There are plenty of ways job seekers can use publicly available ways to research target companies.
But the information that can put you head-and-shoulders above your competition isn’t public. What kind of data can help your job search, and how can you find it?
Publicly available company information is easy to find. I’ve written about what publicly available information is valuable and the best sources at www.recareered.com/blog/2010/07/16/4-killer-ways-to-use-research-in-job-search-best-of-recareered/.
Job seekers who want to gain a significant edge over other candidates find non-public information … but what should you look for, and how do you find it?
Source #1 – Your Network
The most obvious source of inside information in your own network. While that’s no shocker to most candidates, many candidates can use help in understanding what inside information is valuable, and how to uncover it.
For this discussion, let’s define network fairly broadly. In defining your network broadly, it’s important to understand what type of contact each person in your database represents. Your best ways to gain information from each group is different from the others.
Your network for this exercise includes:
- Your Close Network: Your close network are the people you know personally. These are people you’ve worked with, your neighbors, your friends, classmates, relatives, and people who have been to your home. These are people who will “fall on swords” for you, or at least break their company rules and go the extra mile to help you. Most people have a maximum 50-75 people in their close network.
- Your Distant Network: Your distant network comprises people that you know personally, but are more distant than your close network. This includes co-workers, vendors, ex-clients, ex-prospects, alumni, and classmates who you haven’t kept in touch with. Your distant network are people who know your name or have your business card, you’re in their contact list somewhere, they know they met you, but aren’t likely to go the extra mile for you.
- Your “Networking” Network: Your “Networking” network are contacts that you’ve met at networking events, trade shows, or conferences, but haven’t deepened the relationship beyond this. Maybe you’ve exchanged an email, maybe you’ve had a phone conversation, but you haven’t taken the step to meet with these contacts after the event, or it’s been years since you’ve seen them. Ex-clients and ex-prospects that you haven’t seen in years fall into your “Networking” network also. Your “Networking” network will probably open a non-promotional email that’s relevant to them, but they may not return your first call.
- Your Virtual Network: This is your online network, that you haven’t contacted in person, haven’t spoken over the phone recently. These are people who may or may not open an email that you’ve addressed, and who are unlikely to return your call until you first demonstrate what value you are bringing them.
How To Gain Help From Each Type Of Network
The approach with each type of network is different, based on the depth of your relationship:
- Your Close network is easy – these are people who will fall on swords for you. Since you’ve already built social capital with them, these are people who should be glad to help you. If not, then classify them as something other than close contacts.
- Your distant network is a little more challenging. While they are likely to take your call, in order to gain information and help, give value first before you ask for help. Do enough research to understand their hot buttons so you can first build social capital. Calling your distant network and asking for help before providing value may result in a polite conversation, but it’s unlikely to result in valuable information, additional contacts, or action. Why? Your distant network doesn’t feel they owe you, you haven’t paid them forward (or it’s been a very long time ago), and the people you want to reach are likely busy. Building social capital first gives you a better chance in getting the information or contacts that you want from your distant network.
- Your “Networking” Network typically wants similar things as you – contacts and information. If they aren’t looking for a job, they are likely looking to find clients or potential employees. By giving information and contacts first, you’ll find that your “Networking” network is much more likely to help you.
- Your virtual network doesn’t know what they want from you and may not recognize your name. In order to gain time and help from this segment of your network, provide value first. Once your virtual network contacts see that you can help them, they will be highly likely to return your calls and to provide help in return.
Notice that the strategy for all groups other than your close network is similar – pay it forward.
Source #2 – Job Boards
Most job seekers use job boards to learn what job openings exist at the moment. But job boards can provide information about jobs that will be listed in the future. In a sense, job boards can be predictive, a crystal ball.
How can you predict the future with a job board?
Consider the impact that hiring a new person in an advertised role will have on the company. If a company hires a new VP of Marketing and the job ad looks for someone with extensive new product experience, is it so surprising that the company is planning to launch new products?
What types of help does a company that is launching new products need? Sales, marketing, promotion, advertising, manufacturing, inventory, accounting, and possibly customer service help. Technology companies that are launching new products likely need software developers. If you have experience with a company that released numerous new products and you were involved or the results of those launches affected your job, you could be a good fit.
