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Researching the Company

Before you apply for a job, and definitely before you interview, you must take steps to understand the position and the company or agency for whom you would work. Even though this is the most important task for a successful interview, it is the one that most people either skimp on or neglect. At a minimum, you should:

Obtain a copy of the job description and study it. If you are interviewing on campus, most of our company descriptions contain a short job description. You can often obtain more complete descriptions by visiting the company's web page (also available from our site), or by calling the company's Human Resource Department. Our office maintains a career library with job descriptions for many occupations, and the California Occupational Guide has excellent descriptions for a variety of occupations, which include salary ranges, employment outlook, and skills required.

Familiarize yourself with your prospective employer's products and services, organizational size, subsidiaries, profit, credit rating, and issues. You must read the employer's web page! Most of this information, along with career paths for employees, will be available there. If  our website does not have employer information, search the internet or connect to the library's e-commerce site. The Chronicle ranks the top 200 businesses each year and links to the companies' web sites for more information you can use. If the organization does not have a web page, try researching the company through the library at the the company information page. This has links to company annual reports, financial and stock information, and magazine articles about the companies. Many of the magazine articles available through the library have summaries that provide basic information on the contents, so you can quickly decide if you should read the complete article. Nothing is more impressive to a recruiter than evidence in the interview that you have cared enough about the position to do the extra research about company issues. The library web site also has a section on how to research a company for your job interview.

If you cannot find information through these sources because the company is too new, or it is a small non-profit agency, call the employer and ask a human resource professional for a copy of their annual report and goals statement.  If those are unavailable, think carefully before interviewing or accepting a job with that organization. The job could be a wonderful adventure with a start-up company, or it could be with a company that is trying to improve their practices. Either way risk is involved; it's up to you.

Next: Practicing for the Interview

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