Researching Your Target Companies: Questions to Ask

Knowledge Is PowerInterested in working for a certain company? Knowledge is power. Certain kinds of information can help you get an interview there – or help you decide if you even want to.

The most effective job search techniques involve making a list of companies you’d like to work for and then gradually becoming well informed about them and connected to them so you’re well positioned to hear about openings before they’re ever announced to the masses.

Researching your target companies often starts with the Internet and then progresses to meeting with people acquainted with the companies. (To learn more about this approach, read my article “Networking with a Marketing Plan.”)

In both cases, it helps to identify what you want to find out about the company and the relevant division. Make a list of questions. The following list will get you started.

1. Do I want to work there?

This is really more than one question. Of course it’s important what they do – and how well. Opportunities for training and advancement may also be important to you. How are the pay and benefits? How about lifestyle factors like telecommuting?

Then there’s the culture: the unique way things get done there, and the atmosphere. What kind of person succeeds there? If you’re that kind of person, make sure you’re branding yourself accordingly as you network your way into the company. If you’re not, is it the right environment for you?

2. What’s the news?

This, too is more than one question. How is the company changing; what are its opportunities and challenges currently and in the near future? Obviously you need to be well-informed in networking and interviews. This kind of information can help you make a case for how you can be useful to them.

3. How do people get hired there?

The path to hire is not the same everywhere. Do they post openings online or rely heavily on referrals? Do they have an active company page on Facebook? Do they source people through LinkedIn? What search firms do they use? You can also find clues at Glassdoor among other places.

4.  Do they pay a hiring bonus to employees who refer someone?

This can help you get the attention of insiders.

5.  Who are their main competitors, vendors and partners?

People there can tell you about the company you’re researching. You may also want to add these companies to your list of employers.

6.  Who is the hiring manager for your target position? What are that person’s interests, concerns and background?

Ultimately, you want an introduction to this person and an informational interview with them. This may not be easy, but work up to it by talking with others in the company or people they deal with.

7.  Who else should you talk to?

Ask this question only after you’ve built some rapport and made a good impression. Get contact information, and ask whether you may mention your contact’s name, or whether they can introduce you.

Whatever information you receive from people, accept it very appreciatively, take notes, plan to follow up on the information, and keep this person in the loop afterwards.

A Final Note:

You’ll notice I didn’t include “Is the company hiring?” This is a good question, but it’s easy to overemphasize it and make your contacts feel like all you’re looking for is leads, which they may not be able to provide. Look at it this way: there may not be an opening now, but there will be eventually.

Start researching and networking now, and the next job at one of your target companies may never be posted because it was quietly filled – by you.

Your #1 Habit for Career Success

habit, career successI’m not going to lie to you. I don’t know what crucial, transformative habit is going to help you get a great new job, or a promotion at your current one.

You can answer this question better than I can. What single action, if done every day without fail, would powerfully move you toward your goal?

Habit is a mighty force.

There are undoubtedly many good habits that would benefit you, but working on a long list of habits is like trying to keep New Year’s resolutions. Most people fail at this approach.

Instead, give special attention to a Single Daily Action that you commit to doing no matter what. If you do this one thing, you’re planting a seed of success in each day, fueling the rest of your endeavors.

It must be something specific and finite that can definitely be checked off as “done” for the day. Not “Network more,” but “Spend 30 minutes per day approaching individuals to request networking one-on-ones.” Not “Be kind to myself,” but “Spend 10 minutes doing a loving-kindness meditation.”  Not “Eat healthy,” but “Enjoy a balanced breakfast including protein and whole fruit.”

Make it easy enough that you can definitely see yourself doing it consistently.

Write down a few possibilities, then pick the one you feel would make the biggest difference. The other ideas may be useful, but be sure to commit to that top choice. Decide that if nothing else gets done all day, that one thing will happen every day.

Once you’ve chosen your Single Daily Action, stick with it a week and see how it works. If you did it and it doesn’t seem to get results, you might want to try a different action. If you didn’t do it, troubleshoot that. Try rewarding yourself after your action, piggybacking it on an existing habit, reading articles about habit change, working with a buddy on it, or simply starting with an easier habit.

You might even tweet or blog about your Single Daily Action. Here’s mine: I’m spending a few minutes each morning visualizing success in whatever area of my life calls for my attention that day. For example, yesterday I visualized myself using good time management all day and being very productive. I think it helped – I kicked butt! (Some people might want to visualize about the same issue each day, but I thought it would be better to focus on whatever is “up.”)

Let me know how it goes with your Single Daily Action.




Managing “Me, Inc.” for Career Security

Career security is not something we get from employers management

Most of us change careers several times, and jobs even more often. Some of these changes are involuntary. All of these changes can be difficult.

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wrote,

Because the sage always confronts difficulties, he never experiences them.

(The nerve of that guy! What the heck is he trying to say?)

Confronting the difficult realities of 21st century business means realizing that although our current gig (if any) may be XYZ Inc., our real, lifetime employer is “Me Inc.,” and we need to manage that enterprise. There may be more security to be had from a well-managed career than from any individual job.

This advice is nothing new, but since it’s part of a paradigm shift – a change in our mindset – we need to be reminded of it.

Managing “Me, Inc.” means attending to:

  • Product Research & Development – You and your skills are the product.
  • Strategic Planning – Assess your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats: be prepared for highly likely risks such as recessions and layoffs.
  • Accounting & Finance – Manage your money as if you can’t depend on your income always being the same.
  • Marketing Communications and Sales – Follow best practices in networking, LinkedIn, resumes, bios, cover letters and so on.

Decide that your career is worth investing in.  It’s up to you and it’s your life.