Finding information on a company

Researching prospective employers is a vital part of the jobsearch process
 
Whether you are customising your CV and covering letter in response to an advert, filling in an application form, or getting ready for an interview, you need to make sure that you are well informed about the company and its industry. For instance, the company may have announced that it is introducing improved working methods, a new product or service, or opening new offices in your area. You can use such information when writing your covering letter or speculative application, or to prepare some questions to ask at your interview.
 
You will not be able to talk about why you think you are a good fit for the company and show that you are interested in them and enthusiastic about the job, unless you find out about them. Researching companies can also help you to decide whether working in a particular sector would suit you, and to find out about job opportunities.
 
AREAS THAT YOUR RESEARCH SHOULD COVER:
 
Business activities
   •  What products does it make?
   •  What services does it provide?
   •  How does the job you want contribute to these activities? - How many employees does it
      have and what type of jobs do they do?
   •  Is the company part of a larger organisation? - i.e. does it have parent company? You can
      then search for information on this larger company to find out how the subsidiary to which
      you are applying fits into its overall activities.
 
Customer profile
   •  Who uses this organisation’s products / services?
   •  Do these customers and clients have particular characteristics, such as age range, income,
      location, and lifestyle?
   •  If the customers and clients are other businesses, what sector or sectors are they selling
      into?
 
Competitors
   •  Which other organisations provide similar products / services and how do they compare?
   •  How well is the company doing in comparison to these competitors? - How big is it relative to
      them? - What is its turnover, profit, and share of the market?
   •  What does the company see as its ‘competitive edge’? – What makes its products or
      services different and more attractive to the customer?
 
Market conditions
   •  What issues and developments are affecting and shaping the industry or sectors in which
      the company operates? - What are the ‘market trends’? - What are the likely challenges and
      opportunities ahead?
 
How does the organisation like to see itself?
   •  How does the company or organisation brand and market itself? - What 'image' does it want
      to project?
   •  What does the brand say to its customers? What does it say to you?
 
Past and present
   •  How long has the company or organisation been in business and what are the particularly
      noteworthy events in its history?
   •  What news has there been in the last year or two – launches of new products and services,
      the effects of the economy, new regulations, mergers and acquisitions, etc.
   •  What are its latest projects and plans?
 
There are a number of places where you can look for answers to these questions:
 
THE COMPANY'S WEBSITE AND SOCIAL MEDIA
These are a great place to start. They can provide information about its products and services, major clients, organisational structure, directors and key managers, mission statement and values, turnover and other financial details, latest developments and future plans, and so on.
 
Spend some time looking at any financial information that is available to ensure that the company you want to work for is successful. The turnover and profit figures, and the number of employees, for example, may give you an idea of how well the company has been doing over the past few years. Are these figures increasing or decreasing?
 
The website will also have links to the organisation’s Twitter feed and Facebook page, if they have them. What are people saying about them and how do they respond? What sort of content do they publish and how do you think they want to present themselves and to what sort of people?
 
If key staff members, such as directors and senior managers, are mentioned by name, see what else you can find out about them. They may be on Linkedin
 
Company websites often also carry details of any vacancies, so if there’s a particular company you want to work for, make sure you check it regularly.
 
Bear in mind, however, that everyone else who wants to work for that company or organisation will also be looking at their website - so you need to dig deeper! It is also important to extend your research beyond what the company or organisation says about itself on its own website if you are to get a more balanced picture of them.
 
OTHER WEBSITES
You may also be able to find official and unofficial information elsewhere on the Internet (there are some suggested websites below), such as news items, reviews of their products and services, rumours, financial analyses, etc. - information which, if used carefully of course, might just give you the edge over other candidates at an interview.
 
You can also look for details of directors and for details of other companies and competitors in its sector.
 
You can check for useful basic information on a company, if it is ‘limited’ [Ltd.], using the Companies House WebCHeck, such as registered office address, date of incorporation [i.e. how long the company has been in business], the type of business in which it is involved, any previous names and the date when its last accounts were filed.
 
If the company is a public limited company [a PLC], its Annual Report and Accounts will detail the past year's financial results and business high points, and plans and predictions for the future. There may also be information on each section, division, or subsidiary in the company, describing the services or the products that the different parts of the business offer.
 
A public company's Annual Report can usually be consulted on the company's own website or at AnnualReports.com.
 
Other useful websites include the Financial Times' Company Content Hub and
Best Companies Guide
 
IN THE NEWS! - PRESS COVERAGE OF COMPANIES AND INDUSTRIES
You should look for press coverage on the company to get the latest news about it and to track what's been happening to it over a period of time. You also need to be clued up about the particular industry or industries in which the company is involved.
 
Articles on particular companies and industries can be retrieved using UK Newsstand, which allows you to search for current and historical news from national newspapers and an extensive range of local newspapers, including the Yorkshire Post. (This database is accessible free of charge to members of Leeds Library and Information Service, using the number on your library card.)
 
Additional sources of news on  companies and business sectors include:
   •  Yorkshire Evening Post Business News
   •  Yorkshire Business Insider 
   •  BBC News - Business  
   •  NewsNow.co.uk
   •  Google News                                    
 
You can consult a selection of trade journals, directories, databases, and market research reports in the Business and IP Centre Leeds at the Central Library to find information on companies and the sectors in which they operate.
 
RESEARCH ON THE LOCAL ECONOMY
In addition to the resources mentioned above, the annual Leeds Economy Handbook includes information on the different sectors of the Leeds economy and some of the major companies involved. The Leeds Economy Briefing Notes might also be useful. (You can find these documents on the Economic information page of Leeds City Council's website using the button on the right.)
 
Further information on the Leeds and Yorkshire economy is available at the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) website.
 
MARKET RESEARCH REPORTS
In addition to the company and industry news that can be found in the press, information may also be found in the market research reports which can be consulted online in the Business and IP Centre Leeds at  the Central Library. These provide an overview of the market for a particular product or service, focusing on such issues as:
   •  the structure of the industry
   •  market size, structure and trends
   •  the competition among the major companies involved in that market
   •  consumer profiles
   •  advertising and promotion
   •  current issues and future forecasts
 
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY - BRANDS AND INVENTIONS
Looking to see if a company has registered any trade marks, patents, or designs (collectively known as ‘intellectual property’) is a good way of finding out about what they’re involved in.
 
In addition to any information there may be about their intellectual property on the company's own website, use the following links to find further details of any registered intellectual property:
 
   •  Trade marks - registered for use in the UK – use the ‘By owner’ option.
   •  TMview allows you to search national, international and the Community trade mark 
      databases. Click on the ‘Advanced search’ option and then search by ‘Applicant name’.
   •  Patents - type the name of the company in to the 'Applicant(s)' field.
   •  Designs – use the ‘By proprietor’ option.
 
Remember, a company's intellectual property may be registered in the name of its parent company, if it has one.
 
Business and I P Centre Leeds in the Central Library offers expert help with tracking down details of a company's intellectual property. There is a charge for this service.