Regardless of the level of the position a company wants to fill, its motivation will always be this: to hire someone who will save them time and money. Your goal is to make your services so attractive that the firm has no choice but to hire you in order to save time and money. If you can demonstrate this, you will be in demand. Such a demonstration should always be based on a research of the company’s needs.
Information about companies can be obtained in a number of ways. Large or well-known companies are usually accessible through on-line or library research. Your target company, however, may not be large enough or public enough. Even in this case, there are quite a few ways to orient yourself to the company’s needs, if you are determined and persistent. There are two basic methods which can help you approach the company in a smart way: networking and informational interviewing.
Networking can work on a number of levels. If you know someone at the company, talk to her about her job, the corporate environment and the way the company operates. It’s surprising how much someone at even the least powerful levels of the corporate structure knows about the workings of a firm. If the person works for a department different from the one you would like to work for, she can still be a valuable source of information, providing you with a perspective on the company that you may not have considered. Remember, most people with a little encouragement love to talk about themselves and their jobs. Personal contacts are some of the most valuable sources in locating openings.
Another, more complex research strategy is the informational interview/sales call. You should be tactful when applying this method. You may contact the interviewer by telephone if you have an acquaintance in common. When calling, make sure you don’t bring up questions like how much different positions pay and what benefits the company offers. If you have no contact at the company, it’s better to request 10 minutes of the interviewer’s time in a brief letter accompanied by your resume. In the letter, it’s important to stress that you are seeking information and not a position at this time. You may also give the interviewer an agenda for your brief meeting, indicating the type of information you are seeking. When writing the letter, always put yourself in the place of the recipient of your letter: Are you asking for information that is confidential? Outside of the person’s area of expertise? Trivial information that you should be able to obtain through other sources, such as the library? You will realize that not everyone is willing to meet with you; however, you can increase the number of positive responses through keeping the reader’s interests in mind.
A week after you send your letter, follow up with a telephone call requesting an interview. If you are granted an interview, arm yourself with as much knowledge from other sources as you can beforehand. This will save limited interview time and make your discussion more fruitful. Regardless of how successful you think your interview was, always send a thank you note to the interviewer who spent time to help you.
Research strategies outlined above may be the most effective methods in gathering information about the company. If cleverly pursued, these research skills combined with adequate persuasive skills will distinguish you from other job applicants.