Your resume is an essential part of your job search. This concise, yet detailed document should provide an overview of your professional experience, skills, training and background. Think of it as your own unique sales pitch — done right, it should convince a potential employer to give you the opportunity to interview for an open role at their company.

Yet the first step, even before you start writing, is to do a little bit of research. Some of the information you should aim to uncover:

  • current challenges in your target industry and company
  • relevant keywords, buzzwords and other phrases to include in your resume
  • job-opening trends and key qualifications required for the role

But where should you go to discover these valuable insights? And how can you maximize the productivity of the time you spend researching — so you can spend more time actually applying for jobs? Read on for everything you need to know about how to research company information. Armed with these insights, you should be ready to hit the ground running.

how to research company information

Checking company information doesn't have to be hard — at least as long as you know where to start. Use these five sources to gather important insights.

1. why you should research using company websites

  • What do you know about a company? A natural place to start is with their website. Specifically, look for a section titled "About Us," "Our Mission," "Who We Are" or similar. That should give you some basic — but valuable — information about an organization’s history, mission statement and culture.
  • For example, in the About section on Randstad’s homepage you can find press releases, leadership bios and corporate social responsibility links. All of these should give you an indication of our values, the behaviors we reward and so on.

2. why you should research using company websites

  • Many of these websites are now highlighting additional company information, such as reviews from employees and job seekers and salary information.
  • Some even include videos which will provide an inside look at the company culture at your target organization.
  • One of the best job boards to use in your research is Monster.
  • Two reputable rating sites you should use are Kununu and Google My Business.

3. why you should research using paid services

  • These services will search the internet and return information about a company’s finances, executives, press releases and more.
  • Most of these services will offer you a free trial, but then you’ll have to pay after your introductory period ends.
  • In terms of paid services, one of the best-known options is ZoomInfo.

4. why you should research using news reports and industry publications

  • News reports and industry publications will provide you with outside perspectives on companies, or inform you of any positive or negative press that organization has received.
  • Enter the company’s name in the text box on Google and filter by News, and you’ll see links to published reports from news organizations and industry publications.
  • Results are often filtered by relevance, so you might have to scroll through a few pages to find the most recent stories.
  • Pay attention to the source of the results. You’ll find information from large established news organizations here, as well as smaller independent companies, so you may find differing opinions about certain events or stories.

You can also set up Google Alerts for the company or any of its executives, and you’ll receive a notification when they're mentioned in the news.

5. why you should research using social media

  • Follow the company and some of its key employees and recruiters on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
  • In terms of what you look for in the company, monitor how it interacts in the social community and responds to criticisms or questions from customers and the general public.
  • Take note of any trends or recurring issues so you can cater your resume to showcase skills that might help solve these problems.
  • If you’re looking for firsthand information about the company, reach out to any employees that you might be connected with on LinkedIn and see if they’ll be willing to answer questions you may have.

how to put your valuable research into practice

Now that you know where to go to gain key insights, it's time to put everything you've learned to use. But what's the best approach?

Write down the values that matter to each company you're interested in, and make note of whether those are personal traits or skill sets.

For starters, try to keep detailed notes as you go about conducting research (an Excel spreadsheet might come in handy).

You should also be on the lookout for keywords or distinct phrases used by each company. A lot of this terminology will likely appear in job postings, as well.

Finally, weave all of this information together and work it into your resume and cover letter. It's the only way to ensure that your candidacy stands out in today's unusually crowded talent marketplace.

key takeaways

However you approach the job-application process, don't underestimate the importance of developing comprehensive, fine-grained knowledge of the companies you're interested in. No matter your industry or profession, research is the essential first step — even before you start tailoring your resume for a given opportunity. Just follow the steps we've outlined in this article and you should be in a great position. It's also an essential part of the process of preparing for an interview.

Ready to start writing the resume? Check out the next installment in our resume tips series: resume tips (part 2): how to format your resume.