Do your homework before making move

Dear Joan:
We often read in job-search advice that we should research an organization before we think of it as a possibility, and certainly before we go for an interview.

Could you discuss in more detail what this means? It would seem that looking at annual reports, or, if one is lucky, finding a random newspaper article about the organization, would not provide much information for this purpose - especially if one is trying to find out about the particular "corporate culture" of the organization, and if one lacks contacts in the industry.

Most people do more research of their next vacation spot than they do before choosing a company. Eight hours a day is a lot of your time to pledge without any notion of what you're getting yourself into.

Just as you should be "interviewing the company," so will the company be interviewing you. Competition being what it is, you'd be wise to have some background on the firm so you can ask intelligent questions and press the right "hot buttons."

This research should be pursued continually - whether you're employed or not. It's a dreary job, but somebody's got to do it. Join the "somebodies" who spot opportunities first. Here are some quick-and-dirty ways to maximize your information without spending your life assembling.

Read with a scissors. You're looking for specific information on certain topics that have impact on your career decisions. Dump these into a file and keep them handy until you need them. Toss them after three years.

Scanning newspapers, magazines, journals and reports doesn't take long when you are looking for very specific kinds of information.

The following categories of information to save come from Marilyn Moats Kennedy's book, "Salary Strategies" (Bantam Books).

1.      Industry forecasts that cover the industry or specific kind of business you work for or wish to work for.

2.      Any predictions, reports or speculations about your own company or its competitors.

3.      Starting salary information for jobs like the one you have. (Include date of publications).

4.      Success stories about people in your line of work. How did they move from one organization to another or up within their own companies?

5.      Stories that indicate management values in your industry are changing. Would any of them help you or your career?

6.      Stories that indicate shifts in consumer tastes. For example, if you work for a package-goods company, you've got to be interested in the weakening of consumer brand loyalty.

7.      Stories on the rise and fall of the population group to which you belong - women, middle-class men, minorities, people over 40, etc.

This information is second only to "inside' information. This can be obtained by developing a healthy network of contacts within your field. When a job interview presents itself, call your contacts who are likely to know something about the people, the company or even the job.

The annual report may provide more information than you think. You'll learn about the key players, what the earnings are and whether they're on the rise, marketing strategies, new products and problems. Surely, you can find enough information to sound knowledgeable in an interview or ask a key question.

Another approach is to go on a company tour. Many companies offer them to people who request them or to the general public at regularly scheduled times. You can pick up a great deal from keen observations and questions asked of the tour guide.

Consult with a retiree of the company. Not only will retirees have a wealth of information to share but also they will probably enjoy the chance to relive their experiences.

Finally, be kind to your local reference librarian. He or she can help you find the information you're looking for. Perhaps a vertical file will be maintained with information about local companies.

Here are a few to get you started:

"MacMillan Job Guide to American Corporations," New York: the MacMillan Co.
"Standard and Poor's Corporation Records," New York: Standard and Poor's Corp. (Current, cumulative news of corporation descriptions.)

"Industry Surveys," New York: McGraw-Hill Inc. (Loose-leaf, updated monthly. This provides current insights into trends and developments within corporations.)

"Register of Corporations, Directors and Executives," New York: Standard and Poor's (Three supplements a year. Gives executive rosters, biographies and phone numbers of 33,000 US and Canadian companies.)

"Thomas' Register of American Manufacturers," New York: Thomas Publishing Co. (Annual. 11 volumes. Vol. 1-6 lists products and services; Vol. 7 provides an alphabetical list of companies, addresses, subsidiaries, products; Vol. 8 gives an index to trade names, and Vol. 9-11 lists catalogs of companies.) 

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
About Joan Lloyd
Joan Lloyd & Associates provide
FREE subscription to receive Joan's article by email

Email Joan to submit your question for consideration for publication, request permission to reprint an article for distribution, or for information about carrying Joan Lloyd's weekly column in your publication, or on your Internet or Intranet site. Visit to search an archive of more than 1700 of Joan's articles.
© Joan Lloyd & Associates, Inc.