You’ve identified your target employers, applied for your dream jobs and now you’re getting ready to knock their socks off in the interviews. Your performance in those interviews not only shows what a smart and thorough employee you would be; it also demonstrates your interest in each specific company.
Use these online resources to prepare for your interviews and blow away your competition:
For companies that have publicly traded stock, AnnualReports.com is a free repository of thousands of annual reports (both the boring Form 10K version in HTML and the prettier PDF version which is distributed to stockholders and potential investors). Search by company name to find the annual report for your target employer.
These reports are gold mines of information, but keep in mind they’re from the company’s perspective. In addition to any essential financial information, you’ll typically find a letter to investors from the CEO, descriptions of products and services, major announcements, sometimes descriptions of the organizational structure (divisions or subsidiaries) and even plans for the future.
If your target employer is not a publicly traded company (in other words, it’s private), finding good information like detailed financial reports and lists of corporate officers can be challenging. And many large employers like Bechtel, Chrysler, Publix Super Markets and PricewaterhouseCoopers are private.
While Hoovers offers minimal information—like headquarters location, subsidiaries and competitors—for free, it also sells more detailed company and industry reports for $69-$300.
Wikipedia can be an excellent source of information on a wide variety of employers from public to private. Since content is compiled and edited by volunteers, the information validity can sometimes be a bit suspect, but in general, Wikipedia can be a helpful source.
You might also check citations in the footnotes to find sources that are typically reliable, leading to additional information.
Surprisingly, Yelp can be a good source of information for many employers, not just restaurants, and particularly for smaller employers.
Yelp is a customer review site that allows businesses being reviewed to present their own information if they choose. You won’t find many financial details, but you might discover insightful information in the customer reviews that you won’t find elsewhere (like problems you might very carefully mention in an interview that you could help the company solve).
5. Consulting firms
Major research and consulting firms like McKinsey, Deloitte, Forrester, Gartner, BC and Accenture sometimes make reports available on their websites with executive summaries that could offer free snippets of insight. If you have deep pockets and great ambitions, purchasing an industry or sector report that covers several potential employers could be worth the price and save you the hassle of doing the research yourself.
For example, if you’re looking for work in the pharmaceutical industry, McKinsey offers a free 10-page report on the future of pharmaceutical R&D, which includes insight on the top players in that arena.
Both Glassdoor and the next site on our list, CareerBliss, depend on current and former employees accurately reporting their experiences and salaries with the promise of anonymity. So it’s best to take it all with a grain of salt and be cautious, particularly when it comes to the salary data. Still, these sites can provide useful insight into the process and culture of a given employer.
Since salaries in most companies are based on a mix of experience, education and/or certifications, location and other factors, the salary data you view may not really be a match for you. Some “salary” data will also include commissions, bonuses, profit sharing and other forms of compensation that are not specifically mentioned. So don’t be surprised if the salary you’re offered differs substantially from what these sites report.
If your target employer is included on Glassdoor (and more than 250,000 companies are), you can easily find employee reviews and salaries by job title. You can also check out information about job interviews reported by individuals, including their experiences with the application process, number of interviews and interviewers and an example interview question.
As a bonus, if you sign in with your Facebook account, Glassdoor will show you which of your friends work at your target companies, which could be the warm connection you need to land an interview.
CareerBliss offers information via both company reviews and average salary information by company. It’s similar to Glassdoor, but without the requirement to register before you access the information.
The Bottom Line
As you research on these sites, write down any questions that occur to you. Then, before the interview, choose the best questions to ask during the interviews, those that demonstrate you’ve done your research and will also draw out responses important to your decision.
Your research online will not only demonstrate your genuine interest to interviewers; it will also help you decide whether you really want to work for that employer.
Susan P. Joyce, a two-time layoff “graduate,” has been studying and writing about online job searching since 1994. She has been the editor of Job-Hunt.org since 1998 and WorkCoachCafe.com since 2011 after several years working in HR and high tech.