You don’t want to simply apply for jobs without knowing something about the role and the industry. I mean, it only makes sense, right? You don’t want to throw your hat into the ring for something you aren’t familiar with.
Problem is, most people make that exact mistake.
And it can mean the difference between getting that first interview and getting the offer.
And here’s why:
Employers need people because they need help.
When you can offer that help, you have a better chance of getting picked to do that job.
But how do you talk about that if you don’t know what help is needed?
So, here’s what I commonly say:
When you apply for a job, consider yourself a consultant in your field. You’re going out there to try and help that employer solve a problem or improve something. So, of course, you need to find out what their problems are.
Where do you get that information? Lots of places!
The idea is to know what their goals and challenges are so you can tailor the information you share to match their needs.
For instance, when I was applying for a grant-writing role at a college, I called the consultant who was working with the department to find out what they needed help with the most. I arrived for the interview prepared to show how I would handle this exact situation and shared it during the conversation.
I got the job. Guess what? I found out I was the ONLY CANDIDATE to do this.
Here are some things you can do:
#1: Read about the company on its website. Pay attention to its news releases, its YouTube videos (if there are any), and any white papers, reports, or case studies it has produced.
#2: Read about the company or about trends in the industry through both the business and trade journals.
Business publications: The Business Journals (printed in several different states)
Advertising industry: Adweek
Graphic Design: Graphic Arts Monthly
Data Analysis: IMB Data Magazine
Gaming: Game Industry Report Magazine
Fundraising: Chronicle of Philanthropy
Higher Education: Chronicle of Higher Education
Engineering: Engineering News-Record
Librarians can help you with these:
- U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reports on publicly traded companies
- Dun & Bradstreet
- Reference USA
#3: Talk to people.
Connect with people who work at your target companies. Tell them you are researching various companies as you look forward in your career and would appreciate a chat to find out more about where they work.
Talk to the person who used to have the job you are going after. Tell them you are looking at the role and wonder if they can help you understand more about the company culture and anything else they would like to share.
Ask your network if they know anyone at the company. If so, ask if they might make an introduction. This can easily be done through a mutual email message.
#4: Talk to vendors who have done business with that company. This can be harder to figure out, but if you are familiar with the industry, you might already know who does business with them.
My point is to think to yourself: “Who would know about this company?” And then figure out how to get to them. LinkedIn is a great tool. Websites are great. So are your personal contacts.
Afterward, look at your notes from these chats.
What we’re able to find out about the company? What are they working on? What are their goals? What challenges have they encountered lately?
Once you know this, you can then tailor your preparation to address these same issues.
You can demonstrate your knowledge by targeting these concerns through:
- Your resume
- Your cover letter
- Your interview answers
- Your interview questions
Who doesn’t want to hear that a candidate knows the company and its concerns and can help solve its problems?
Need help getting yourself together for your job search?
Got an interview scheduled and feel lost?
Let know! I want to help—click here to schedule a 30-minute meeting)!