Researching People and Companies
by Douglas E. Welch
May 28, 1999
Researching companies is an important part of any high-tech job
search. The more information you have going in, the better prepared
you will be. Company research can tell you if a company is having
financial or work environment problems or if their new product
is going to take the world by storm. Either way, this knowledge
can help you make informed decisions about what companies you
would like to work for and why.
Recent past/New Future
Even in the recent past researching companies was a hit or miss
proposition. It required trips to the library to search through
printed periodical guides or, if the company was publicly traded,
lengthy SEC and annual reports. Often information on private companies
was difficult, if not impossible, to find. With all the other
work of preparing resumes, applying for jobs and going on interviews,
company research often took a back seat.
Today the issue is much changed. Now, from the comfort of a computer,
you can obtain more information about a company than ever before.
Along with electronic access to the information mentioned above
there are new resources that allow you to look into company information
in ways that were impossible years ago. Using the World Wide Web,
Usenet News and other online discussion groups you can even find
out deep dark secrets that most companies would rather remained
World Wide Web
A good place to start in researching any company is the companyís
own web site. Most companies have a web site now that lists the
most basic of information. You might be able to find names and
information about the principles of the company and what they
might be looking for in an employee. Overall, though, it is important
to remember that this information is going to present the company
in the best light possible. In fact, for all the research, you
will need to keep in mind the source of the information and any
bias that might be ingrained but unstated.
SEC reports and other public documents are also available online.
This allows you to access annual reports and easily search them
for the pertinent information such as profitability, debt and
important upcoming projects.
The rough and tumble world of Usenet Newsgroups can provide a
wealth of information that might not be available through other
more traditional means. Especially important are the personal
comments of people who have worked for or had dealings with a
particular company. While you must carefully watch for bias in
these messages as well it can be invaluable to know that a company
has a lousy reputation for support if you are thinking of interviewing
for a tech support position with them.
Viewing comments over time can also point out a company that is
headed for success or headed for failure. You can gauge the quality
of a company through the ebbs and flows of the comments about
them. In some cases, you can contact users directly to ask further
questions about a company that interests you.
Watch what YOU say
The converse of all this easy research is that companies can also
find out a lot about you. It is an easy task to search the various
Usenet News archives for postings you have sent. Be sure that
you are presenting an appropriate business face to the world.
A host of scathing personal attacks in alt.bozos might lead a
potential employer to believe that you are just too much trouble
to have around. Consider the messages you have sent to mailing
lists or web-based communities. These too can be searched easily.
Knowing what is out there in the online world can help prevent
embarrassing questions later.
You web site should also present the best picture of you as a
potential employee in the same way a companyís web site is slanted
towards their best interest. If you are going to refer people
to your web site explicitly, make sure everything is neat and
clean and in working order. The state of your web site will give
an employer an impression of you and it should be the best one
It is now easier than ever to get to know a company before you
apply or interview for a job. There is no excuse for being unprepared
with all the tools now at your disposal. You might find that the
research you do today means the difference between getting a job
and looking for one.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with
other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on
Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/
He can reached via email at email@example.com