Job prospects can be hard to come by in a competitive job market. Researching a company you’re interested in working for is a critical first step that will help separate yourself from the competition.

What can also help you pitch your application to a job prospect and perform better at the interview, is demonstrating your match to the organisation’s culture and values. Here are some tips for getting started:

When to Research

The sooner you start, the better off you’ll be. Many job seekers wait to research a company until they already have a scheduled interview. However, researching a company before applying to a position can help you tailor your application to fit their needs and corporate culture, and target your job search more precisely.

What to Research

There are two sets of information which will prove important when researching a company. The first set is general information about the company itself: products and services, company history, corporate values, locations, and key competitors. The second set deals with employment issues: career paths and opportunities for advancement, organisational structure, benefits, diversity initiatives, and other human resources functions.

Where to Research

Reading through the company’s website and the job description itself are obvious first steps. The next step is to simply Google the organisation, which can provide reviews of products or services, recent news headlines discussing the company, and other key information.

Following a company’s social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn is also a good way to learn about their corporate culture, key values and any recent activities and events.

Finally, many public companies make financial information available online, which is a great source of information on a company’s overall health and future plans going into an interview.

If you are truly interested and committed to turning an interview from a job prospect in to a job offer, the research tips above will hold you in good stead.