Researching potential employers is a critical element of every job or internship search. It is extremely important when you need to identify your options, and necessary during the application and interview stage for you to successfully communicate the match between a prospective employer’s needs and your relevant skills and experience. In fact, it may be the best investment of your time and effort that will simultaneously 1) boost your ability to stand out in a sea of other applicants and 2) give you the confidence to know that you are aiming for opportunities that will be a good fit.
Many of you may be familiar with academic institutions, but there are many other types of organizational settings and structures. Before you are called to interview, do your best to find out the following about any prospective employer:
- Mission; product/service: what is the purpose of this company/organization?
- “Clients” and competitors: who receives the services of this company, and who else is targeting this group with their services?
- Structure and management, organizational culture
- Sector: nonprofit, for-profit (private sector), public (government agency)
- Financial health
- The hiring process
Career Services offers several online resources through our library subscriptions pages to help you research potential employers. You must log in with your PennKey and password to access the subscriptions, which are listed alphabetically.
- For those interested in exploring industries such as consulting, healthcare, and investment banking, Wetfeet.com and Vault.com are particularly useful. These reference resources allow you to read overviews of various major industries, discover the “major players” (i.e., biggest, influential companies), and learn more about typical position types within each industry.
- We also subscribe to ReferenceUSA, which provides contact information as well as specific company data for United States businesses in particular (as well as some Canadian and other international businesses). If you use the advanced search option, you can get information on credit ratings, company histories, executives’ names, and even the company’s local “competitors.”
- Finally, for international students, GoinGlobal and H1VisaJobs offer databases which can help you identify the companies who have applied to the federal government recently for H1Visas (this gives you a head start if you know a company is willing to hire international candidates, or is familiar with H1 Visa hiring procedures.) GoinGlobal also lists salary information for specific job titles – a very helpful tool whether or not you are an international student.
Use networking as a means to find out employer or industry information you can’t get through your online research. If you are a current Penn student or alumnus/a, be sure to use QuakerNet (Penn Alumni Online Community) to identify alumni who can give you the “inside scoop” on a particular organization or field. LinkedIn is also a great resource – read these Program Notes to find out how to optimize your LinkedIn experience in your career exploration and job search.
Once you use these resources to research an employer, you will be better able to: connect your accomplishments to the performance criteria that the organization is seeking; identify the most important skills, qualifications and experiences that are in demand in a given industry; assess an organization’s potential workplace needs and how you can contribute given your work style; show how your goals match those of the company (given its mission, size, structure, and market specialization). And in communicating all the above, you will greatly increase your chances of getting job offers!
If you have any questions or would like some guidance in how to use these resources in your career exploration and job search, please connect with a career advisor. You can find information on how to do that here: