Doing Your Homework
How to use research tools to your advantage, both to help to
figure out the corporate culture and give you the interview
If you know what your resources are, you can conduct a quick,
yet comprehensive search.
Whether you've landed an interview (congratulations!) or are
just poking around to find companies that match your interests
and goals, it's time to hone your research skills. Some of the
tools used for researching a company or industry are the very
same ones you would use if writing a feminist critique of Moby
Dick for your 19th century literature class; other tools,
however, are specific to your career search.
Understanding a company's mission and the focus of its work
will allow you to answer questions (both to yourself and to a
potential employer) about how you see yourself fitting into a
company's culture. You don't necessarily need to study stock
prices and business ratios (though this information would be
pertinent in a finance-related interview), but you should
have a sense of the company's direction, as well as major
industry trends and forecasts.
Where to look
In order to feel prepared for an interview-and confident of
your interest in a company - it's not necessary to embark on
a rabbit hole research project. Check with your school's
career center first. If you know what your resources are, you
can conduct a quick, yet comprehensive search.
If you simply enter the name of a company into a search
engine (such as Yahoo!, Google or Excite), you'll get lots
of listings, among which should be the company's web site.
Read it. Press releases--statements written by or for a
company that announce and promote company news--can be
found on the Web as well. While these pieces are biased
toward company interests, they can offer valuable data and
up-to-date info. You might discover that the newly
appointed Chief Financial Officer, who will be sitting in
on your interview, is a graduate of your school.
A periodicals search at the library can help you find
recent newspaper and magazine articles about a company.
Almost every industry has a trade magazine for
professionals in the field. If you want to go into
advertising, for example, read Ad Age or Adweek. If
information services is your field of choice, pick up an
issue of Information Week.
Beyond trade magazines, you can look to
newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal or the New York
Times, particularly to follow industry trends. The
marketplace section of the Journal offers an index of all
the companies mentioned in that edition.
If you're interviewing for a financial position, these
periodicals can give you the information you need about
significant movements in the Dow, S&P 500 Index,
federal lending rate, and unemployment rate.
You also can call a company directly. If you call the HR
department, ask for a brochure. If it's a publicly traded
company, call the investor relations department and ask for
an annual report. (It's okay to pretend you're a potential
client or investor.)
The Reference Section
Directories and lists (found at the library) are
another good tool for locating company information. The
Yellow Book series (with volumes such as media, law firms,
and government) gives full-page descriptions of the top
thousand companies in a particular sector. The NASDAQ 1000
lists the top thousand companies traded over the counter on
the NASDAQ exchange.
Finally, don't forget to use professionals in your field
or company of interest as resources. Ask them if they read
a particular publication, if they have an opinion about a
developing industry trend or company decision, and how they
stay informed. If you're short on contacts, check out your
career office's alumni network. They often organize
listings by industry.
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