Researching Potential Employers


Before any interview or tour, you should research the company or organization. Researching the company will give you valuable information about who they are, what they do or sell, and what their goals are. By doing your research you will also be a well-informed applicant who can answer the tough interview question, “So… why do you want to work for us?”

You will have to be resourceful to answer the questions below. If you can’t answer all of them, make sure to ask them at the end of the interview.

When you apply for a job, it is extremely important that you find out what they do, what they make, who they are in their industry, in their state, city, etc. All of this information will be invaluable during your interview and even more valuable when you are deciding whether or not you want to work for the company.

To research the financial profile of a publicly traded company go the following web site and enter the company’s name and click GO:

You can also go to, or, and search under the company’s name to find their Web site and to find other Web sites that may offer information about them. I would also recommend setting up an informational interview with a company you are interested in.

Most companies are happy to sit down with interested candidates and share some company information with them. They will usually take you on a tour of their buildings and facilities. Be sure to leave your portfolio in the car if you go on an informational interview/tour. Employers look down on a candidate that tries to push their way into a job by asking for an informational interview and turning it into a job interview.

Research and answer the following questions to learn more about the company you are interested in:

  1. What is the company’s official name?
  2. What is the company’s address?
  3. What does the company sell? Learn what products or services they offer.
  4. Where can you buy the company’s products? (Online sites? Retail Stores? Catalog?)
  5. How much do their products cost? (Value-priced? Upscale/expensive?)
  6. What is the company’s brand? What words come to mind when you think of them?
  7. What is the company’s total annual sales? Can you get an annual report online?
  8. Are they a growing company? Have they had to layoff employees recently? In Wisconsin try this site:
  9. What is the company’s current standing with the Better Business Bureau? (
  10. How many employees does the company have?
  11. Where does the company advertise?
  12. Who is the company’s target market(s)?
  13. When was the company founded/started? Who started it? Who owns them?
  14. How many people currently work in the company’s graphics department?
  15. Who manages the graphics department? Who would you report to?
  16. What kind of equipment do they use? Outdated or new? Mac or PC?
  17. What software do they use? Photoshop? Illustrator? InDesign? Dreamweaver? Flash? Others?
  18. Do you know anyone who has or does work there? Ask your friends, family, and grandparents what they know about they company. Remember that these are just opinions—but they can begin to give you some information about your potential employer.

After completing your research, ask yourself, “Would I work for this company?” “Is it a good fit for me and my skills, talents, education, and career desires?” “Can I grow with this company? And could this be a long-term career option?”

While I am sure you are excited to begin your first job, I suggest that you seriously consider whether or not each company is a good fit for you and your career goals. It may sound a bit old-fashioned but I try to use what I call the “Thanksgiving Dinner Test” when I am considering a job. Picture yourself sitting at Thanksgiving Dinner. Your family is there and Grandma asks you where you are working these days. Now, can you tell everyone where you work and be proud of your job and employer? If not, it may not be the best job for you. Some people are comfortable working for almost any company in any industry.

Others set strict boundaries for themselves due to personal convictions and beliefs.

A few years ago while demonstrating to my class how to search the Web for jobs, we came across an entry level graphic designer job that paid well above average. When we dug deeper, we found that it was a job designing in the adult film industry. Some students did not feel comfortable with the job. My point is to know your own comfort level and use it to guide your job search.