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Posted by on Nov 7, 2011 in Career |

Homework for a Job Search? Part 2

Let’s get back to TJ. In my last post, I told you that TJ had an phone interview for a job in the computer field but had been stumped by some (Adobe) Flash questions, but he managed to secure the next interview.  I wished him luck and suggested that he do his homework before the interview. He replied to me that he had already graduated, obviously thinking that he had left his days of homework behind him.

Homework is much more than the rote memorization of facts and dates regarding wars and personalities, math formulas and chemical symbols. Homework should instill in us the skills to explore, research and analyze. This practice of data compilation and analysis is just what you need to enhance your job search.

Companies ultimately want to know what you can do for them. Just like when you buy a product, you want to know what it can do for you. How can you know what you can do for them, specifically, if you have not studied their needs? Saying that you can type 85 words per minute sounds impressive, but not if their number one concern is answering phones to provide the highest level of customer service. When interviewing with a company, differentiation counts if it’s about being the candidate that did his/her homework.

How then can you research a company? Here are some tips:

 

Use Google

This might be a real D’oh moment where you’re thinking that I must be joking for suggesting something so obvious. You’d be surprised, though, how often job seekers react to the post thinking that being among the first to submit is an advantage. This is only true if that submittal is tailored to the specific needs of the job and company.

Craigslist is more and more popular for posting jobs and therefore for the job search as well. Often, though, these postings are anonymous, requesting only that you reply with your resume and cover letter to an email address comprised of random numbers and letters at craigslist.com. Sometimes, however, there is an email address that is more searchable, like mvalencia@aol.com (not my email address). I would search mvalencia and “mvalencia@aol.com”. I did it once and was able to verify that the person worked for a   local marketing agency. I did my research and customized my cover letter and resume, and it landed me an interview. (I got the job too!)

Many job listings will tell you who they are. Google them for industry news on their website and from outside sources too.

Use Social Media

  • LinkedIn is the first place I go once I have found out either the company name or the hiring manager’s name. Because LinkedIn is the Suit of the Social Media world, it is generally the best source for professional information. I can generally find out who the executives are and if I am connected to them either directly or indirectly. I can also begin to follow the company to get updates when they post.
  • Facebook is the next place I visit, looking for the people that I found on LinkedIn, again to see if we have friends in common. A great recommendation from a mutual friend can go a long way. Next I would look to see if the company has a page for more information on their culture and social savvy.
  • Twitter is not as helpful for information as much as it could be used as a tool to begin a conversational relationship with someone who might work at the company. I caution you not go for the jugular. Start a conversation about their tweets, their bio, and get to know them a bit before you ask about career opportunities, unless you are responding to a tweet specifically mentioning the job or company in question.
  • Visit your local library. Because so much is available online, this step may not be necessary, but the public library is always a great source for periodicals and books that are industry specific. You might not be researching the people in a company at the library so much as the industry itself.

Use your sphere of influence.

Never underestimate the power of the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.�? Of course I am talking about the latter half of that phrase, because I have already emphasized that it IS about what you know too. But who you know is incredibly important. A large part of the job market is hidden, which means the job won’t be listed on job boards like careerbuilder.com, craigslist.org and indeed.com.  Ask your friends and colleagues if they know of any opportunities that might be a match for you.  Use that opportunity to ask for recommendations if they have interacted with you on a professional level. Lastly, if one of your friends is connected in some way to someone outside your sphere of influence that might be helpful, ask for an introduction.

How has doing your homework helped you in YOUR job search?