Finding a good job these days is tougher than ever. There are so many factors to take into consideration but, thankfully, the Internet provides you with means to figure it all out if you're willing to invest the time.
Whether you are at the beginning of your job search or preparing for an interview, being armed with as much knowledge as possible about the prospective company is in your best interest. Not only will it help you formulate more insightful questions, it will boost your confidence as well.
It does, however, require some legwork on your part, but that's where we come in. To help you find the answers you need, CIO.com scoured the Web to bring you this list of company research and review sites.
Before we move on to our list of top sites for researching employers, career strategist and executive resume writer Stephen Van Vreede of ITTechExec.com highlights three of the most common scenarios where a little knowledge of the company could really pay off.
Related Story: How to Nail the Technical Job Interview
Expectations--The interviewers expect that you'll know what the company does. If you don't, how can you say that you'd be interested in working there? I've interviewed countless candidates who asserted their desire to work for the company I represented. My very next question would be something like, "That's great, tell me what you know about our company?" The interview usually ended very quickly afterward if they didn't have a clue.
Information--Going into an interview armed with information can be a decided advantage, even if the information is available for public consumption. When you are able to talk about company activities like capital projects, market expansions and new product introductions, it helps you come across as a serious, intelligent and diligent candidate. More importantly, it adds a dimension that can often be lacking in an interview, which is to get the interviewer to see you as an advocate for the company instead of simply an advocate for yourself to get a job with that company.
Growth Potential--Researching the company, industry and market can give you some insight into the financial strength of the organization. Any publicly traded company must provide its financial results for investors to review. Check out whether the company on the upswing or appears to have dark days ahead.
What Should You Be Looking For
The information offered by many of sites is designed to provide insight into not only what a company does, but more importantly how past and present employees feel about the organization. Here are some questions that will aid you in your quest:
What type of culture does the company foster?
How many employees does it have?
What is the company history?
What is its mission statement?
Does the core vision/mission align with your personal views?
What are their services and products?
What is their online reputation?
What does the company do?
Who are its clients?
Who are its main competitors?
Are they a public company, family-owned company, start-up firm or venture-capital-funded business?
What do analysts project in terms of growth for the market the company serves?
Do they operate in an industry that's highly regulated with changes that could totally derail the business?
Related Story: Improve the IT Job Interview Process with Targeted Selection
Knowing the answer to the questions above will help you craft a better cover letter, tailor your resume, perform better in the interview and give you some questions to ask the employer. So when you're ready to start your research into prospective employers, these sites are a great place to start.
Glassdoor bills itself as a "free jobs and career community that offers the world an inside look at jobs and companies." Unlike LinkedIn and Monster, Glassdoor is all about user-submitted feedback, or as they call it "employee-generated" content.
Glassdoor also offers information about salaries (provided anonymously) as well as likely interview questions and more. At this point, it has more than three million salaries and reviews posted, providing you with a multitude of valuable resources.
One other unique aspect of Glassdoor is that it finds any connections to companies you search for through the searcher's friends on Facebook. By providing such a connection, it hopes to be able to provide you with enough information to help you decide if the company is going to work for you--or if not, provide you with a personal contact with whom you can get the information.
Indeed.com bills itself as "the #1 job site worldwide, with over 100 million unique visitors per month." Job data on the site comes from more than 50 countries and is available in 26 languages. Indeed has job listings for prospective employees as well as resume listings from prospective employees (you can submit your own resume as well).
Like Glassdoor, Indeed has thousands of company reviews that are submitted from current and past employees. Most company listings have more than 20 reviews, while some-- such as the listing for the U.S. Air Force-- have over a thousand. Unlike the other sites in this article, Indeed is actually a job aggregator-that is, the job listings come from practically every job site out there. Reviews, however, are actually hosted on Indeed.com.
LinkedIn has jumped into the careers market with both feet offering LinkedIn Premium for job hunters and talent services for employers. LinkedIn is well-known throughout the IT industry, and it provides members with a company search feature that provides prospective employees with information about each company that is searched. However, it doesn't provide user-based company reviews like Glassdoor or Indeed. It does, however, provide members with the capability to search for companies based on various criteria, including company size, employment opportunities, location, industry and where it fits in the Fortune 500.
Vault.com provides information to prospective employees about jobs, top employers, careers, job search advice, salary listings, message boards and more.
The employer rankings at Vault.com are based on the responses it received from survey respondents, who were questioned about their opinions about their own firms. You can see how a company rates in terms of "quality of life" areas. The score a company receives is based on the average of the rankings from survey respondents from the same company.
Like the other sites discussed, Monster.com provides access to an employer / company search, but the information provided appears to come from the searched company's own "about me" page, rather than from current and former employees. Additional information provided includes when the company was founded, its revenue and its reach in the market--along with current job listings for the company. The site is good for finding general company information (or jobs), but no user-submitted feedback or reviews are provided for prospective employees.
CareerLeak is a partner of the CareerBliss website and has been around long enough that most of the listed companies have more than one review. By using the research salary data feature, you can find inside data about how much the searched company's employees make. User-submitted reviews provide searchers with some useful opinions, such as if they are/were happy working for the respective company.
Through its partnership with CareerBliss, CareerLeak also shows whether the company has any current job openings. The CareerLeak blog provides articles geared toward those seeking a new job or career, and provides tips that can make the process of searching for a job much easier. Also provided is a guide for those who wish to research companies.
Although Hallway bills itself as "a cool, powerful, rock-your-world online community where you can tell one and all about the really important stuff," it is not strictly for those seeking employment. The site does feature reviews of companies, but it also provides reviews of executives, politicians, schools and more.
Reviews, or as Hallway calls them, "tells," are provided by users anonymously. Additionally, you are encouraged to ask other users about the company, school or person you are interested in. A job search is also available, with thousands of new jobs added daily.
While not a company review site, Google News is another great way to find information about a company. You can use Google news to identify news articles that are relevant to the company you are targeting; the information includes press releases, financial information, pending litigation and more.
Related Story: How to Nail the Technical Job Interview
Why Employer Research Pays Off
Knowledge is power and within these sites, there is enough information to provide you with unique insight into the hiring practices, salaries and operating practices of any given company. You can get a feel for the general attitude or culture of the company, before you even step foot in the door for your first interview.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.