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How to Research Companies

Before you put pen to paper (or hands to keyboard) to update your resume and cover letter for any jobs you find. It’s important to research each company you are interested in applying for. In this lesson, we’ll cover how to research companies, why it is important, and how to identify what is most important to you in your first job after graduation.

Identifying Position & Company Qualities

It can be tempting to jump into job searching by scrolling job boards and applying to every technical role you find. While applying to many jobs can increase your chances of landing your first role, it’s also important to make sure the role you find is the right fit for you.

Before we begin researching companies, take a moment to write down 5 - 10 qualities that are important to you in a position and in an employer. . This can include anything that is relevant to you, including (but not limited to): company values, tech stack, the types of projects the company works on, DEI initiatives, work environment (in-person, remote, hybrid), team structure and management style, role focus (front-end, back-end, full-stack), opportunities for mentorship, growth, or continued learning, company size, industry niche (fin-tech, ed-tech, cybersecurity, AI/AR, UI/UX design), etc. If nothing comes to mind, scan through job postings to get an idea of what attracts you to a role or company. You can also review the lesson on SMART goals here. Consider where you see yourself in 3, 5, or 10 years. Think through a big-picture goal and how your first role in the tech field will help you reach that goal. This brainstorming helps you focus on applying to jobs that are the best fit for you.

Keep this list handy as you start to look for companies and roles to apply to, either linked with your job tracker or somewhere you can easily access and refer back to. As you search for jobs, take a few moments to reference the list that you built. You may not end up in a position or at an organization that meets every single one of your top criteria, but it gives you a good starting point to identify roles you are well-suited to, as well as companies that align with your values, technology preferences, and personal goals.

You may also find a company that fits your preferences, but they may not have an open role that matches your skill set. You can set up alerts for the company on LinkedIn, regularly check their Careers page, and even join an email mailing list to get notified as soon as new job postings open up, so you can apply right away.

Researching Companies​

Application Stage​

Once you’ve found a role that you think you’re interested in applying for, it’s time to explore the company and find out more about the big picture. This initial research stage will help you to identify information in broad strokes that you can use when you are targeting your cover letter and resume in your application.

Start by reading the job posting and breaking down any sections that describe the company, its core values, and any other important information. Next, go to the company’s website and explore a variety of pages, including anything about their product, mission and values, and primary tech stack. Read through their About page, or find their company profile on LinkedIn and explore the summary of their organization there.

As you work through this process, make bullet point notes or add additional columns for key information in your job tracker as you go.

Now that you’ve gathered the key information about the company, it’s time to put it to use. As you update your cover letter and resume for the job posting, use the research you’ve gathered and the strategies outlined in the Creating a Modular Cover Letter and Resume lesson to target your application materials.

The information you gathered in this research stage is especially useful for the introduction and conclusion of your cover letter. Find at least one aspect that you connect to β€” refer back to your bullet point list of key company information and your preferences list β€” and use this information to share how you would fit within the bigger picture at the company you’re applying to, and why this role and company in particular interests you and aligns with your goals, values, and skills.

This effectively demonstrates two main things to the hiring manager reading your application: first, that you are not sending a bulk form cover letter and have spent time understanding the company and position you’re applying to; and second, it helps them to see you and your skill set within the role and the bigger picture within the organization and the company culture.

Interview Stage​

When you reach the interview stage of the application process, it’s the perfect time to refresh your memory about the company, review the previous research you conducted, and further explore the company before the interview.

Refer back to the notes you took during the initial research phase and your preferences list, and use this as a starting point to explore deeper. Review the About page or LinkedIn description. Explore their work and, if you can, use the product yourself. Google the company and read any articles or blog posts about them, the work they’re doing, and any major updates or projects that have launched in the last year.

Again, take notes and save any relevant resources as you go. Where your first set of notes were likely brief, your notes before the interview process should be more in-depth and comprehensive, so that you can lean on them as you prepare for your interview.

You can use your research at a few key points during the interview preparation process and in the interview itself:

  • Asking questions. We encourage you to have at least one question (though ideally closer to 2 - 3 if time permits) that ties into the research you did about the company that you can ask at the end of the interview. This might be about the product, the tech stack, the company culture, their DEI initiatives, or any other key information that you want to know more about. This is also a great place to refer back to the list of criteria that matters most to you in a role and company, and ask questions that help you determine if it’s the right fit.
  • Practicing your technical skills. Use the research you did previously to refresh your skills in the company’s primary tech stack. Get comfortable answering related technical questions and polish up any projects that use the technologies they asked for, so you can share them with the interviewer if asked.
  • Answering questions. When you know the details about the company alongside the skills listed in the job posting, you can more easily anticipate what kind of non-technical questions they might ask in the interview. In some cases, you can also tie back to the big picture when answering a non-technical question by relating the example and skills you share to the way you’ll use those skills within the context of the company and role. For example, if the company emphasizes collaboration throughout the job posting, its website, and its LinkedIn, you can give extra attention to crafting an example about collaboration.

Like with the cover letter, demonstrating that you’ve researched the company helps the interviewer to see how you might fit the role they are hiring for, and further increases your chances of moving on to the next round, or getting an offer!