WHERE TO START
What you’ll need to know about a prospective employer depends entirely on your experience, your skills, and the company in question. Remember, you’re looking for particulars that can inform your resume and cover letter, and eventually make you shine in an interview. Focus on items that are relevant to you, your skills, and the position to which you’re applying.
Start with the company’s website. Read their “About Us” page. If they have a blog, read it. Read their Twitter feed and Facebook page. Get to know their voice. Get to know what they value. Get to know who their audience is and how they connect with them.
Google them. Find any and all news from the past year or so and read it. Look for pivots, successes and failures, and new product launches. Look for shake-ups in the C-suite.
Identify their competitors. Figure out who else is doing what they’re doing, and take note of how they’re doing it. Identify at least three competitors, get a handle on each one’s value prop, and know how they differ from the company to which you’re applying.
Find them on Linkedin. It doesn’t get more straightforward than this. Search for them on Linkedin. Look at who they employ. Browse the employees’ profiles until you develop a sense of the kind of person they like to hire. Take note of pedigree (where they’ve worked before) and try to develop a sense of whether they’re a fairly relaxed culture or if they’re buttoned up. Additionally, find out if you’re connected to anyone who works there, either by a first or second degree connection. If so, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask specific questions. ATTEND A LINKEDIN SESSION AT THE CCD AT RICE!
WHAT TO DO WITH THE INFO ONCE YOU HAVE IT
The whole goal is to differentiate you from the rest of the pack and help the recruiter and hiring manager understand that you’re the right person for the job. Take what you’ve learned, look for ways that it dovetails with your skills and the position in question, and then deploy that information strategically throughout your application materials. Use your cover letter to demonstrate your knowledge of the company and show off how your skills can help the company solve its current problems. Then drive it home by speaking knowledgeably about the company during your interview.