Research Guide

Proper research will set you apart for your:

  • Interviews.

  • Informational interviews.

  • Cover letters.

 

It shows your contact that you are very interested and capable.

 

Before you go into an interview or informational interview, do research on all of the following sections.

 

Capture your answers in your own personalized research worksheet.

 

Person (your interviewer or informational interviewee)

 

Goal: Get a sense of their background and their journey.

  • Where did they start?

  • Where did they go after that?

  • Was their path linear or did they make a lot of career changes?

  • Are they early on in their career or seasoned veterans?

 

There is a fine line between doing proper research on a person (which everyone expects you to do) and stalking them. It’s ok to learn about their hobbies, interests and volunteer activities, but as soon as you begin to uncover personal things like vacations, partying, or family drama, you’ve gone too far. Stick to LinkedIn or work-related social media profiles (e.g. a Facebook or Instagram business page). We understand that profiles can be a combination of both. In the end, use your best judgment.

 

What to Research

Person's Work History

What is their current role, organization, and industry?​

Do you understand what they do in their current role? Do you understand what the organization does?

Their past roles/organizations

Person's Education 

What college(s) did they attend?

What was their major? Does it align with what they are doing now?

Did they go to grad school? What school and degree?

Other

Are there any other things that you have in common (e.g. volunteer interests, hobbies, where they’ve lived, common connections, etc.)?

Best Resources

LinkedIn - Read their Work section.

Google - Google their name and also try their name + their organization’s name (if you know it). Their personal website or a bio on their organization’s website could show up!

Pipl - Search for people using the deep web. While relevant work information will come up, you may also see irrelevant personal information you do not need to use or reference.

LinkedIn - Read their profile. If there isn’t much, search job descriptions or people’s profiles who have that title.

Job descriptions from other job boards- Find similar titles to read job descriptions, requirements, or skills.

 

Quora - Search the job title and read other people’s questions related to the job title and read answers from people who have knowledge about those roles. Ex: “What is the difference between product management and project management?”

YouTube - Search the title name and look for “day in the life” videos or tutorials on what it means to work in that role.

Company website- For big companies, they often will have profiles, descriptions, or even videos of certain roles.

LinkedIn - Read through their previous roles.

 

Google - Google their name and also try their name + their organization’s name (if you know it). Their personal website or a bio on their organization’s website could show up!

 

If you don’t understand what the roles are, follow the instructions in the row above.

LinkedIn - Read their Education section.

 

Professional bio - Use Google to find a bio on their organization’s website or at a conference they attended.

LinkedIn - Volunteer Experience and Interests sections are at the bottom of their profile.

 

Public social media pages- Use your judgment to determine if it’s too personal.

After you research, reflect. Ask yourself:

  • What do you have in common with the person?

  • Given, their role, background and education, what perspective will they bring to your conversation? If you are interviewing for an internship or job, what might they ask you about (e.g. If they have a technical background, they might ask you technical questions)?

 

Organization

 

Goal: Get a sense of how the organization sees themselves and how you align.

  • What does the organization sell or provides as a service and what is interesting to you about that?

  • What are the challenges they face and opportunities for growth and how is that exciting to you?

What to Research

What are the products or services that it provides?

 

Is it a for profit, not-for-profit, or government agency?

How many people work there?

 

Where are headquarters located? Where is their Bay Area office (if they are not headquartered here)?

 

Is it a global organization?

 

For a huge, global company with many divisions, get a sense of what the total company does, but then focus in on the division or group that you are applying to.

 

Recent news about the organization

 

What is the organization's culture?

Best Resources

Organization’s website- Look for sections that will give you more information about they do. Examples: University Recruiting, About Us, or Annual Report

Wikipedia (for larger organizations) - The first paragraph usually provides a simplified version of the industry and product offerings.

LinkedIn - Click on the organization’s page on LinkedIn and they should have an About Us section

D&B Hoovers (or Hoovers) - This is a business research company that includes a database of company information, profiles, and company reports. Check your school’s library website and search for Hoover’s; many schools will pay for the subscription costs (i.e. free for you).

Crunchbase - This is a platform to find information on public and private companies and is popular for startup information.

GuideStar - Website that provides in depth research on non-profits.

Organization’s website- If it’s a non-profit, they will say so in the About Us section. Usually, they will say they are a “non-profit” or “privately funded 501(c)(3)”. If they are a government agency, their URL will end in .gov. If they don’t specify that they are a non-profit or government agency, then they are a for-profit company.

Wikipedia (for larger organizations) - On the right hand side, they provide statistics.

 

LinkedIn - Click on the organization’s page in LinkedIn and they should have an About Us section.

 

D&B Hoovers (or Hoovers) - This is a business research company that includes a database of company information, profiles, and company reports. Check your school’s library website and search for Hoover’s; many schools will pay for the subscription costs (i.e. free for you).

