Past IssuesApril 21, 2012
Can you name 10 companies
you'd like to work for?
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What companies would you like to work for?
By Marc Cenedella, The Ladders
What if you were able to walk into an interview and explain persuasively why you'd like to work at that company?
What if you were able to be very knowledgeable in showing that you were familiar with their history and their current initiatives, that you already knew more than a dozen of your future colleagues, and that you were ready to roll up your sleeves and start helping out right away?
Don't you think you'd have a leg up on the competition? Sure you would!
So this week let's talk about the company-centric job search -- it's another useful method to include in your search repertoire.
Starting with companies, not job listings or contacts
With the company-centric job search, instead of starting with open jobs that might be appropriate for you, or asking your contacts about positions they know about, you start with the companies you'd like to work for, and work your way backwards into the information, people, and positions you'll need to secure an offer.
By starting with the companies first, you'll become an expert and an engaged outsider, which will allow you to come across in interviews heads and shoulders above your competition. You'll have a compelling reason for why you belong at their firm, you'll get to know multiple people in the HR and recruiting functions, and you'll be able to cross-network with future colleagues. Compared to the typical unprepared and unconnected candidate that sits in that interview seat, you'll be somebody who they can put to work right away.
Which local companies inspire you?
First, make a list of all the local companies that you find interesting. Don't worry about whether they have open positions for you right now, but start with what intrigues you. It might be products that you find fascinating, a company culture that suits you, or friends and family that have already made that firm a second home. Make a long list of candidates.
Then, being practical, whittle down the list to the eight or ten most promising firms -- those companies with the growth or stability that might make an attractive new workplace. You're going to be spending a lot of time studying and understanding these companies, so don't pick ones that doesn't really make sense for you.
Research those companies
Taking your list of ten companies, seek to understand as much as you possibly can about them. For larger firms, there will be a lot of information available on the internet. For smaller companies, you may find research on the industry makes more sense.
Use your local paper's news archives to read all the articles that mention that company over the past three or four years. You'll read about successes and setbacks, failures and flashes of genius.
Read the companies' entries on Wikipedia. See if they've been mentioned in any recent books published on Google book search. Check out the blogs and search on Twitter for mentions. Look up their stock symbol and financial information.
Who do you know who works there?
Now that you've boned up on the basics, network into those companies. Find the friends, family, former colleagues, and classmates that know the place, and ask them what it's like to work there, the upsides and the downsides, and the future prospects.
You'll also seem a lot smarter when requesting informational interviews because of your research. Requests that come across with detail are much easier to accept, such as: "I'm interested in working at ACME, and I wanted to know your opinion about how their Future 2020 initiative is going to work out, given what the competition is doing with their new product technology, and ACME's history with private labeling. I understand you worked a lot on that in your time there."
Build the big picture
By being informed, showing your knowledge (but not showing off), and putting your requests into context, you'll find that far more people are willing to help you.
For each person you speak with at that company or in the industry, you'll discover one more bit of information. Like pieces in a puzzle, they'll all start to fit together and make sense. In fact, sometimes it takes an outsider to really understand the big picture -- you may come up with insights that your interviewers haven't considered.
When you're well-informed, you'll be well received.
Put it all together
By building a network inside of your ten companies, and acquiring and displaying a mastery of the knowledge and insights that you'll need to be successful there, you're making yourself a much more attractive candidate than the competition. To the hiring manager on the other side of the interview table, you look less risky and more immediately productive. To the HR person who is screening, you're becoming a known commodity and an easy way for them to look smart when they put you in front of hiring managers. And for your future colleagues, you're showing a passion and a commitment that increases their desire to begin working with you right away.
The company-centric job search shouldn't be used to the exclusion of other methods. But when used wisely, it can teach you a lot about how to be successful in every aspect of your search -- the depth of understanding that you get from knowing a few companies very well will have applications across your hunt.
Good luck in the search this week, Readers!
Marc Cenedella is the CEO & founder of The Ladders, the world's largest professional jobs website.