Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How To Get a Job: Eight Things You Should Know About a Company BEFORE You Send Them Your Resumé

Researching a potential employer is one of the most important things you can do when looking for your next job. But if you’re like most people, you don’t have time to write a book about the business you’re interested in.

Some job hunting guides advise putting together detailed dossiers on a company’s history, their employees, their clients, their competitors, their suppliers, and their financials before approaching them for a job. Not only does this kind of research take a lot of time, it also has a high “opportunity cost” – the effort you put into gathering all the information that you may or may not use is time you could be spending, for example, reaching out to other potential employers or working on your network of contacts.

On the other hand, too many job applicants think they can literally walk to the company’s headquarters, toss their resumé to the first person they see, get an immediate meeting with the HR Manager, and close the deal with a firm handshake before lunchtime. In some instances, this works. But in the other 99.7% of cases, a job hunter is going to be disappointed if they think they can breeze into the lobby and land the job without knowing something about their potential future employer.

Any way you look at it, a basic amount of preparation is necessary in order to get a foot in the company’s door. It will make you look more competent when you finally do get to talk to someone, and it will help you make an informed decision as to if you even want to work there. Here is a brief checklist of facts you should know about a company before you approach them for a job:

The company’s name. Seems obvious, right? But ask yourself, how many times have you fired your resumé off in response to an advertisement that turned out to be a recruiter who is never going to contact you, or someone looking to put you on a mailing list for discount Viagra?

The first step in just about any successful job hunt is to identify the target. Then you can tailor your letters and phone calls to an actual company, rather than the bland “To Whom It May Concern” form letters that usually go strait into the recycling bin.

What the company does. Don’t expect to impress anyone at a company when, in your first conversation with a staff member, you ask “So, what do you guys do here?” Before making contact, you should be able to describe in one sentence what kind of business the company you are trying to work for is involved in. In the past, getting this information might have meant a trip to the local library. These days, a 30-second Web search can usually do the trick.

The company’s Web site address. In the Internet age, a company having a Web site address (as well as a Facebook page and Twitter account) is as commonplace as having a phone number. There’s a huge amount of information you can get from a company’s Web site, so take a few minutes to poke around and see what’s going on.

Where the company operates. Are they local, regional, national, or international? The answer can give you some insight in to what kind of company you can expect to work for. A local company, for example, might have a “flatter” organizational structure and a more informal company culture than a larger corporation. A national or international company, on the other hand, may have a more rigidly defined hierarchy, but also a more diverse workforce and more opportunities for advancement and travel.

Who the company’s competitors are. You should be able to identify 2 or 3 of the firms that are in direct competition with your target firm. In-depth strategy analysis isn’t necessary, just names and maybe a quick glance at their Web sites. This will give you a better sense of the overall landscape the company operates in. At the very least you will have identified other businesses you can approach during your job search.

What role you could play in the company. Don’t rely on the company to figure this out for you by sending them your generalized resumé and expecting their HR department to call you with a list of jobs they have for you. Take some time to think about what the company does, and what kinds of workers they need to do those things. Then, tailor your resumé to highlight how you can successfully perform in one or more of those positions.

The name of a contact at the company. Sending generic cover letters addressed to no one almost guarantees your correspondence won’t get read. Get a specific person’s name at the company (obviously, the higher up in the organization chart, the better) or at the very least the exact name of the department that accepts applications.

How the company accepts employment applications. From experience, I can tell you there are few things more annoying than a job applicant who calls (usually on their cell phone in a crowded, noisy place) demanding to know if the company’s VP has received and read the resumé they sent, or that they be put directly through to the Director of HR so they can “pitch” themselves.

HR departments spend a lot of time and effort putting their job application processes in place in a way that works best for them. And since it’s currently a buyer’s market for labor, the best way you can impress a potential employer is to follow their instructions as completely as possible. Only after that should you follow up with all the stealthy “hidden job market” strategies the books and seminars advise. By starting strong, you won’t be guaranteed an offer, but you’ll increase your chances of closing the deal.

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