Researching a company, as with anything else today, is much easier than it was even a decade ago. You can spend 90 minutes on the Internet and learn more than you could in a full day of doing research the old-fashioned way at the library.
The reasons you want to research the company are to:
- Understand how it stands financially.
- Is it profitable, free of investigations?
- How much cash does it have in the bank compared with its competitors?
- One sure sign of a company’s health is the amount of debt it carries compared with that of its competitors in the industry.
- Identify the company’s key partners, vendors, and customers.
- This is helpful when you are trying to network to get to key decision makers for referrals. Think of drawing out the six degrees of separation to find the shortest connection between you and the company (preferably the hiring manager).
- Understand the company’s key products.
- Understand the company nomenclature and terminology.
- Discover areas where the business might need you to help it.
Use this information if you decide to build a business plan for your interview.
Great Research Tools
What follows is a list of tools that can be accessed through the Internet to learn more about a target company. Using the Internet is not mandatory, but the research you can do online is much more efficient than conducting paper research.
- Company’s website. You must visit the company’s website, which in all probability is something it does have. Review the company’s products, news releases first and the rest second. This should give you a good grounding in its business operations and approach.
- Annual report. The annual report for a company provides the mission statement, strategic direction, financial standing, and health. It will give you a snapshot of the company’s products and organizational structure.
- Google.com. This one is obvious. When you get to the search screen, enter the company name, the name of the hiring manager, and anything else relevant, such as industry data.
- LinkedIn. You can get great information about who works there and whom you can connect with, and you can even see posts from team members to get some inside information.
- Facebook. With Facebook you can find out current product offers, promotions, and fun facts that will reflect more of the company spirit and culture than you may find on the company’s website.
- Twitter. You’ll get quick visibility to products, PR releases, and job postings on Twitter.
Every time you research or learn something about the company, ask yourself, So what?
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You need to digest the information, interpret it at some level, and determine how you fit into what you’re reading to enable the improvement of the business. Imagine you’re researching to develop a 15-minute presentation on the company and the direction in which it is heading over the next 12 to 18 months. Or imagine your presentation is about how your discipline may enable the company to reach its overarching objectives.
Here are some more tips to keep in mind when preparing to research a company:
- Publicly owned companies are usually easier to find information about than are privately owned ones.
- Corporations as a whole are generally easier to find information about than are their subsidiaries or divisions.
- Large, nationally known corporations are always easier to find information about than are local or regional ones.
Below is the set of 30 questions you should ask yourself while researching the company:
- Where is the company based?
- Does it have a parent company?
- Does it have subsidiaries?
- Where are they located?
- Is the company international?
- What are the size of the company, the address, the phone number, a description of business, the ticker symbol if public, net sales, volume, and so on?
- What type of business is it?
- What are its products and brands?
- How big is the industry?
- What are the predictions for the industry?
- Is it a growing industry, stagnant, or collapsing?
- Who are the company’s competitors, and what do you know about them?
- How does the company compare with its competitors?
- Is the company ranked as a Fortune 500 or Forbes 500 company?
- What events could affect the company?
- How is the company doing compared with the industry it is in?
- Is the company expanding, contracting, or stagnant?
- What are the company’s sales, income, and indebtedness?
- What does this say about the company?
- What are the predictions for the company?
- What are analysts and news reports saying?
- What are its strengths and weaknesses?
- What do you know about its past?
- What mistakes has it made?
- What are some of its major events?
- What is the company’s mission statement or philosophy?
- Does the company seem to be following it?
- What are its future plans?
- What do you know about those who run the company?
- How socially responsible is the company?
These above questions are designed to give you a foundation of information about the company. You should be able to apply common sense to the information you uncover regardless of your business acumen level.
Your objective is to learn about the company and make the connection of how you will fit into the picture and enable the company to be better.