 

Crunchbase - This is a platform to find information on public and private companies and is popular for startup information.

 

GuideStar - Website that provides in depth research on non-profits.

Factiva - This is in international news database owned by Dow Jones; it aggregates content from radio/podcasts, newspapers/magazines/other publications, company reports, photo agencies, etc. Check your school’s library website and search for Factiva; many schools will pay for the subscription costs (i.e. free for you). If available, it’s often much more efficient than Google!

 

Organization’s website- Look for a News section.

 

LinkedIn - Go to Organization’s LinkedIn page and scroll down to the Recent Updates section.

 

Organization’s Facebook/Twitter/Instagram- Follow them to see their feed.

Glassdoor - Read employees’ reviews of the organization. Glassdoor is like Yelp for companies, so take reviews with a grain of salt. Glassdoor is skewed more towards grumpy people, more so than Yelp. A person who never actually worked at the company can post as if they did...and Glassdoor will not remove the post. But it still can be insightful to see how the posters describe the culture.

 

Organization’s Facebook/Twitter/Instagram- Read their posts and briefly look through comments to get a sense of their feel and culture.

After you research, reflect. Ask yourself:

  • What are the products and services that the organization provides that are most interesting to you?

  • What are areas of improvement for their products (especially important to reflect on at a tech company)?

 

Industry/Competition

 

The industry is the summary of the types of products the organization sells or services it offers.


Goal: Understand who the organization is competing with and what the challenges and opportunities that it’s facing are.

What to Research

What industry/sector is the organization in?

There are industries and sub-industries.

 

For example: Netflix is in the entertainment industry and streaming video sub-industry.

Who are the company's competitors?

What are trends in the industry/sector?

 

For example, trends in the entertainment industry are:

  • Shift to streaming video platforms.

  • More Americans leaving traditional cable like Comcast and joining online streaming services like Hulu or Netflix.

  • We’re in the “platinum age of TV,” meaning there’s a lot of high quality TV programming.

Best Resources

Wikipedia (for larger organizations) - The first paragraph and box on the right hand side usually provides a simplified version of the industry and product offerings.

D&B Hoovers (or Hoovers) - This is a business research company that includes a database of company information, profiles, and company reports. Check your school’s library website and search for Hoover’s; many schools will pay for the subscription costs (i.e. free for you).

Crunchbase - This is a platform to find information on public and private companies and is popular for startup information.

Wikipedia (for larger organizations) - scroll down, there should be a section called Competitors

 

D&B Hoovers (or Hoovers) - This is a business research company that includes a database of company information, profiles, and company reports. Check your school’s library website and search for Hoover’s; many schools will pay for the subscription costs (i.e. free for you).
 

Google Finance often times will list company competitors.
Crunchbase - This is a platform to find information on public and private companies and is popular for startup information.

Most industries have their own publications that track industry trends.

 

Your network- Ask questions! When talking to people in the industry, ask them what they read to stay up to date on the industry and what they see are industry trends.

 

Google - Search the name of the industry and “industry trends.”

 

If you are focused on an industry, you should read the same daily/weekly news that people working in the industry read. This could be a newsletter, Twitter, or setting up Google alerts.

After research

  • What are the strengths of the company vs. the competition?

  • What are the weaknesses of the company vs. the competition?

  • What are the opportunities based on the trends in the industry?

  • What are the threats based on the trends in the industry?

 

Role

The role is the position/function that you are applying to or the one you want to learn more about in an informational interview. It includes the skills you would use and the tasks you would perform.

 

Goal: Understand what your projects, day-to-day, and tasks look like.

What to Research

What are the key skills needed for the role?

 

What are the tasks, projects, or job responsibilities for the role?

Best Resources

LinkedIn - Search job descriptions or people’s profiles who have that title

 

Job descriptions from other job boards- Find similar titles to read job descriptions, requirements, or skills.

 

Quora - Search the job title and read other people’s questions related to the job title and read answers from people who have knowledge about those roles. Ex: “What is the difference between product management and project management?”

 

YouTube - Search the title name and look for “day in the life” videos or tutorials on what it means to work in that role.

 

Company website- For big companies, they often will have profiles, descriptions, or even videos of certain roles.

After research

In preparation for an interview for a job/internship, identify how you align with what is needed for the role. For each skill, ask yourself:

  • Do I have experience with this skill (even if it’s not in a work setting)? If so, how much?

  • Where did I gain that experience/use that skill? If it was on a job, think about which project.

For example:

Screen Shot 2018-12-14 at 16.25.46.png
 
Screen Shot 2018-12-14 at 16.25.57.png

Questions for Them

After all of the research, use that information to create your questions.