An important part of resume customization and interview preparation is research. How can you research more effectively?
Most candidates don’t spend much time with research until interview preparation. While research is an important way to stand out in interviews, research is even more effective in preparing to send a resume – because so few candidates do much research at this stage, the ones that do can stand head and shoulders above the rest.
What Type Of Information Should Candidates Research?
Many candidates research a public company’s annual report, looking for sales and profit figures, understanding what industry they are in, who the officers are, and the major events of the past year. They research historically. But few of these facts will help much in making your resume standout, or impressing an interviewer.
How can you make the most of your research time? Research prospectively – to gain insight on what’s happening now and what is expected within the company.
Think of research as finding information that falls into four categories: 1) Company Goals & Challenges; 2) Questions; 3) Culture.
- Goals & Challenges If you’ve already Stopped Looking for a Job and instead are looking for a problem you are uniquely qualified to solve (See Would You Stop Looking For A Job Already? at http://recareered.com/blog/2010/03/27/would-you-stop-looking-for-a-job-already-best-of-recareered/), then the process of research can be focused to find that problem. After you’ve found that problem that you’re uniquely qualified to solve, use the research as a background to craft your custom resume, showing how you’ve:
– Solved the exact challenge a company is facing
– Capitalized on the opportunities a company sees
– Broken through roadblocks to achieve the exact goals of your target company
– Solved problems that occur before or after a company has reached those goals
The higher in the organization you’re targeting, the bigger piece of the solution you’ll want to demonstrate on your resume. If you’re interviewing for a C-Level position, it’s easily see that you’ll want to show how you solved the whole problem or most of it (if it’s cross functional). But even if you are interviewing for an Administrative Assistant’s role, you can show how you contributed to increasing sales by developing sales, margin, or commission tracking systems, dashboards, and ways to quickly report information to management. You can even show how you’ve decreased costs by streamlining processes or travel vendors. These are all demonstrated that you contributed to solving company problems, even if only a small piece.
- Questions: If you’re preparing for an interview, you’ll want to look for questions. The most effective interview questions you can ask are questions you already know the answers to – and that lead the interviewer to bring up opportunities or challenges that you’ve already solved (See How To Take Control Of The Interview at http://recareered.com/blog/2010/05/14/how-to-take-control-of-the-interview-best-of-recareered/).
Consider how you can turn company opportunities, challenges, roadblocks and problems into questions that address the problem, and break it down into the parts you want to discuss. Consider also how to turn these same facts into implication questions – what happens if the opportunity is missed, the challenge not met, the problem not solved? Finally, develop questions that “twist the knife” by monetizing the issue – How much will you lose if the opportunity is missed, how much will it cost if the problem is not solved?
Once you’ve monetized the problem, you’ve not only demonstrated more understanding than 99% of candidates, but you can also demonstrate that you are an inexpensive solution to that problem.
- Culture: Look at pictures of people and work spaces on annual reports and marketing brochures. Read every quote from employees of all levels that you can. Gain clues and insight on culture, communication styles, dress style, and the types of people who succeed within the target company’s environment. If you can find quotes, pictures, or best yet a podcast or video on the person who you are interviewing with, that can give you such an unfair advantage, it’s scary.
Ask yourself – Are they formal or informal? Laid back or intense? Analytical or creative? What are they being quoted on (it’s probably important to them)? What are they wearing? What’s in the background? What does the office look like (neat or cluttered)? What’s their facial expression? Do they talk fast or slowly? Expressive or reserved? Do they use their hands when speaking?
Discovering clues about culture can help you with communications style in your resume and non-verbal communications so critical in the first 2-30 seconds of an interview – See See How Easily You Can Master Non-Verbal Interviewing at (http://recareered.com/blog/2010/06/18/see-how-easily-you-can-master-non-verbal-interviewing-best-of-recareered/), and Interview In A Snap (http://recareered.com/blog/2010/05/21/interview-in-a-snap-best-of-recareered/). Even if a podcast or video features someone other than the specific hiring manager interviewing, you gain huge advantages in setting first impressions by picking up communication style clues within the organization, Why? Most people within an organization communicate using similar styles – Mirroring that style gives you an advantage at making a great first impression.
Here’s a list of 10 apparent & non-apparent places to find target company research:
The person with the most and best information often wins. Most candidates stop with the easy public research (at the end of the list below). Few candidates dig deeper to find information that their competitors don’t have. Your best source of information is people within your target company. Insiders have the juicy details, non-public information, and gossip that can be of huge value to understand the company’s goals/problems, develop questions, and understand the culture.
- Linkedin contacts & company page (See Linkedin Company Follow Helps Job Seekers Find The “Hidden Job Market” at http://recareered.com/blog/2010/04/29/linkedin-company-follow-helps-job-seekers-find-the-hidden-job-market/)
- Technorati Searches
- Press Releases
- Organization’s Blog, industry and competitor blogs
- Yahoo Finance
- Annual Reports – Public companies, Regulated Industries and some Non-Profits, Hospitals, Educational Institutions publish Annual Reports
- Quarterly Reports – Mainly for Public Companies and Regulated Industries
- Organization’s Website
So how will you change how you research target companies, and what you use it for?
Readers – Any creative uses or sources of company research that have been effective for you? Please share in comments below.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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