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📓 Journal #16

You were asked to keep a journal while going through the program. Each weekend you'll receive a brief journaling assignment in addition to your coding homework. (Review the Journaling at Epicodus lesson for a refresher.)

Journal #16 Prompt

Think critically about the following questions, and record brief yet honest responses. Include a date or timestamp and quick summary of the prompt to refer to later.

One of the best ways to prepare for a cover letter or interview is to research the company thoroughly. This helps determine if a team is a good fit, and grants preparedness and knowledge that can set you apart from other candidates.

This section's journal prompt will walk through the process of researching a potential employer. You'll need to select an example company for this exercise. This could be a company from our internship list, a company that sparked your interest at a meetup, or just somewhere you may like to apply after graduation. Follow instructions below to record data about this company in your journal for each of the six areas below.

1. Mission and Values

Determine what the company's values or mission is. Basically, what's important to them? Why do they do what they do? This will help determine whether the team is a good fit. And if so, how you can best highlight your shared values and interest in their mission in cover letters and interviews.

  • Where to Look: Many companies list a Mission Statement on their site. This could reside in a page by that name, or perhaps in a Careers or About Us area. If you're unable to locate this info try Googling with the query: mission, values. If you cannot find a clearly-labeled mission, read through their blog, team description, and other content to gain a feel for what they value.

  • What to Ask Yourself: Is this a mission I'm interested in? Are these values aligned with mine? If so, how can I ensure this is depicted in my cover letter or interview? Do I have past experiences I can mention, technical or not, that highlight my investment in this same mission/value(s)?

2. Products and Services

You must also understand what a company actually does. Any interviewer will ask why you want to work with them; so it's really important to demonstrate a thorough understanding of what they do, how they do it, and why you're interested and qualified to join them. You should always prepare a thoughtful, educated explanation for why you want to join a team, even if a position isn't your absolute dream job.

Do they create a product, or a service? Do they focus solely on tech, or do they hire developers to maintain a site/app for an otherwise non-technical endeavor? Do they have multiple locations? What types of positions do they hire? What types of clients do they have? What products are listed in the job posting you're applying for, or their job postings in general?

  • Where to Look: This information should be readily available on their website. But dig deeper than their tagline! For instance, a company might say they "provide robust cloud storage solutions"; but you need to know way more than that! What specific products do they offer? How many tiers or options do they have? What else do they do? What languages do they use? If they create apps, APIs, or other tools, you can check their documentation.

  • What to Ask Yourself: Is this a product/service I'm interested in? Do I understand how it works? If not, what do I need to learn or research further to fully understand before my interview? How can I demonstrate that my skill set is capable of creating/supporting/working on these same products and services?

3. Culture

Company culture can also provide tons of beneficial insight. After all, if you join this team you'll likely spend ~40 hours a week with these individuals. Make sure they feel like a team you can productively work and grow with.

  • Where to Look: Begin with their website and expand outward to any social media presences. Are they involved in activism? Volunteer work? What activities do they do together? Notice their tone in written content like blog posts, job postings, etc. is it casual and fun, or formal and official? What about photos of employees? Are they in suits? Or are they donning super casual t-shirts while playing air hockey? This may inform how formal you dress for an interview. (No, don't wear a t-shirt, even if all their employees appear to; but perhaps reconsider that bow tie if the entire team appears to dress super casually!)

  • What to Ask Yourself: Does this sound like an environment I would enjoy? An environment that would be productive for me and my career? How will this information about their culture influence the formality of tone in my cover letter, or other presentations of myself?

4. Recent News

See if you can uncover recent happenings at the company. This will both provide you with a sense of what they're doing, and allow you to sound informed and interested in an interview. A recent product launch or exciting announcement can also make an excellent conversation starter!

  • Where to Look: Check the company's website, blog, and/or social media presences for announcements. You can even do a search for their name on Google News.

  • What to Ask Yourself: Which, if any, of these pieces of news should I keep in my back pocket as a conversation starter/icebreaker? How do I think this news could/would influence the job position for which I'm applying? Can I prepare any insightful questions about their work or trajectory based on this news?

5. Employee Satisfaction

It's also important to consider employee and client satisfaction. Sites like Glassdoor allow you to see how current/past employees rate their company and management teams. Reviewers even leave details about the company's interview process, and pay ranges.

  • Where to Look: Glassdoor offers information on employee satisfaction. Depending on what other services or products the company offers, clientele may also leave feedback on Google Reviews, Yelp, etc.

  • What to Ask Yourself: Does this sound like a work environment I could do well in? Do I have any questions to further research after hearing employees' perspectives? If details about compensation and benefits are listed, do they meet my needs? What do past employees say about the culture? Did they feel supported?

6. Key Players

In an interview scenario you'll likely be provided the name(s) of employees you're meeting with. It's a good idea to learn more about them before the interview. Their LinkedIn profile(s) and other online presences can provide further information about the company's culture too! Even if you haven't yet received an interview, it's still a good idea to research leadership in the area of the company you may want to work in.

  • Where to Look: Team or About Us pages on their website will likely list current employees and leadership staff. Sometimes they even include bios. Once you've located names of these individuals, you can do a quick Google search for public LinkedIn and other social media profiles.

  • What to Ask Yourself: Do I have common interests with this person? Shared connections? How are they related to the job I'm applying for? Will they be my supervisor, manager, or senior developer?


We'll discuss our responses at our next class session. Make sure your responses are recorded before then!