Researching the employer and the role

Before you submit a CV, cover letter, application form or attend an interview for a particular role, you'll need to investigate the organisation and the job in more depth.

As a job applicant, employers expect you to have done some research and found out about their company or organisation. They'll also expect you to understand the job or opportunity they're offering.

Learn about the organisation

Their website is often good for looking at key markets, clients, products and services, strategic reports and mission statement. While you're there, see if you can find out more about its values like its customer service standards, for example. And is there anything distinctive about its culture? Do the aims and ethos of the company fit in with your personal values and aims?

We also recommend that you determine the company’s aim, size, turnover, location, organisational structure, position in the industry or service as a whole. And consider if the size and location of the employer will affect your promotion prospects.

Take a look at the bigger picture – try to get a sense of the key issues for the sector the organisation is working in, eg by looking at competitors, at issues highlighted by professional associations or do a broader media search for that organisation – have they been in the news recently?

We also suggest that you keep up with current issues facing industries and services by reading relevant journals and newspapers. You can also search our careers areas, which outlines information about specific roles (and their sectors) in more detail.

Learn more about the current job market, as well as the different types of employer and sector you could work for.

Follow them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, in particular. Social media is often updated before the organisation’s website now so it is a great source of information.

If you don't have a LinkedIn profile, now would be a great time to start one – read our key tips and advice on how to put together your profile and use the ‘Find Alumni’ function to make new contacts in the organisation you're applying to.

Check the employer fairs and events being held on campus in your Careers Account. Is this employer coming to give a talk or attend a careers fair? This could be a great opportunity to meet some of the employees and get additional insights which could help you succeed.

But remember, you need to prepare for this kind of conversation because the employer will be assessing you, so look professional and try to make a great first impression.

Do you know anyone who works for this organisation? Speaking to someone who already works there can also give you some valuable insights that will benefit your application.

Get in touch to ask for 20 minutes of their time to talk by phone or a brief meeting. Many people remember being in your shoes and applying for jobs, and will be happy to help. Find out more about networking.

Research the job

Most employers will send you a job description and person specification, and often other background information so this will help to get you started. (If they haven't provided one, use our careers areas to give you an idea of what's typically required in that kind of role.)

You can also download an example of a job description and a person specification.

As well as researching what the job involves, try to find out:

  • how it fits in with other roles within the organisation
  • line management and reporting responsibilities
  • the level of autonomy or supervision you will have
  • any professional training that you will be required to undertake.

Understand their language

Analysing an employer’s description of the skills they seek, and matching them with your own experiences, using their language, makes it easy for them to see how you'll fit in with the role.

When researching the company and the role, note down any key words regarding skills, competencies and qualities of both the staff and company. It's helpful to divide these into two lists (employees, company), although you may well find the same words in both lists.

Check that you really understand the meaning of the terms the organisation is using. Are these words defined in any of the text? If a key term is repeated, is it used in exactly the same context? Is there a difference between the list for the post you're interested in, and the organisation as a whole?

Reframe your terms into those of the employer. For example, ‘teamworking’ and ‘group working’ can often refer to the same action, so pick the version used by the organisation you're applying to. Find out more about the skills employers are looking for.

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Careers and Employability