Do you remember meeting that one person you really wanted to go out with? Maybe you met at a party or on a dating app. Of course, you wanted to maximize the chance that they would say ‘yes’. So obviously you did what any person would do.
You dug through their social media accounts. You googled them and painstakingly read through every entry. You interviewed all of your mutual friends to find out more about them. You found any of their exes that you could to see what insider information they had. You memorized who their friends were, what social groups they were a part of, and any other details you could find.
Basically, you tried to know them better than they knew themselves.
Then, when you finally secured the first date, you made it very clear how much you knew about every detail of their lives.
Yea, that’s not okay.
Turns out you passed the line into stalker territory about four paragraphs ago.
They will not be flattered. And you will have a better chance for a restraining order than a second date.
But companies are not people (in this scenario).
Companies love it when you research them ahead of time. They love it when you know their mission statement word-for-word. They love it when you know all the awards they won growing up. They love it when you know all of their partnerships.
Now how do you go about discovering all those juicy public details about your company crush?
Start With LinkedIn
If they have a LinkedIn company page, read the about section and each and every post (and the comments!). Also, check out what ads they’ve posted. If you have any connections at the company, make note of those for later. Look through the people section and make a list (more on this later) of any senior management (if it’s a small company) or anybody in a department you are interested in.
Now check out the profiles for that list of people. You are looking for (a) anything they’ve posted about the company and (b) anything they’ve posted that you feel you can contribute to. This is also a good point to check out what other posts the company has been tagged in.
And Other Social Media, of Course
Facebook and Twitter are my other go-tos, but check out any you can find. Your goal here is, once more, to check out the company account (or page on FB). Read everything they’ve posted. Many of these posts may be duplicates of what you’ve seen on LinkedIn, but the comments will be unique. Also, check out who has tagged or followed the company on Twitter, especially if you didn’t get any good options of individual accounts to look at from LinkedIn. Add these people to the list you started above.
Facebook is still pretty personal, so I would suggest not bothering with people who follow or like the company page there. They are less likely to post about the company, more likely to post things that aren’t publicly accessible, and far more likely to think you have crossed a line.
Check Out the Company Website
You might be wondering why I didn’t make this the first suggestion. You can blame this on the number of company homepages that have left me thinking “I still don’t know what this company does, and now I’m not sure they do either.” I find LinkedIn about sections to be much easier to read than company websites.
If anything on the company page confuses you, find someone to ask about it. You need to understand the company’s public messaging.
Check out the product and service offerings. If they have press releases or a blog, read those. Go to the company’s about page and read everything. If they have a list of employees (very likely for a small company), this can be a good alternative if you couldn’t find any relevant contacts from the company’s LinkedIn. See if you can find these people on LinkedIn and go through the process I outlined above.
Don’t Forget Google
After the LinkedIn company page, you’ll have plenty to go off of with a google search.
Use Bing too. Google is always superior (sorry, Microsoft), but with company research results as with Pokemon: gotta catch ’em all.
You are searching for any news, press releases, blogs, reviews, or literally any other mention of the company.
Try some of the following searches. Just replace AwesomeCorp with your intended company’s name.
- AwesomeCorp news
- AwesomeCorp press release
- AwesomeCorp blog
- AwesomeCorp funding
- AwesomeCorp reviews
Along with the main Google search, be sure to use Google News. Also search for any information about the CEO and founding team while you are at it.
Now here’s the real trick. Have you ever used Google search alerts? You should. Set up alerts for the company name and the CEO. Passive work is like active work, but better. This will greatly increase the odds that you have the most up-to-date information possible throughout the interview process.
Other Sites to Check
In case they didn’t come up during your searches. Also be sure to check out these sites.
- Glassdoor — Employee reviews and salary information
- Owler — Estimated financials, CEO approval, and competitors
- Crunchbase — Basic company stats, financial info, founders, tech stack
- Capterra — Customer reviews (if they are a software company)
- BBB — Customer complaints
Now Start Networking
Did your LinkedIn search show any contacts at the company? If so, that is probably the person you want to talk to, allowing you to bypass most of this section.
If not, ask around and see if your friends know anyone that works there. A warm intro trumps any other suggestion I can make. But, if all that fails, there is still hope. And that hope is called social media.
Interact with the people, rather than with the company. That’s why you made that list earlier (you actually did that, right?) Your goal is to show them that you are interested in what they are doing and show off a little of your own experience while you do it. This is easiest to do on LinkedIn and Twitter, but Facebook may help as well.
In my younger days, I tried just sending cold messages or e-mails asking questions or requesting a phone call. This generally doesn’t work.
Instead, engage with the content of the people from your list. Comment on their posts. Reply to their tweets. This style of interaction is more genuine and comfortable than a random e-mail. Also like and share their content, but only if it is good content. Nobody doesn’t want their social media presence boosted, but sharing a bad post is just too obvious.
Now you’ve got their attention. Start asking them questions about the company. Show that you are intrigued and excited. Prior to 2020, if they were local I would have said offer to buy them a cup of coffee in exchange for bending their ear for 15 minutes. Now, a video or phone call will have to do.
If they don’t have much of a social media presence, or if there isn’t much content to grab onto, all hope is not lost. Try other people on your list.
Still getting nothing? Try this: write a blog post.
Find a topic that you care about that the person in question is likely an expert in. Now message them asking for a quote for said article. Let them know that you can send them a link to it once it is done. People love to be recognized for their expertise, and they like free publicity. This will get a much higher response rate than a generic message.
Aside: If you don’t have a blog yet, you really should. They are a pretty great networking tool and a good way to organize your thoughts.
You Are Networking, Not Begging
I can not stress this point enough. Do not ask for a job. Do not even hint that you are looking for a job.
Do you know what companies and potential dating partners do have in common? They don’t respond well to desperation.
I’ve had people ask me for a job in some very unique ways on LinkedIn. Some of those ways were quite creative. The one thing they all had in common was that they did not result in that person getting a job. And it’s not because I’m mean. In fact, in most cases it was because we either weren’t hiring or I wasn’t the right person to be approaching about the job they wanted.
When Should You Start Your Job Researching?
As any good stalker knows, the answer is “the earlier the better”.
Aside: I swear that’s the last stalker comparison.
If you wait until you get an in-person interview, you’ve waited far too long. If this position is important to you, you should do a good amount of job research before applying. If the position isn’t important to you, then why are you even doing this?
But the research doesn’t end after you apply. Keep up-to-date with the latest company news during the entire interview process. And don’t even stop there. Keeping track of your company’s news articles and social media updates should continue for as long as you work there and probably the rest of your life. No reason to turn off those google alerts. I still have ones running for my first job.
Do you know enough about the company? Try asking yourself these questions
- Who are their top competitors?
- When were they founded?
- Where is their HQ?
- Who is their CEO?
- What is their mission statement?
- What are their products?
- How are they unique?
- Have they been part of any lists (Top X companies for…) or received any awards?
- Why do you want to work for them?
You may not have found that last one in your research, but you should definitely have an answer anyway.
There you have it. It’s not an easy process, but it’s well worth it. Whether you are working in sales, tech, product, administration, or whatever else, doing your research in advance is sure to get you better bang for your buck than just submitting 10–100x the applications.
Did this seem daunting? Overly complicated? Am I leaving anything out? Let me know!