The “Not-So-Secret” Secret to Job Search Success; Pt. I: How to Research

Posted: November 14, 2014

Every semester I facilitate workshops on interviewing strategies for engineering students. in the presentation the following question is asked: “What do you think employers say the number one interviewing problem for our students is?”

Do you know the answer? You probably do. In fact, I have yet to lead a workshop where the right answer was not guessed right away. The number one constructive statement from ECS employers is that students are not prepared by doing simple research about the company.

Did you know that you are supposed to do research before going into an interview or a career fair? You probably did! Most students seem to know the importance of research and claim to practice this prior to an interview, but still most employers say students don’t know enough about the company and industry.

Consider that (a) students may not know how to research effectively and, more importantly, (b) students may not know how to clearly communicate this research to the employer. This may seem like old news, but because many employers and students are not seeing eye to eye on just how prepared students are, you owe it to yourself to consider the following advice. Think of it as double-checking your research methods before your next employer interaction!

The solution is pretty straightforward. Start by using multiple resources to look at the company and position from different angles. Your CareerEngine account is a good place to start as recruiters have typed in the profile information they would like displayed about their company. You can find this by searching for the company under the “Employers” tab. If the job was posted in CareerEngine’s “Jobs for OSU Students” tab, thoroughly study the job description.

Next, spending time on the company website is an absolute must. Useful information can be found on the homepage, the “About Us” page, the “Careers” page, as well as any pages about mission, vision, and values. Know facts such as: what goods/services the company provides, who the company’s customers are, and where your position of interest fits within the company structure. But also pay attention to how the company portrays itself. Recent news and social media platforms may also be a good tool for this information. Lastly, Glassdoor is a great resource to check out recent employee reviews of specific companies and even see actual interview questions that were asked of candidates.

But the key to doing all of this research is to remember that you are not just gathering information for the sake of gathering information. I have never heard of an interview where an employer asked a candidate to write down everything they know about their company. During every step of your research you should be asking yourself the following question: How do my interests, values, and qualifications fit within this company/position? Remember, answering this question is the primary purpose of an interview and asking yourself this question helps narrow your interests as well. If you aren’t considering this question than you are not researching effectively. 

Stay tuned to the ECS Job Blog for an upcoming post about Part II: clearly communicating research to an employer.

“The two words 'information' and 'communication' are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”
-Sydney J. Harris