Tuesday, May 27, 2008

4 Killer Ways to Use Research

An important part of resume customization and interview preparation is research. But I’ve found that many candidates could research more effectively.

Many candidates research a public company’s annual report, looking for sales and profit figures, understanding what industry they are in, who the officers are, and the major events of the past year. They research historically. But few of these facts will help much in making your resume standout, or impressing during an interview.

How can you make the most of your research time? Research prospectively – to gain insight on what’s happening now.

Think of research as finding information that falls into four categories: 1) Company Goals; 2) Company Challenges; 3) Questions; 4) Culture.

Goals & Challenges: If you’ve already Stopped Looking for a Job and instead are looking for a problem you are uniquely qualified to solve, then the process of research can be focused to find that problem. After you’ve found that problem that you’re uniquely qualified to solve, use the research as a background to craft your custom resume, showing how you’ve:

- Solved the exact challenge a company is facing
- Capitalized on the opportunities a company sees
- Broken through roadblocks to achieve the exact goals of your target company
- Solved problems that occur before or after a company has reached those goals

The higher in the organization you’re targeting, the bigger piece of the solution you’ll want to demonstrate on your resume. If you’re interviewing for a C-Level position, you’ll probably want to show how you solved the whole problem or most of it (if it’s cross functional). But even if you are interviewing for an Administrative Assistant’s role, you can show how you contributed to increasing sales by developing sales, margin, or commission tracking systems, dashboards, and ways to quickly report information to management. You can even show how you’ve decreased costs by streamlining processes or travel vendors.

Questions: If you’re preparing for an interview, you’ll want to look for questions. The most effective interview questions you can ask are questions you already know the answers to – and that lead the interviewer to bring up opportunities or challenges that you’ve already solved (see How to Take Control of the Interview).

Consider how you can turn company opportunities, challenges, roadblocks and problems into questions that address the problem, and break it down into the parts you want to discuss. Consider also how to turn these same facts into implication questions – what happens if the opportunity is missed, the challenge not met, the problem not solved? Finally, develop questions that “twist the knife” by monetizing the issue – How much will you lose if the opportunity is missed, how much will it cost if the problem is not solved?

Once you’ve monetized the problem, you’ve not only demonstrated more understanding than 99% of candidates, you can also demonstrate that you are an inexpensive solution to that problem.

Culture: Look at pictures of people and workspaces on annual reports and marketing brochures. Read every quote from employees of all levels that you can. Gain clues and insight on culture, communication styles, dress style, and the types of people who succeed within the target company’s environment. If you can find quotes, pictures, or best yet a podcast or video on the person who you are interviewing with, that can give you such an unfair advantage, it’s scary.

Ask yourself - Are they formal or informal? Laid back or intense? Analytical or creative? What are they being quoted on (it’s probably important to them)? What are they wearing? What’s in the background? What does the office look like (neat or cluttered)? What’s their facial expression? Do they talk fast or slowly? Expressive or reserved? Do they use their hands when speaking?

Discovering clues about culture can help you with communications style in your resume and non-verbal communications so critical in the first 2-30 seconds of an interview (See Non Verbal Interviewing, and Interview in a Snap). Even if a podcast or video features someone other than the specific hiring manager interviewing, you gain huge advantages in setting first impressions by picking up communication style clues within the organization, Why? Most people within an organization communicate using similar styles - mirroring that style gives you an advantage at making a great first impression.

Here’s list of 10 not so apparent places to find target company research:

1. Organization’s Website
2. Annual Reports – Public companies, Regulated Industries and some Non-Profits, Hospitals, Educational Institutions publish Annual Reports
3. Quarterly Reports – Mainly from Public Companies and Regulated Industries
4. Press Releases
5. Organization’s Blog (Blogs)
6. Google
7. Yahoo Finance
8. Hoover’s
9. LinkedIN contacts & company page
10. Technorati Searches

So how will you change how you use company research, and what you use it for?

If you’d like more information, a free 30 minute resume consultation, or some advice about your career transition, just email your resume to reCareered at phil.rainmakers@gmail.com, and we'll schedule a time to talk.


Jen said...

I am enjoying catching up on your blog! I'd like to add Flickr, YouTube, and Facebook to your list of places to search. It may not apply to all industries, but I know it is huge in many.

Nancy said...

"How much will you lose if the opportunity is MIST"????? Really?! Get a dictionary and proofread your work!

Phil Rosenberg said...

Nancy, Many thanks for pointing this out, so I can correct it. Unfortunately this error was passed over by me, spell checkers, my eagle-eyed editor, and 3 years worth of readers. Thanks!

A said...

This is a great article, especially for those who may not have been in the marketplace for a few years. Not to nitpick, but there's one other edit you missed...in the third graph, you cite "three categories" but list four.

Thanks again for a great article!

Phil Rosenberg said...

A, Thanks for the kind words and the catch.

Thank goodness this wasn't an article about proofing your resume! I can't believe this was out here for 3 years before anyone caught these typos.