Consider the impact of a company that is hiring a new VP of Manufacturing and is searching for an expert in lowering manufacturing costs. What other needs would a company have that is cutting costs? Perhaps engineering, inventory, shipping, accounting, finance, IT, purchasing – positions that help companies cut costs.
How about a company that is hiring additional sales people? Take AT&T;, T-Mobile & Version for instance – These companies have been heavily hiring all year and many of the open positions are in sales. Companies that are making a huge push to beef up sales teams will likely have future needs in servicing customers, technical support to help more customers, accounting, warehousing/shipping, marketing, and advertising.
For more details on using job boards to see the hidden job market read http://recareered.com/blog/2010/05/12/3-ways-to-leverage-job-boards-and-discover-the-hidden-job-market/ .
Source #3 – Linkedin Company Follow
Linkedin Company Follow gives great information about the organization structure of companies. For starters, Linkedin Company Follow lists the members of Linkedin who are current employees of a specific company. You can use this information to search for people in specific departments, or who have specific titles. For instance, if you’re looking for a programming job with a specific company, you probably want to talk to a Director of Application Development, or IT Project Managers at your target company. Linkedin Company Follow makes these hiring mangers easy to find and contact – if they are on Linkedin.
Maybe the strongest feature of Linkedin Company Follow is a listing of new employees at a company. If a company has a great number of new people in customer service, doesn’t it follow that they are building (or rebuilding) their customer service teams, and that the company may have even more needs for good customer service workers (or managers)? If a company shows that it has a new VP Finance, is it likely that that person might want to beef up finance/accounting staff? New executives often are brought in to revamp or expand teams and want to choose their own staff (call it “The New Sheriff In Town” syndrome).
Linkedin Company Follow also lists former employees. Watching this list closely for your target companies can reveal great contacts – Managers/Executives who have just left the company. These contacts may be in the same boat as you – looking for a new job, needing help, information, and contacts. These are excellent opportunities to pay-it-forward, as former employees can reveal great information about your target companies and may be able to arrange introductions with the right hiring managers to help you.
Linkedin Company Follow also lists job advertisements – See Source #2 above for details on how to use job advertisements to predict future needs.
Finally, Linkedin Company follow lists news articles posted about your target company, making it another source of publicly available information.
For more detail on how to use Linkedin Company Follow as an information source, see http://recareered.com/blog/2010/04/29/linkedin-company-follow-helps-job-seekers-find-the-hidden-job-market/ .
What Inside Information Can Help Job Seekers Most?
As a job seeker, there are a number of types of inside information that can provide value to your search:
- Goals: While public companies disclose their overall goals annually, they often don’t disclose how they plan to achieve them. Companies that have increased revenue goals might be planning to achieve them via an increased sales force, revamped marketing, new products, new advertising campaigns, lower prices (and therefore, lower costs), or even increased prices are some of the many ways that companies might reach higher sales goals. Gaining an understanding of the methods a company plans to use to reach these goals, helps a candidate anticipate the types of unadvertised jobs that a company might need to help them reach goals. Even better, this information can help a job seeker customize their resume to highlight how they have already helped a prior employer in a similar situation (Companies that are seeking to increase sales are likely less interested in how you helped cut costs at a prior employer).
- Problems: By approaching your job search as finding problems that you are an expert at solving allows you to search beyond job advertisements. Inside information can give you insight as to the core problems a company/department/manager is facing, and how they are trying to solve these problems. This not only gives the savvy candidate insight into company needs, it also provides opportunities for resume customization that can really make your work history matter to the hiring manager.
- Contacts: Of course contacts can be valuable inside information. Instead of asking who’s hiring, or who should you send your resume to, instead ask who is responsible for reaching goals, fixing problems, removing roadblocks. Who has pain that you can solve? What are these contact’s hot buttons? What are they like as managers, as people, what is their personal style? All of this information can be valuable in helping you reach hiring managers before they post jobs, getting ahead of the curve. In addition, by understanding who they are and how they act, you’re better able to position yourself as making a first impression that “fits” their personality style as well as fitting with the department and company.
Inside information can be extremely valuable, but is often found beyond your close network. Knowing where to find inside company information and what to look for is a skill candidates can develop, allowing them to gain an advantage over other competitors, getting their resume seen more often, increasing interview numbers, and helping them create a stronger first impression.
Readers – please add your thoughts in the comments below. What inside information do you find most valuable in your job search?-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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