By Sonia R. Lelii

You've been out of work for weeks and now you've landed an interview with a reputedly good company for a job that fits your skills and salary needs. Now's the time to find out what the recruiter and job ad isn't telling you: the company's real culture, whether or not its profitable, and if the CEO is a good and effective leader.

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Investigating a company and its management team may be one of the most important parts of the job search. In addition to preparing you for the interview, it will help you determine if you're a good fit for the company - and if it's a place you really want to work.
Some equate such efforts to cyber-stalking. Others just consider it another form of detective work. In truth, the process of researching a potential employer requires you to do both. While every job hunter has their method, these key steps can serve as a basic guide to this important part of the job-hunting process.


Your Inner Gumshoe...

First, act like a like a detective, and start combing the Web. Give the company's Web site a thorough read, paying special attention to the backgrounds of the executive team. Then delve deeper into the Internet for articles that either focus on the firm, or at least mention it. Reviewing newspaper and magazine coverage is a good way to learn about important company events and milestones. If the company's publicly traded, you can request a copy of its annual report to get an in-depth look at its financial situation. (The Securities and Exchange Commission's EDGAR database is packed with filings, forms, and comment letters on public firms. Sites like, Hoover's, and BusinessWeek's Company Insight Center will add breadth to your research.

... and Your Inner Stalker

Once you've accumulated enough written data, it's time to stalk. Figuratively, of course. Tap into your personal network, or make use of social networking tools to find someone who has first-hand knowledge of the business. It's through real people that you can get a more intimate understanding of the company and how it operates. Sure, it's important to know the company's history, culture, diversity and business goals. But what's it really like to work there? Does it have a flat executive structure, or is it a top-down organization? What kind of training and advancement opportunities does it offer? What's the annual percentage of employee turnover? 

To get at the people who'll be your best source of information will take some networking legwork. One IT worker, who asked not to be identified, says he tries "to find someone on the inside that works there, either a friend or a friend of a friend. If they're in the area of the position that I'm interested in, I usually get the rundown on the types of people who work there and the way management works."

If that part of the process fails to bear any fruit, he gets a bit more creative: "If I don't know anyone who works for the company, sometimes I'll blind call them and ask for the voicemail of the manager of the department that I am applying in," he says. "If the organization is small enough, a lot of times they'll patch you right through."

Some Web sites can help you get some inside scoop. The user-generated is packed with insider information on 30,000 companies, including actual salary figures (reported by the worker bees themselves) by function and location, interview questions used by specific employers, details on the hiring process, and tons more.

Coming to Conclusions

Once you've accumulated enough data, figure out the best way to use it in an interview. You can tailor your interview questions to highlight areas you've seen the company has in common with your expertise and experience. During the interview, drop bits of information you've learned to show you have an interest in the company that goes beyond just finding a job. After all, anyone who's gotten an interview can just show up. Show you've made a real connection with the company and your chances of being invited back get a lot higher. 

Have some researching tips? Post them below.