When it’s time to learn about organizations you are interested in working at or if you already have an interview lined up—how do you best go about finding the most important and credible information about that operation? You'll want to find out as much as you can ahead of time to get a competitive edge and show that you have done your homework! By doing this research ahead of time, you can impress the recruiter or interviewer by showing that you were prepared enough to ask the most relevant questions, that you are aware of the organization's current challenges and opportunities, and have a heads up on any important recent news and developments such as the release of a critical new product or service or launch of a major new initiative.
Of course, you can check the organization's’ own Web site, or do a Google search on its name to find some of this—and you should!—but there’s a whole lot more available to you to dig really deep into the enterprise. You can discover harder-to-find and more “insider” type information like its competitors, strategy, key staff and contacts, financial health, and even what it’s like to work there.
In this section, I’ve pulled together some favorite free sources and some strategies for finding information on for-profit and non-profit organizations, all from a student's perspective who's looking for a job or internship--and all organized into the tabs below. I’d suggest starting with the glossary at the below right as well, to help you understand the difference between various types of organizations and how your research strategy will vary based on those distinctions.
Although the real in-depth nitty gritty and insider type information about companies and non-profits is found in our library's full strength and powerful searchable databases, , you can also find quite a bit about all sorts of organizations on the open Web. Here are the sources and strategies we recommend you take when doing your open web research:
Now, of course you know that when searching any of these open Web sources, you do need to always be mindful about the origin, authenticity, and credibility of what you find.
In the age of the conversational Web where everything is made transparent, you can also find sites that will provide you with some insider type information on what it's like to work at a particular organization. Here are a few you should know about:
Caution: Be careful and judicious on how much stock you put into organizations that have been rated negatively by employees. Although Glassdoor has a good reputation, keep in mind that the reviews these are not scientific surveys, but self-selected opinion. It is known that those who have a strong opinion about something are the most likely to share them, and so you may sometimes be swayed by those who truly loved--or perhaps more likely--truly hated something about the firm. Be particularly careful when reviewing companies with only a handful or less of reviews. You are more likely to have credible information when there are many many people who say the same thing or report similar themes.
Before you begin your research, it's important to understand the different types of organizations "out there" as each type may require a different research strategy, or rely on different types of sources. Here's a quick snapshot of five key different types that you'll likely encounter.