7 Things You Can Learn From a Company's Website

Woman typing on her laptop.

By Arnie Fertig

In your effort to find the right job and advance your career, you will need to learn a lot about many potential employers. When you take the time to research companies, you'll be able to strengthen your candidacy from what you say in you cover letter all the way through the process of gaining and evaluating offers of employment.

There are many ways you can research employers, but often a company's own website will give you the key information you need. Here are seven things job seekers can glean just by paying attention to what a company puts online for all to see:

1. Company overview. From the homepage and About Us page, you'll see what a business or organization is all about. What are its key products and services? What kind of people or businesses are its customers? How does it distinguish itself from its competitors?

2. Available positions. Virtually every employer has a job portal on its website. It is likely to be far more up to date and accurate than job boards or aggregator sites like Indeed.

Even if you find a job posting elsewhere, it's worth taking a few minutes to see if that position is still on the company's own site rather than wasting your time applying for a phantom position.

3. Employer brand. In order to attract the best possible employees, companies understand that they must show why they're great places to work. This is especially true as unemployment continues to dip and first-rate talent is harder to find. The Careers page of a company's website will be used to make the case.

You might see employee testimonial videos that highlight one or another of a company's attractive features, such as opportunities for engaging in meaningful work, career advancement opportunities, camaraderie or whatever else. If the company has won awards from industry groups for excellence or other positive notoriety, these things will make it a more attractive workplace.

Many companies will show pictures of their workplace and give general information about the employee benefits they offer – everything from free parking to their 401(k) retirement fund and insurance benefits.

4. Events calendar. No matter what else, networking is still the primary way people find work. Even if you don't know someone at a company, you can likely find out places where you can meet and interface with them. Company websites will tell you about job fairs, industry forums and trade shows where they will have a presence.

Learn where to rub shoulders with people you want and need in your network. Then, whenever possible, go to these places and network your way into consideration.

5. Company in the news. Companies pay a lot of money to public relations firms to get the word out about what they're up to. News organizations cover everything from executive turnover, product launches, earnings reports and more. You will likely find links to articles about the company and its leaders on its site on the homepage, investor page and elsewhere.

Take the time to read these stories. It's always great to ask in an interview, "I saw such-and-such about your company in the news and was intrigued. Can you tell me more about that?"

6. Leadership team. You will often find bios of C-level executives. Learn about who is at the helm of the organization. Have they been entrenched in their roles for a long time? Has the company been in trouble, and are they known as turn-around artists? Do the members of the leadership team reflect racial, cultural and other diversity? Most importantly: What is the leadership's vision for the company's future?

7. Financials. Any large company listed on the stock exchange will have sections of the website devoted to investors. Publicly traded companies must report certain activities to the Securities and Exchange Commission on a regular basis, including statements of their financial condition, annual reports and much more.

Even if you don't have much of a financial background, you won't have to dig too deeply to find out if the company is profitable, what kinds of major investments it's making and other big picture information that can indicate stability and growth – or the opposite.

Of course, you don't need to know every detail about a company before you apply, but you should know enough to show you've done some research and aren't just randomly distributing your résumé.

Once a dialog begins, you should go deeper and deeper into the company site. Your research will pay off in your interviews, and even more when you have to make the decision of whether or not to accept a company's offer of employment.

Happy hunting!

Arnie Fertig, MPA, is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic "I'll apply to anything" searches into focused hunts for "great fit" opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.