Using Google Effectively to Research and Evaluate a Potential Employer

Smart job seekers research employers before they apply for a job. Why? So they don't make the mistake of wasting their valuable time on an employer they wouldn't really want to work for. This research can also serve as the first step in creating an effective response to a job posting and preparation to dazzle job interviewers with their knowledge of the organization.

Google tries very hard to give you exactly what you are looking for, so try to be as clear as you can about what you want Google to find. To help you be more efficient, Google makes some assumptions for you, and offers you many tools for refining your search so you find exactly the information you want.

Fine-tune Your Google Web Search
Used carelessly, Google can be the King of Way-WAY-Too-Many-Choices. But, when you know what you are looking for and apply a few Google tricks, you'll find the information you need.

Assume you are looking at a job opportunity with Apple, and, while you use Apple products and are an Apple fan, what you know about Apple is a small slice (pun intended) of what you need to know if you are to land a job with Apple. So, let's see what Google can tell and show us about Apple.

1. Check Stock Performance
Since Apple is a company with publicly-traded stock, let's see what the stock is doing. The price of stock can be an indicator of how well (or poorly) a company is doing. If the stock is on a down trend, be cautious because the stock price usually reflects Wall Street's view of the company's future. But, seeing a consistent long-term (more than one month) drop could indicate a serious problem. A three-month or, better, one year trend showing increasing stock value is usually a good sign.

Wall Street can, of course, be absolutely wrong! Use stock performance as an indicator of financial "health," and, perhaps, carefully ask questions about how well the business is doing if you are invited to interview for a job. You don't want to be the last person hired before the layoffs begin.

To find the stock price, search on the name of the employer (in this case "Apple Inc.") and the term "stock performance" -- enclosed in double quotation marks so Google knows you want the two words close together in a phrase in the search results. In the example below, Google provides a graph of the stock's performance, and you can choose the time frame shown, ranging from today going back as far as 1978 (assuming the company was selling stock in 1978). I chose the 1 year view to see the recent trend in the stock price, since the short-term stock price -- week or day -- can vary widely.

Apple stock performance

2. Investigate the Organizational Structure
Learning about the corporate structure can tell you a great deal about an organization. For example, if the company has a V.P. of Online Sales, they focus substantial attention on the Internet. Does the V.P. of Online Sales report to a V.P of Sales and Marketing or to the CEO? The reporting relationships give you additional insight into the importance of the various parts of the organization.

To discover what is happening in Apple's executive suite, we did a search on "apple corporate leadership" using the quotation marks, and, this time, we asked Google to look only on the Apple website by typing in

3. Learn Company Plans
Let's also see if we can discover what may be in development at Apple by asking Google to find articles written about what Apple may be planning to do next. Since we don't know exactly what is going on, we'll ask Google to find anything by doing a wild card search, letting Google fill in the blanks between "new" and "planned" by putting an asterisk (*) between the words. Our query looks like this -- Apple"new * planned" -- telling Google to show us anything it finds in that phrase. The results may include new features, new products, plans for expansion and more.

Apple new product plans

We could do many more searches to discover countless other things, like checking for Apple's profitability, any layoffs or downsizing that may have happened (or be planned), major law suits pending, and other bad signs that would help you as a job seeker avoid a potentially bad employment situation.

Google Maps Search

The mention of new stores we found above could send us to Google maps to find the Apple stores nearby -- or in any location you choose. This is what we found for eastern Massachusetts:

The Google map shows us store locations with a list of the stores, including street addresses. So, you could stop by one (or more) of the stores to see the products, meet some of the people, and ask many questions about Apple products (and, hopefully, learn more about working at Apple).

Map locations plus a list of the stores.

Apple stores

Google Image Search

Search Google Images to see what a potential employer's products, work sites, and other aspects of the company look like. Using our Apple example, a Google Images search yields pictures of current, former, and possibly future Apple products. Each image may be clicked to find out more about where it is from and what information is associated with it. Our search results page looks like this:

Apple products

It is smart, of course, to be a bit skeptical of most of the information you find on the web (except this article, of course). So, use searches like these to decide if you want to work for that employer, and then do more similar searches to be better prepared for your job interview.
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