As the old saying goes, if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. And never is this truer than for a job application. Arming yourself with the right information is vital and could make all the difference when it comes to getting that all important interview.

So, what research should you be doing before applying for a job? In this article, we look at sort of research you should be doing before sending off your application.

What research should I do before I send off my job application?

There are three main areas that you should research before applying for a graduate job role. These are;

  • The role
  • The company
  • The industry

Having knowledge about these areas will show any employer that you are committed and enthusiastic.

The role

This is probably the easiest part, as you would have already done some research into the role before you decided to apply. So before you even start your application you should have already read a brief job remit and should have some idea of the skills and level experience they are looking for.

However, there are some other things that you can find out about with some more research. For example;

  • What will the interview process be like?
  • How many people will interview you and what positions do they hold in the company?
  • Are there any other tests involved such as psychometric testing?

The more you know about what to expect, the more you can practice and the less nervous you will be on the day.

The tricky thing is finding out this information. However, it’s not impossible. We have lots of profiles on our website and many of those detail the application process. Websites such as Glassdoor are also useful in this situation, as are looking at forums on websites such as Wikijobs and the Student Room.

The company

It is really important that research the company before you apply. Firstly, you should find out how long the company has been around and the products and services they offer. You should also have a good idea of the markets/industries they are in and who their competitors are.

Once you know the basics, you should do some more in-depth research about the company. What are the key objectives for the firm? What can you offer to help you achieve them?

Other questions to might want to find the answer to include;

  • Has the company won any awards recently?
  • Joined with a key business partner?
  • Have they done any charity fundraising recently?

Knowing these pieces of information will help you familiarise yourself with the company and will show the interviewer that you have done your research.

How to research the company

The company’s website is always the best place to start. Most will feature an ‘about us’ section which may have a mission statement or a breakdown of the company structure. Some ‘about us’ sections are longer and more detailed than others but it is a very good place to start.

An annual report may be available and will give you an insight into the company’s background, future plans and financial status. You should also search for the company online and read any press releases on them or any research papers that they have contributed to.

If you are still at university, then you should go along to as many careers fairs and information days as possible. Talk to the staff on the stall and find out as much as you can about the companies you like. Ask them how they got their job and why they like working there. You should also ask some questions about their recruitment process and whether they have any advice. This will be invaluable should you get to the interview stage.

When you feel like you have had a good understanding of the company, make a list of the things that interest you about the company and list some of the reasons you would like to work there. You should then think about how these tie in with your skill set and how you can help the company achieve their goals.

Victoria Payne, Graduate Recruitment and Development Executive at Lloyd’s of London says;

“Always research the company you are applying to – there is nothing worse for a recruiter to either read an application form or conduct an interview where the candidate doesn’t understand what the company does or worse mixed it up with a company of a similar name. Our common one is people thinking we are Lloyds TSB – it is very frustrating,” 

The industry

Finally, to succeed in an interview you should show a working knowledge of the industry you would like to enter.

It is essential that you show an awareness of industry news and developments. This will highlight an added level of commitment to the profession that your competitors may not have. There are many ways you can do this, from reading the business sections of the national press to subscribing to trade press, such as The Actuary.

Podcasts are also a great way of finding out what is going on in the wider business world. Podcasts such as the Financial Times News in Focus and Business Daily by the BBC World Service are short yet informative and you may be able to draw upon them in your interview.

The most important thing, however, is to find out where your prospective employer fits into the industry and how your potential job relates to it.

You can read more about how to develop commercial awareness here.

In conclusion, the three main areas you should research before applying to a job are the role, the company and the industry you are trying to work in. Do as much research as you can, and use your research to demonstrate how your specific skill set will help the company achieve their goals. The more research you do the better, there is no such thing as being over-prepared!

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