Finding a Job - Researching Organizations

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Why should I research organizations?

Researching organizations is an integral part of your networking and job search process.  First, it is essential in identifying organizations to target - those that might be a good fit for you based on their mission, goals, needs, and values. Second, employers expect you to know about their industry, their organization, the position for which you are applying, and even something about the interviewer and his/her position. They expect you to demonstrate this knowledge in cover letters and during the interview and networking process. Particularly before an interview, it is crucial to have acquired adequate background knowledge of the organization so that you can answer and ask questions based in solid research. This will help you to be better prepared for interviews, show more interest and enthusiasm, and give you the edge necessary to secure a job offer.

What should I find out?

This is a sampling of some of the information you might want to know about each organization prior to an interview:

  • Mission and values
  • Brief history
  • Key people in leadership positions
  • Size of organization/office locations
  • National and/or international presence
  • Structure/departments
  • Typical job titles
  • Organizational culture
  • Competitors and general landscape of the industry
  • Current events/recent news
  • Professional/educational background of the interviewer(s)

How can I use CCE resources to learn more about organizations?

CCE offers many resources to help you learn about organizations and industries. These include:

  • Vault and Wetfeet - Both resources, which you can log into using your UNI and Password, allow you to conduct in-depth research on companies, careers and industries.
  • Links to key industry resources - Learn about a variety of industries/career fields - and the types of jobs within them - by exploring these links. Professional associations are particularly useful for learning about industries and career paths.
  • Career Fairs, Special Events, Employer Information Sessions, Site Visits, and Professional in Residence Programs - CCE offers a wealth of networking opportunities and career fairs to help you learn from professionals in different industries. Check our Career Fairs and Special Events page and Events Calendar regularly.
  • LionSHARE - The Employer Directory in LionSHARE, CCE's internship/job search database, is a compilation of employers that have recruited candidates from Columbia University.  It is meant to provide you with another tool to research companies during your job search. You will only be able to view employers that have indicated they would like to be included in this directory.

Are there other recommended online resources?

  • Company/organization web sites - Most organizations have robust text and video information about their companies, career paths, and other details under a Careers, About Us, or Contact Us sections. Also be sure to read the News and Events sections, as you'll find upcoming activities and recent press releases from organizations. 
  • Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn - Many organizations have pages/feeds on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, where they share unique information and even job postings. Make sure your online presence is professional before you start connecting with employers through these sites. LinkedIn is particularly helpful to learn about where employees of the company have worked before, and to see if any alumni from the university are currently employed there. 
  • Google News Alerts - Search for mentions of the organization in the news, and set up a news alert so you'll find out about updates quickly.
  • Industry specific publications - There are a number to follow like Business Week, Engineering News RecordNonprofit Times, Poets & WritersBloomberg, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Advertising Age, FortuneBackstage, and Fastcompany.com.
  • Industry lists - In addition to Vault and Wetfeet, there are other organizations that maintain 'top places to work' lists, rankings, and more. These include GlassdoorCrain’s New York Business, Hoovers, Working Mother, and Forbes. Quintcareers has an extensive list of other ranking resources.

Other techniques for learning more about organizations:

Informational interviewing, or initiating conversations with people in organizations and positions of interest to you, is a great way to obtain 'insider' information. For tips on how to arrange, conduct, and follow up on an informational interview, refer to the Networking section of the Career Planning Guide.