What does that really mean – and why do people it? Good questions.  What “do your research” means, at least when it comes to a job search, is to find out everything you can about a prospective employer.  People who’ve been there are giving you’re a heads up because they know that a failure to do your research can:

Eliminate you as a candidate because you couldn’t answer a question that would have required some research (e.g., “What’s your reaction to the recent news of our restructuring?”); or,

Lead to you accepting a position with a company whose work environment or values don’t match your own (e.g., everybody goes hunting together on the weekends and you are a vegan)

In short, without doing some research you can end up losing a good opportunity or looking for work again much sooner than you hoped.

Here are some useful research ideas that are right at your fingertips:

  1. Visit the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Look for what people are saying and who’s saying it.  If it’s all super poz and you only see company posts, that can be – but isn’t necessarily – a red flag.
  2. Google the company name and use the “News” option, not just the web search. Have they been in the news?  For what? Do you care (you may not…)
  3. Check out Glassdoor.com and Vault.com for insider information on what employees have to say about the company
  4. Go to the company website. Read their media/news section, annual report, and get a sense of the organization.  Identify key players and check out their LinkedIn profiles.
  5. Google the larger industry and see who the major competitors are.

These are all things you can actually do before you get an interview or even apply!  That’s good news because you may discover you do not want to waste your time.  Once you’ve been invited to interview you can really dig deep, and try these strategies:

  1. Get the names of everyone you will be meeting with – it’s fine to ask, they expect it. Check out their LinkedIn profiles and look at their backgrounds.  Note any mutual connections.
  2. Contact your campus career services office and see if they can help you identify alumni who have worked at the company – then reach out to them to get the inside view.
  3. Check out Salary.com and see what the average starting salary is for the job for someone with your experience in your region.

Happy hunting!