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Want to impress an employer? Do your research

researchda“Some of the candidates were very well-informed and knew more about our company than we did”.  We were delighted to receive this feedback from an employer who was interviewing University of Hertfordshire graduates recently. Unsurprisingly, recruiters are less impressed by candidates who know very little about the organisation they’re applying to and it’s a very common reason for rejection.  Whether you’re writing your CV, preparing for an interview or planning to talk to an employer at a fair or networking event, doing some basic research will stand you in very good stead. It will show that you’re motivated and will also help you to demonstrate you have the skills and qualities the recruiter is looking for. So how do you go about researching an employer and what do you need to find out?

Check the employer’s website thoroughly

Don’t be tempted to quickly read through the home page on the employer’s website and leave it at that.  Give yourself time to read the different sections of the website so that you can find out about:

  • Their structure. Are they global, national or local? Are they part of a larger group of companies?
  • Their products/services. Do you know about all of their products and services (and not just those related to the business area that interests you)?
  • Where they’re based. Do they just have one office or are they based on a number of different sites?
  • The “culture” of the organisation. Does the company have a values/mission statement? Does it have a social or corporate responsibility programme? What impression do you get from the tone of the wording on the website?
  • Job vacancies and career development. Pay particular attention to the careers/jobs pages on the website and find out as much as you can about the organisation’s vacancies e.g. the responsibilities, the training package and the entry requirements. These pages will also give you further clues about the culture of the organisation so don’t just skip through paragraphs that say things like “our people are …”

Find out more about the sector

As well as looking at the company website, read more widely to find out about the sector(s) the organisation operates in.  Try searching for trade/professional magazines online and look at appropriate professional body websites.  Also keep an eye on relevant sections of general news websites as well as big news stories in the business and public sectors can be widely reported.  To check you’ve done enough research, try to find out the following:

  • Is the company a new arrival or well-established?
  • Who are their competitors?
  • Are there any current news stories about the sector the organisation operates in?
  • Has the company been involved in any recent news stories (good or bad)?

Do some reflection

Once you’ve done your research you will have an impressive level of knowledge about the organisation which will be invaluable no matter what stage of the selection process you’re preparing for.  Finally, reflect on what it is about the organisation that appeals to you and think about how you would explain this to a recruiter on an application form or face-to-face at an interview or careers fair.

Suzanne Ball is Careers Adviser for the School of Health & Social Work and the School of Creative Arts at the University of Hertfordshire.  She regularly tweets on all things creative via @careerview.

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