How to Research a Company

Posted by Will Lutz on Nov 1, 2016 9:47:00 AM


I cannot express how important it is to do research on a company before you apply to a job. Knowing the company name and looking at the homepage for two minutes, just doesn’t cut it.

Let’s talk a bit about strategies for researching companies before you look for a job there; we’ll discuss where to look for information, what sort of information to look for, and why it is so important to do this type of research.


Step 1: Where to Look

The first thing you need to know is where to look. You have a couple of resources that are easily available.

  • The company’s website. This is pretty obvious, although it’ll be managed by their PR and marketing departments - so the information won’t be much more than a general overview. Also good, look closely at the job posting that you applied to in the beginning.
  • LinkedIn. LinkedIn will only give the basics on a cursory search, but if you dig into some of the employees there, you can get a sense of what they value just by the titles. Look at your future peers, their experience will tell you what the company values in that position. Finally, LinkedIn will tell you who your connections to the company are.
  • Talk to employees. After looking at LinkedIn you’ll see what friends, family, or other contacts you have at the company. These people are a great resource to get information.
  • The Hiring Manager (or Internal Recruiter). It is more than OK to ask the person who is vetting you questions about the company; it is encouraged. Just be careful, the right questions can show engagement and enthusiasm when the wrong questions can make you look unprepared.

Step 2: What to Look For

You have the right resources, but what are the questions you should be asking? Asking the right questions will help you interface with your potential employer on a deeper level so they know you are enthusiastic about the job. We’ll split it into two categories. First, non-Salesforce questions:

  • What is their company culture? Do they value creativity or production and deadlines? Can you wear a t-shirt and jeans to work or do they prefer a suit? Knowing their culture will go a long way to help you understand where you stand as a cultural fit.
  • Do they focus on rapid growth or cost cutting? Put another way are the driven by revenue - more sales more customers - or are they driven by efficiency - lowering the cost of customer acquisition? This is a huge insight into how a Salesforce Admin will be spending their time.
  • What business problems are they trying to solve? This one is incredibly important. It should provide some insight into why they are hiring you. Similar questions: Are you here as part of a growth plan? Are they trying to break into a new customer segment or expand their product offering?

That’s the non-SFDC questions to ask, no onto Salesforce questions.

  • What AppExchange or Salesforce integrations they use? Integrations are a huge part of what makes Salesforce an awesome platform. It also is where the value is created for their instance (probably). If you aren’t well versed in what they use, you should get so - quickly.
  • How big is their instance? How big is their team? Will you be the only Admin trying to manage 200+ people? Or will you be on a team, designing and building specific features for your users?
  • Do they require certifications? Although we recently posted about the increasing importance of Trailhead in the Salesforce job marketplace, certifications are still the gold standard. Some hiring managers care about certifications while some care more about experience.

Step 3: Know Why It Matters

There are three important times when doing the right research can make the difference between getting the job or going back to the drawing board.

  • Cover letter or intro email. The people who do the hiring get hundreds of emails and cover letters every day. You need to get noticed and then you need to be remembered. The generic emails with nothing interesting don’t get remembered. Making an effort and showing that you’ve done your research will keep you through to the next round. 
    Editor’s note: I hate cover letters. If you’re applying to a job with me, just do a nice (short) email.
  • Interviews. Most interviewers find this time to be as awkward and uncomfortable as you do. Does anyone really spend time thinking about a mistake they’ve made and how they overcame it? Knowing the facts about the company can help you position yourself as the perfect candidate for a job.
  • Your own happiness. So often overlooked in the career world. In my opinion this is the most important aspect. Is this the kind of environment you want to work? Being between jobs can be stressful, but not as awful as working in a place you don’t like.

When in the job hunt, you need to research the companies where you are applying. Good research can help in a ton of ways, more than what we detail here. Before applying to any opening, you should have a "cheat sheet" with all the relevant company information before hitting the connect button. With these tips you'll be ready to apply to any role that looks interesting.

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Topics: Administrators, General, Careers, Interviews, Salesforce