How to: Research a company before you apply

Sometimes finding the best fit requires a little legwork…

Although it may seem time consuming to research the company for every role you apply for, there are few better ways to stand out. Not only will your application be better tailored, you’ll have more things to talk about at an interview – and ensure its somewhere you actually want to work.

To help you get started, here are our top tips on how to research company before you apply:


Why should I research a company before applying?

Researching a company is not only a great way to ensure you’re a good fit for them, but also that the organisation would be a good fit for you.

Here are a few more reasons to research a company before applying:

  • You can tailor your CV and cover letter in line with your research
  • You’ll be able to decide what questions to ask at the interview (e.g. ‘can you tell me more about [insert recent company development here]?’)
  • You can estimate the kinds of questions you might be asked at an interview
  • You’ll get an idea of their work environment, company culture, and overall reputation

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What should I aim to find out?

Although no two companies are the same, adding some structure to your research will really help you maintain focus – not to mention cut down on the time it takes you.

Here are a ten key questions to answer to when researching a company:

  1. What do they do? Find out everything you can about their products and services, along with who their target audience is.
  2. What are they looking for in an employee? Check their job advert, careers page, and social media profiles to find out what skills, attributes, and experience they value most.
  3. What’s new within the organisation? From news stories to ‘about us’ pages, you’ll be able to gain a good idea of a company’s recent developments, successes, and failures.
  4. What are the company values? Find out what they’re passionate about, and what their goals are as a company. If you can find a mission statement, that’s even better.
  5. What does their company culture like? A company’s culture is demonstrated in everything they do, so look out for indicators of work-life balance, work environment, examples of CSR, and any social schemes they might offer.
  6. Are there good opportunities for progression? By finding out more about the company structure, and whether there are any senior vacancies coming up, you’ll be able to get a rough idea of whether progression is an option.
  7. What are their employee benefits? Do they offer flexi-time hours? How much holiday will you get? What about pensions? This is often stated in a job description, but may also be referenced on review sites and on a company’s career page.
  8. Who are their professional contacts? Check their social media pages to find out how well-linked they are within their industry.
  9. Who will you be interviewed by? Learning about their background, position, and common interests means less surprises if you’re invited to interview.
  10. Who are their competitors? Make notes on how their competitors differ, and what makes the company you’re applying for stand out.

Not only is finding out all of the above a great way to decide whether the company is right for you, it’ll also be beneficial when it comes to writing a carefully tailored CV and cover letter, and impressing at an interview.

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Where should I start career research?

There are a variety of ways to find out more about a company – whether you want to learn more about their products, or you’re just keen on figuring out whether their culture would suit you.

Here are the best places to start looking:  

Check their website. Not only will you find essential information about the company’s background, values, and mission in their ‘about us’ section, you may also be able to gather insights into their team members, company structure, and future plans. Additionally, you’ll find out everything you need to know about what they do (e.g. their key products and services) – a topic which is often brought up at an interview.

Search on social media. A company’s social media profile is a great place to find out more about their culture, tone, recent developments, and connections with other organisations. Whether it’s checking out who they follow on Twitter, or how they comment on the latest industry developments, it’ll give you a good representation of how they align themselves. You can also gauge their reputation by paying attention to their interactions with customers and clients.

Read reviews. There are a number of online review sites that allow candidates, along with past and present employees, to share accounts of the experience they had with a company.This will provide you with information on everything from their interview process, to their company culture and employee benefits.

Google them. You might be surprised at the things you can find just by googling a company’s name, whether it’s that they’re planning to expand their business worldwide, that a recent product was recalled, or they’re looking to open new stores/offices. Look out for press releases, news items, and anything else that provides a good amount of credible info.


What next?

OK, so you’ve gathered every bit of information you can find on your chosen company; now what?

Here are a few top tips to follow when it comes to putting your research to good use:

  • Demonstrate your knowledge in your cover letter (and show how you could help the company solve its problems)
  • Come up with questions to ask the employer based on what you’ve found
  • Bring up any insights you have about the industry at the interview

No matter what you found out, remember: everything in moderation.

Although the interviewer will undoubtedly be impressed with your research, it’s always important to avoid forcing it. Instead, just bring it up when it’s relevant and adds value to the conversation.

But, using it in the right way, researching a company is a great way to stand out and show you’ve done your homework – even if it’s only a few lines in your CV or a comment at an interview, it could be enough to set you apart.


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