Building the perfect job application can be very tricky. It’s the first form of contact between you and your possible employer. This is why you really need to put your best foot forward. But, apart from finding a creative and full-proof way of showcasing your skills as well as the reasons why you’re best for that position, you also need to do some research.
A very good job application stems from you knowing everything there is about the company you’re applying for and how to best fit their needs. Here are ten crucial things you need to research before sending in your job application.
1. The company’s mission and vision
When deciding to apply for a job, every applicant goes through the same routine. And that routine starts with him or her researching the company they want to apply to. However, when you do that, it’s very important to go beyond what the company does, how many employees it has or where it’s located. Try to find out about its mission and vision as well. Why does it do what it does? What is it trying to achieve? What are its values? This will allow you to better advocate your role in the company and adjust your job application accordingly.
2. What sets the company apart from its competitors
Every successful company is like that because it has at least one unique trait or product they have offered to the world. One smart thing to do, from a strategic point of view, is to find out what that specific trait is and use it to your advantage. Maybe it’s a vision you share, a characteristic you have as well, as an individual or an ability that you too possess. It will make the employer believe you really do belong in his company.
3. What the news and social media say about the company
It’s a good idea to research this particular aspect about the company for your own safety. Often enough, a company may seem like pure heaven from the outside, but the reality might be very different. Via your research, try to find people that are working there or, better yet, that have worked there. Those that are no longer linked to the company will feel more relaxed about telling you the truth. You can scan their social network profiles or simply send them a short email asking them about their experience working for company X.
4. What job openings they have and how they are written
One simple way of doing this is by going to a specialized website and looking at all the openings that company has, even if you’re not interested in them. The point is to read them thoroughly and see how they are written. It can tell you a lot about the company itself. For example, if they’re written in a casual, friendly style, with fun fonts and lots of colors, try to write your application and resume in the same way. Here is a good example of the Cheesecake Factory. They actually use in their job description the fact that their restaurant peaked when it was mentioned in the hit TV comedy series The Big Bang Theory.
5. Research the details
Think about all the questions you would like to ask your interviewer and research them anyway. You might find out details that bother you or that don’t fit into your desired work life. Knowing them beforehand will save you some time. For example, research things like:
- Working hours – and see if they are alright with your lifestyle;
- What is the company’s stance on overtime;
- What is the dress code;
- Will you be required to work on weekends or on holidays;
- Is their office in good working conditions.
Believe it or not, all these small things can make or break a deal.
6. What is the level of knowledge required
Another important thing you should probably know before you even send in the application is what level of knowledge and job proficiency they are looking for. This might seem redundant, because job descriptions usually state if the company is looking for juniors or seniors, but there’s another side to this.
If they say they’re looking for juniors, will they provide you with the necessary training? And if so, what type of training will it be – specialized training or learn-as-you-go? Find out what they can provide and see if you fit the course of action they have in mind.
7. Will they be submitting you to any tests?
Research about tests is very important. Job openings can either state this stage of the hiring process or not. Independently of that, you still need to research it. If they don’t state it, then you will be one step ahead of the game and offer the interviewer and, by extension, your employer, a nice surprise. If they do state it, find out what exactly it’s about. In this way, you can be prepared and do your best.
If it’s a theoretical test, brush up on your knowledge of the matter. If it’s a practical one, rehearse as much as you can at home.
8. Research for clever answers to common questions
We all know there are a set of common questions most companies ask during every single interview. Because of that, they usually hear the same answers all the time. For example: ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ the most common answer – ‘doing your job’. Apart from the fact that that joke is so outdated, it’s also, probably, mistaken. Most of the times you’re talking to an HR person. So, unless you’re going for the HR job, you shouldn’t be giving that answer.
Instead, try to find clever answers to these particular questions. If you can’t come up with them on your own, research is your best friend and ally.
9. The job itself
This might sound redundant at first, but it’s actually not. You need to thoroughly research every single aspect of the job. Try to go beyond the specifications you see in the job description, as they are usually vague. Search for people in similar positions in other companies, in the same company, and even people that have held this position before you in that office.
It’s a terrific way of finding out what the job actually entails. What you are looking for are day-to-day details. What does a day in the life of employer X look like? What exactly it is you have to do, from sending emails to meetings and pitching projects. You will not only get a clear insight into your daily activities, but you can prepare for them as well and impress your interviewer.
10. Research yourself
This means to simply google yourself. Because this is the first thing the HR people will do. When you google yourself, you will see that the first entries are your LinkedIn profile, followed by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and academic profiles you might have had on your college’s website. While all this is alright per se, comb through them nonetheless.
It’s best to sweep away pictures of you that might be considered inappropriate, as well as any tweets, posts or comments that might take a politically incorrect stance or have double entendre.
You need to be aware of the fact that the social climate we currently live in is extremely keen on equality and justice. The world has never seen so many court cases based on racial slurs, allegations of being mistreated in the workplace, sexual harassment accusations and women’s right violations. Employers will go to any lengths to avoid them. Therefore, make sure your online persona is completely politically correct.
When at the interview, show them that you actually did all this research and don’t keep it to yourself. You can even downright say you did it prior to coming there. Remember companies don’t want to hire people who want to work. They want to hire people who want to work for them.