ahead of other applicants.
Making it personal
It's easier to come across as enthusiastic and motivated for a role if you research the organisation before applying. The application and interview process may include the questions:
- Why do you want to work for us?
- Why have you applied?
- Tell me something about the company that you couldn't find on our website.
In response to these questions avoid telling them facts and figures that they already know. For example:
"You were a family owned business founded in 1928 in the United States. You have grown to employ 17,000 people in 4 countries. You make components which you sell to 20 countries worldwide."
This doesn't really explain why you have chosen them. Avoid being light on detail and instead tell them why you like them and why you want to work for them.
The employer wants to see more than 1 reason for your interest. They want to see the personal connections you make and how this connects to the values, culture, policies and mission of the organisation.
4 key places to research an employer
There are many ways to research an employer. Here are the 4 key places to find out what a company does, who its people are, and what their future goals are.
You can use the TargetJobs Employer Research Checklist, which provides a range of questions to reflect on when carrying out employer research.
The company's website
The company's website is an important resource to help you know and understand the company's mission and vision, new products and the latest annual or quarterly report.
Read the company website and press releases for information about the company's history and progress including their innovations, key milestones, mission or vision statements and corporate values. This will increase your awareness of the organisation and the sector they work in.
Check out the careers or 'working with us' page on the company's website. You'll find the latest vacancies and information on the application process, but also get an idea of what the company looks for in their employees, in terms of technical skills or personal attributes.
"Tell me something about our company that you couldn't find on our website?"
To impress an employer you need to go further. When you're setting out to research a potential employer, keep this question in mind.
We always suggest you start with a web search to quickly find top news stories and other sites that mention the company. But an employer will expect you to do more so we've provided 3 more locations where you can go beyond a simple web search.
Industry news and blogs
Follow the news on industry-related publications, blogs and websites to find out what will affect the company you're researching - and their competitors. You can find potential sources of information by using the relevant career guide for your sector.
Also, check relevant industry and business sector tabs on the websites of quality newspapers and online industry magazines for in-depth information and analysis on the sector as a whole. Find out all you can about the main players, current threats or opportunities, which companies are doing well, and so on.
When you search, be prepared to keep refining your search terms to find information that might otherwise be hidden in your results. Try adding these: financial, reviews, strategy, competitors, forecast. Remember not every result will be relevant or reliable.
- TARGETjobs Employer Insights is a website that surveys graduates and interns to find out what their workplaces are really like
- Sites like Glassdoor and The Job Crowd provide employee reviews on interviews, salaries, working environments and other insights
- Search to see if the company has a YouTube channel
Social media sites are another place you should be searching for background information. Most post information on their social media sites that might not be immediately available on their website.
Also look out for information on employees, which will give you a real flavour for what it would be like to work there. You can use Twitter to follow people in companies you're interested in, and Facebook can tell you more about a company's culture. Reading comments on social media sites could add interest to your research, but be careful about the reliability of your online sources of information.
On LinkedIn, spend some time researching key people working for the company. The CEO and other senior leaders shape the company's direction, so know what their priorities are. These people also often share articles or presentations they've written or featured in.
LinkedIn can help you research employees working in the area you are applying for, which might include those on your interview panel or recent graduates. Keep an eye out for useful background information including shared interests or experience.
Personalising your responses
When you research an employer using the methods above, you're able to give more personalised answers to interview and application questions.
We've provided some example responses below to give you a starting point. You can use these examples as a guide, using your own experience and research to develop your own responses.
"In your mission statement, you state your aim to reduce your carbon footprint year on year and this really matters to me. I've been involved in a project at university to encourage more students to recycle and we recently won a prestigious award presented by a local green charity."
"On your website, you promote a set of values that I share, such as giving back to the community. During my three years at university, I volunteered on many occasions and gained confidence and a huge sense of satisfaction being involved with people in my local community."
"When you gave a talk to my university, you stressed how you invest heavily in supporting and developing staff to reach their full potential. For the last two years, I've been helping others be the best they can be through mentoring students new to the University and as a placement mentor, supporting a student through the challenging recruitment processes to successfully get a placement in a large company. I learnt a lot about myself in that process."
"I speak three languages and I've been studying a degree called International Business, which included taking a year abroad in Spain. I'm excited by the new opportunities you are creating in Madrid. My longer-term goal is to utilise my languages and work in..."
"You state that the core of everything you do is to provide a unique and personal customer experience. Having spent five years working in retail, I've learnt how to deliver excellent customer services. Working in Debenhams in Oxford Street, I received high-quality training and I delighted in helping customers with their purchases. I worked as a mystery shopper for an agency where I looked critically at the services shops offered. I've received positive compliments and feedback and gained 'Employee of the Month' awards on several occasions."
"I'm confident in my ability to analyse big data and provide solutions to problems. Your customer reviews express high praise for your services on independent review sites, and I want to learn from you but also make a contribution to what you do. A recent project I worked on for a charity was to help them improve their data and make it easier for them to analyse and present data to their end-users. This won me praise and an excellent reference."
"You identify yourselves as a company very proud of your diverse workforce. In my background, I have family from West India, Ireland and Sri Lanka. I was involved in Black History month at school bringing in local people to celebrate the impact immigrant and refugee people have made through food, dance and music. At university, I worked with the student union to promote diversity through positive action schemes and events."
"I regularly read online business news including the Financial Times and The Economist, and I'm excited by your recent acquisition of xxx company and your commitment to invest in virtual reality technology to improve the wellbeing of people with dementia. This fits well with what I've been studying, and where I believe my talent lies, as evidenced by getting top marks for relevant units and because my grandmother has dementia and I'm aware of the limits current care can provide."