Researching companies is one of the best ways to become a stand-out candidate during your job search. By putting on your detective hat and investigating potential employers, you’ll discover details that will better prepare you for the hiring process, from cover letter to interview, says job search author Heather Huhman (7 Things to Research Before Any Job Interview). Company research can help you learn what a company looks for in an employee and help prepare you to answer questions and position yourself as the best candidate for the job.

LinkedIn job search senior editor Andrew Seaman suggests that job seekers look at the job search process from a business mindset (Why you should do a background check on potential employers). Since potential employers will undoubtedly do a background check on you, it’s important that you investigate potential employers as well. The more you know about companies you are targeting, the better your chances of not only making a positive impression on potential employers but also having a clearer picture of whether your target companies align with your values and career goals. (For more information on targeting companies, see Target Companies to Find the Right Fit for You on the Tri-Valley Career Center blog.)

The good news is that it’s easier than ever before to learn about employers. Job search expert Alison Doyle (How to Research a Company for a Job Interview) suggests that you take some time to learn as much as you can about companies online, and then tap into your real-world network to see who you know who might help give you an edge over other candidates.

Here are several ways to incorporate company research into your job search process:

Company Websites Offer Valuable Information
Most company websites offer a wealth of information. The “About Us” section usually features an organization’s vision and mission statements, history, bios of key company leaders and possibly something about company culture. There is often a “News” or “Press” section where you’ll find the latest updates on product development, company expansion and other notable events. If there is an “Investor Relations” tab, you should be able to access quarterly earnings, an annual report and information on new products, company risks and whether revenues are growing or stable.

Social Media, Blogs and Online Searches Provide Additional Insight
Visiting a company’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and other social media will give you a good sense of how the company wants its consumers to see it. You can like or follow the company to get updates from their social media accounts. Monitoring social media and doing Google searches (or your search engine of choice) will help reveal a company’s community interaction and perhaps give insights into organizational values. Company blogs are gold mines, according to MIT Medal Lab manager Lily Zhang (The Ultimate Guide to Researching a Company Pre-Interview), especially for younger companies that are growing. Whether it’s a post to welcome new staffers to the sales team or to highlight new features of a recent software update, having this kind of information at your fingertips can be helpful in making your case as the right fit for the potential employer.

Knowledge about the Industry and Competitors Can Impress Potential Employers
Aside from knowing as much as possible about the place where you’re interviewing, it’s a good idea to be able to talk about the industry as a whole and even more impressive to talk about competitors and how the company fits into the bigger picture. Job search advisor Biron Clark (How to Research a Company for a Job Interview: 7 Steps) advises using market intelligence website SimilarWeb. Clark suggests typing the company name or website into the search bar, clicking on the “similar sites” button to find companies similar to your target company and then identifying a few key differences and similarities to show you understand the larger marketplace and industry. You can also visit a company’s LinkedIn page and scroll down to the “Other Companies People Viewed” section to find possible competitors. Then do the same with the competitors you find until you have a good sense of the key players in the field. Another possible source of information on competitors is to see if your target company has a page on  Crunchbase and then look for a list of competitors on its profile.

Inside Information on Companies Brings Added Value
Inside information about companies can be valuable in guiding you toward or away from some of your target companies as well as helping you prepare for interviews. You can watch interviews with current employees to learn more about specific workplaces on the company profiles section of The Muse website. Job and recruiting site Glassdoor offers several important features, including anonymous reviews on over 600,000 companies worldwide from the people who work there and sample interview questions for a variety of positions at companies you may be targeting.

Working and Expanding Your Network is an Effective Research Strategy
Tapping into family, friends and friends of friends to find people who work at the companies you are researching is a reliably effective way to learn more about companies and possibly find a foot in the door through your contacts. If you don’t know someone who works at your target company, you can use LinkedIn and Glassdoor among other job search sites to find people inside companies and follow up by email, LinkedIn message or phone to request informational interviews. For more information on networking, see Use LinkedIn to Network Your Way to Your Next Job Now on the Tri-Valley Career Center blog.

Reviewing Your Company Research Before an Interview Can Boost Your Confidence
As a final step before an interview, check to see if you can answer these basic questions about a company:

  • Who is the CEO?
  • When/why was the company founded?
  • Do they have multiple locations?
  • How do they make money? What do they sell?
  • Why do their customers choose them?
  • How are they different from their competitors?

Making company research an ongoing part of your job search strategy will give you a solid base of knowledge about the companies and industries you are targeting, help you make a better impression on recruiters and hiring managers and hopefully turn more interviews into job offers.