Career Services

Lebanon Valley College

Researching Companies – the most important activity of job searching

Spring often means that many students are engaged in an active search for jobs or internships.  Identifying companies of interest is certainly the first step, but what comes next?  Your resume, along with your cover letter or presence/conversation at a career fair, is your opportunity to illustrate how you would be a good fit for a position or organization.  That means that you should be purposefully highlighting skills, abilities, and attributes that are relevant to the employer.

Figuring out what is relevant is the behind-the-scenes preparation before your resume is created, your cover letter is drafted, and your interview responses are practiced.  By researching the organization and industry of interest, you will be able to tailor your job search materials and create a strong personal brand that advocates for why you should be considered as a candidate.

According to the Digital Job Choices Magazine, available through the Career Services website, “Researching employers is perhaps the single-most important activity you will undertake in your job search.  The information you uncover can help you:

  • Discover organizations that are a good match for you,
  • Identify the organization’s goals and needs,
  • Tailor your resume and cover letters to highlight your skills and experiences that match the employer’s needs,
  • Know what questions to ask employers,
  • Demonstrate your interest in and enthusiasm for the organization,
  • Answer interview questions with confidence, and
  • Make an informed employment decision.”

Click HERE for this 4 page article that advises where to begin, offers research resources, information you should be looking for, and websites to delve into specific industries.  Don’t skip this step!  The more effort you put in, the more confident you will feel when making a positive impression on potential employers.

Researching a Company

When preparing for a career fair, an interview, or a networking event in which you will be interacting with employers of interest, preparing ahead of time will help you to make a strong first impression.  We frequently receive feedback from events that employers wish students would spend more time researching their organizations beforehand; doing so will help you to prepare good questions and have a more targeted conversation.

CareerSpots has recorded a 4 minute video offering employer suggestions on how to begin Researching Companies.  A few specific points offered in their corresponding Quick Tips sheet are as follows:

  • Start with the company website.  You will find all the basics: information on the company’s products or services, mission statement, history, press releases, locations, job openings and much more.  Read the company’s annual report.  Look through company personnel profiles and, if possible, find information on the person who you ill interview with.
  • Get an industry view of the company.  Check out trade journals at the university or public library to see what other people are writing about the company.  This gives you a broader sense of the industry as a whole and how the company fits into the larger picture.  You can also find out who are the company’s top competitors.
  • Check out company blogs…

Informational interviews are also an excellent way to learn more about a company, industry, or profession.  Refer to last week’s blog on Informational Interviewing to learn what they are, their value, and how to conduct one!

Don’t underestimate the value of being prepared!  Spend the time researching companies ahead of time; it will be noticed by employers and will help you to stand out and move farther in the job search process!

Informational Interviewing

What are they? Why do them? What do you ask? What’s next?

To start, watch two students prepare and receive feedback in in this CareerSpots video: Informational Interviewing.

Conducting an informational interview does not have the same objective as a job interview.  While the latter is part of a hiring process to land a job, the former is about networking, learning, and practicing.  From informational interviews, you can gain a first-hand perspective about a company, a specific job, or an industry.

Informational interviews are extremely valuable for anyone looking to gather information.  When done professionally, they can open doors and help you make decisions about your own career planning.  So, how do you conduct one professionally?  Figure out who you would like to talk with and make the connection; prepare in advance and ask thoughtful questions; and follow up to express your appreciation and keep the conversation going.

Like job interviews, informational interviews should be taken very seriously from start to finish.  Your first step is to think about your purpose for conducting an informational interview – what are your interests, plans, etc?  Taking the time to articulate your reasons will help you to target the type of individual you might like to contact.

Second, determine who to connect with!  Think about your personal connections, explore the Career Connections alumni mentoring database, or initiate contact with someone from a company of interest.  Then, introduce yourself (usually through email or letter for the first contact) and ask for a half hour of their time.  Let them know your purpose for contacting them and give them an idea of what you’d like to discuss.  Don’t forget that professionals are busy – you may need to follow up!

Once a connection is made and an informational interview is scheduled – they can be conducted over the phone, in person, via email communication, or Skype – be sure to research the company/industry/profession and prepare questions that will direct the conversation.  You want to approach an informational interview with a plan; but you should always be prepared to improvise.  This should be a conversation, not a rapid-fire question/answer session!

If you are meeting them, be sure to dress as professionally as you would for a job interview.  Take your resume with you just in case (don’t forget, this is not a job interview, but you never know where it will lead!) and your notes with questions.  Your goal is the leave the interviewee impressed with your efforts!  Follow up with a thank you note afterword expressing your interest in continuing the conversation.  Congratulations – you are well on your way to building your professional network!

Although networking might be a daunting thought, informational interviewing is absolutely worth the effort.  Gain valuable information that you would have difficulty learning otherwise, and meet professionals who can be helpful to career path.  The more you practice, the easier it will be when participating in real job interviews and the more you will be familiar with the professional world.

The Elevator Pitch

You find yourself in the presence of a representative from a company you’re interested in working for – what do you say?

Whether it’s an accidental meeting, a networking event, or a career fair, you have a very short amount of time to make a positive impression.  Often called an elevator speech or a 30 second commercial, these short introductions are your first chance to tell someone about yourself and convince them that they want to know more.  It can be extremely difficult to offer valuable information that is going to help you stand out and make an impact on the person with whom you are speaking.  Practice, practice, practice!

Don’t get too caught up in trying to memorize an elevator speech – you need to be able to adapt quickly and discuss key points that are relevant to the organization or person in front of you.  However, it can help to keep the following tips in mind to give you a framework of what to say and help you practice:

  • Who are you? Give the basics!  (name, major, class standing….)
  • Why are you interested?  What’s your purpose in talking with them?
  • Why are you qualified? What can you do for them?
  • What makes you stand out from your competition? What’s your hook?

Prepare responses ahead of time and practice saying them concisely and confidently.  Practicing out loud is a must – preferably in front of someone so that you can hear how your speech flows and so they can provide you with feedback.  Take a look at The Elevator Pitch video from CareerSpots for some real-life examples of students giving their elevator speech to a recruiter who then offers feedback on what stood out to her and what could be improved.  The article Fantastic Formulas for Composing Elevator Speeches also offers great advice from the experts for ways to outline your introduction.