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December 13, 2017

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Investigating Small Companies

Being prepared for an interview makes for a better impression and the more relaxed you can be. Finding information about small companies can be a little tougher than larger organizations, but there are ways.

Researching small or privately held companies can become frustrating very quickly because you don't have access to the information you would with a larger company - information like annual reports, articles from trade publications, press releases and so forth. To prevent you from chasing your tail in your quest to educate yourself, here are some tips when you have to research a smaller sized company.

The Internet
As soon as you know you've scored an interview, ask to have the company literature sent to you. Chances are to that the print information they send will be a big PR play, but it will nevertheless give you a better starting point. Depending on what they send, you can also get a feel for how much they care about public perception from the quality of the pieces and the presentation. Be sure to get their website url if it's not included in their package. All too often companies use abbreviations in the web address and it becomes extremely difficult to nail it down without going through search engines for hours and hours. Most websites contain a common core of information such as company background, mission, financial information if it is public, recent press clips, product/services, other company alliances and an employment section. Be sure to check out the employment section because you'll see how many other positions they have open. This can indicate how much the company is growing or if they have an employee retention problem! During the interview ask if all these positions are newly created.

Network
Use your contacts to see if they know of the company or any of its competitors. Even if they don't know themselves, they might know of someone else for you to get in touch with. Use your contacts to find out those things you couldn't elsewhere. What is the company's reputation and culture like? Do they know of anyone working there currently or in the past? What do they know about the industry and recent events?

The Library
In this electronic age we sometimes forget about the resources available from the library, and more to the point, the librarians. It's their job to know about research so take advantage of their knowledge. They can steer you in the right direction to find clippings about the company or industry news. Depending on the sophistication of your library, they might even have LEXIS-NEXIS access that can really speed up the process of finding any press about the company.

If, after all this, you still cannot come up with much about the company itself, go after the industry. Publications like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times and the trade journals are excellent starting points. You can also try using search engines on the Internet as well. While you may not be able to know company-specific details, you will be able speak intelligently about the marketplace. It also will give you a leg up when the interviewer does start addressing the company's products/services and programs that might be underway. Don't be afraid to let them know of your efforts to research the organization. It shows initiative and a real interest in the job.

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