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Research Before Résumé
by C.S. Clarke,Ph.D.

Research every potential employer extensively before you submit a résumé. Yes, I know most writers, coaches and other advisors tell you that you should do this to prepare for an interview. But I say why wait? If you research prior to sending a résumé, you can tailor your résumé to the company. If you want your résumé (and cover letter) to get you an interview and your interview to get you a job, get to know each company as it envisions itself and as employees who work or have worked there see it.

While you want to have a good basic core résumé, your best bet for getting the job is to customize the résumé for each particular employer. That is because although every employer seeks the same general information on candidates, every company has a different culture, idea of mission and vision of itself; and each job is different enough that the specifics of your résumé and cover letter may need to vary quite widely. That is where research comes in handy.

For instance, all employers will want to know your skills and experience. So they can decide if you are qualified to work for them. However, each employer will have a different idea about how your skills and experiences apply to the particular job available. If you have researched the company and the job itself, you'll have a better idea of how to describe your skills and experiences in a way that is most compatible with that employer's expectations.

To illustrate: think about someone applying for a job involving website development. Most people would simply list skills in HTML, XML, PHP, JavaScript, etc. Imagine he researched a company that styles itself as a "learning organization" and a proponent of integrating personal interests and hobbies with work interests. He might say something in his cover letter such as, "As a longtime Mac enthusiast, I used to script HyperCard apps. When that became obsolete, I was fortunate that those scripting skills translated almost directly into HTML, so I was able to move from hobbyist to professional web designer. And as new scripting such as XML, PHP, JavaScript, etc. came along it was easy to add them to my repertoire. At home I now enjoy developing web apps with the cross-platform Runtime Revolution. I hope to see RunRev become an broadly-accepted standard so that I can add that to my professional practice as well." This shows that he, like the organization, follows the values of continuous learning and development, knows how to use "transfer of training," and is working in a field he enjoys so much it is part of his recreation. He is also able to stuff into that single paragraph the information that he has Mac as well as PC skills and that he has developed his skills over a long time.

So, how do you research companies and get the kind of information you need? Fortunately, there are many web resources.

First, simply type the name of the company you wish to research into Google or your favorite alternative search engine, and chances are excellent that you will find not only a company website but a number of other references as well. Start by reading the company website thoroughly. And take particular note of the items such as mission statements and lists of corporate achievements, which tell you much about how the company views itself. After that, type the name of the organization and the words "Company profile," into the Google search box to get a few less biased ideas.

The following websites offer hundreds of thousands of fine company profiles and analyses (at no cost):

1. The Vault --
2. Business Week's Company Insight Center --
3.'s company profiles --
4. -- Just log in an click on the "Companies" tab. It has more than 150,000 companies listed.

The above four sites should cover what you need to know to get started. If you want further insight, investigate what current and past employees are saying about your target companies by searching for "(name of company) employee message boards." But take what you learn from the message boards with a grain or two of salt, because it's mainly the dissatisfied who post about their experiences. Satisfied folks just go right on enjoying their jobs without looking for someplace to express their satisfaction.


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