I know how much pressure there is to find a job when you can’t stand your current gig, and I also understand how tempting it is to take the first one you’re offered when you just don’t have one. And I know that when you’re in either situation, it’s easy to ignore the important step of researching every company you’re considering applying to work for. However, as dire as your situation might seem, there are some big opportunities you’ll miss if you don’t dig a little deeper.
Here are just a few of the biggest ones:
1. You’re Missing Potential Connections to the Company
This isn’t exactly something I thought of early in my career, but once I did, it became fairly obvious. When you send out your resume haphazardly without doing any research on the companies you’re applying to work for, you’re also missing the chance to see if you have any connections to those companies. These connections could very well get your foot in the door.
So, here’s a two-step process to make researching a company and your potential connections to the organization fairly easy. The first step is to simply make a list of the companies you’re potentially interested in. The second step is just as simple: Go to your LinkedIn and search for those companies. You’ll quickly identify connections you might have and be able to shoot off a message. It would look something like this:
Hope you’ve been well. I saw your company’s hiring for a [opening you’re interested in]. Do you happen to know the person in charge of hiring for that position? And if so, could I bother you for an introduction?
If you don’t know the hiring manager, I’d love to know more about [insert at least two questions related to working for the company]. Please let me know how I can return the favor!
This might seem like extra work, but as you might’ve noticed, this note is simple and straight to the point. Worst-case scenario? It gets ignored.
2. You’re (Probably Not) Customizing Your Cover Letter
A few years ago, LinkedIn wasn’t quite as useful as it is today. In fact, I was told early in my career that addressing a cover letter to “Dear Hiring Manager” was a safer bet than even addressing it to the CEO. That was bad advice then, and since a lot of companies make it pretty easy to learn more about their staff, it’s especially bad advice now.
Finding a contact at a company to address your cover letter to might sound like a lot of work. But, here’s the thing: Job descriptions often tell you who you’d be reporting to, and LinkedIn makes it fairly easy to match a title to an actual human being. If you can’t find a contact for some reason, you can check a company’s About Us page. And if you can’t find the person you’d be working under, you can still probably find a departmental head or related VP. Know this: Any name’s better than no name because it shows you took the time to find it.
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3. You Don’t Give Yourself a Chance to Figure Out if You Actually Want to Work There
This, I think, is the biggest missed opportunity when you skip researching a company. I get how frustrating a long job search can be, especially if you really need to land a new gig ASAP. But, if you don’t take the time to learn a thing or two about a place where, let’s face it, you’ll be spending a lot of time, you might not learn that potentially vital information until it’s too late.
You might be thinking, “Yes, that’s true, but I don’t even really know what I want in a company.” There’s a solution to this, and like the others we’ve discussed, it’s fairly straightforward. Take out a piece of paper and grab a pen. Then, write down three non-negotiables about your next company that you think would influence whether or not you’d accept an offer. Tape that list to a place you’ll see it every day and refer to it whenever you’re considering a job. The fact that you’ve attached this physical list to your physical workspace will serve as a constant reminder that you should do a little research before submitting an application.
You might be thinking, “This is crazy, I have jobs to apply for, I don’t have time for all this!” And I totally get that. But, at the same time, you probably know deep down that you’re doing yourself a disservice by depriving yourself of the opportunities discussed here. Yes, you should be commended for taking initiative to find a new job. But you should also be looking for a gig that you’ll love, at a company you’ll love working for.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.More from this Author