After doing some initial career exploration you should have a better understanding of the general type, size, location, work culture, etc. of your ideal company. The next step in your career search is to start identifying some specific companies and industries that match your preferences. By doing some research, you'll be able to focus your networking efforts and be prepared for the interview process.

Your interviewers will not only pick up on the fact that you've done your homework, but also that you're calm and approaching the experience with the right attitude. It is important to research a company before conducting an informational interview, writing a cover letter/applying for a position, and interviewing.

As you research, keep these questions in mind:
  • What are the skills and personality characteristics that this job demands and that this organization values?
  • How do my past experiences and my behavior demonstrate those skills and traits?
After researching you should know:
  • The organization's products and services. Even nonprofit organizations serve people through education, lobbying efforts, publications, etc.
  • The direction the organization has taken in the last two years and what might be expected in the future.
  • The organization's values and mission. For-profit organizations value profit, but most organizations are driven by other values as well - innovation, teamwork, efficiency, professional development of its employees, and community service.
  • The role of the division you want to be working in. How the division fits into the overall organization.
Specific Career Fields - What you need to know will depend on the type of job you're seeking.

Some examples:

  • Counseling or Social Work - find out what the agency's philosophy and standard practices are.
  • Finance - understand the company's financial statistics.
  • Teaching - have a clear understanding of the state standards.
  • Marketing - know how the company positions itself within the industry and what its advertising and marketing has looked like over the past several years.
Resources - Company Profiles
  • Start with the job description. Read this carefully before sending a resume/cover letter and revisit it often during the interview process. Ask yourself, "What are the recruiters really looking for?" and "How do my skills and experience match up to that?"
  • Company website - Look through all of the pages, paying close attention to its mission and vision statements, ‘about the company' descriptions, any news items, special programs, philanthropy, and history.
  • A simple online search will reveal some useful information. You can also set up a Google Alert for news items related to your target companies.
  • LinkedIn Company Profiles - use LinkedIn to find information about your target companies and their employees. Some might be interested in chatting with you about their department. Use LinkedIn's introductions feature to ask a connection for an introduction to one of their connections.
  • Conduct informational interviews with people working at your target company. Learn more about informational interviews on the Career Center website.
  • Book of Lists - provides information about many of the companies in the Twin Cities area. This is a helpful place to start if you aren't sure what's out there. Access the digital Book of Lists from the Library's Data Base A-Z tab and search for the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal which contains the Book of Lists as well as a wealth of informational articles.
  • Other Social Media - Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Hoover's Online - provides brief Company Capsules on over 10,000 companies.
  • GuideStar.org - Provides financial data on over 600,000 nonprofit organizations.
  • SEC Filings - The Securities and Exchange Commission requires all publicly owned companies to file certain reports. Tip: search for the company's 10K reports.
  • PR Newswire - Current news releases.
  • Call the organization's HR department. Ask questions about the company, the role, the department, and how the business is going. You might be surprised at how much information they are willing to share.