Researching Publicly Traded, Privately Held, and Non-Profit Companies Prior to Your Interview

by paulfalconehr.com on May 25, 2014

Job search candidates at all levels realize that it’s important to research an organization where they have an upcoming interview, but outside of looking up the company’s website, they’re not quite sure where to look and what to look for. If you’ve got an upcoming interview and want to impress upon an employer that you’ve done your “preparatory homework,” you’ll need to conduct additional research beyond the company’s website to demonstrate your interest in the organization and awareness of trends in its industry. Depending on whether the company is publicly traded, privately held, or not-for-profit, you’ll have multiple resources to choose from, and the websites below should garner the strongest results in the shortest amount of time . . .

researchbigPublicly Traded Company Research Websites

As you’d suspect when dealing with publicly traded companies, a simple web search using a company’s name on Google, Ask.com, or a host of other search engines will get you plenty of information in a hurry. Whatever your findings, be sure to share what you’ve learned so the interviewer is made aware of the time and effort you took to research the organization before coming in for your interview. After all, if you do the research but the interviewer doesn’t realize it, you lose the credit for your efforts! Following are some key websites that will provide you with relevant and timely information on a publicly traded company’s profile:

Stock’s ticker symbol: Exchange traded on: (NYSE, NASDAQ, etc.):

Current stock price: 52-week low/high range of stock price: P/E* ratio: Expected earnings (profit) growth:

[Track your responses here]
Zacks Investment Research

http://www.zacks.com/screening/ Zacks Rank / buy-sell recommendation: Industry Analysis (peer ranking): Top Commentary (recent articles):

Hoovers (a Dun & Bradstreet Company)

http://www.hoovers.com Company Ranking: Top 3 Competitors: Company Profile: Related Tags:

Morningstar Investment Research Center http://library.morningstar.com/Selectors/Stock/Selector.html
SEC.gov/EDGAR Company Filings http://www.sec.gov/edgar/searchedgar/companysearch.html

The Dun & Bradstreet Million Dollar Directory

http://www.mergentmddi.com/index.php/search/iplanding

(Requires login and password)

Bloomberg Business Week (for recent company news)

http://investing.businessweek.com/research/company/overview/overview.asp as well as http://www.bloomberg.com/markets/companies/
*P/E stands for “price earnings ratio,” meaning the current price of the stock divided by its earnings (or profit) per share (i.e., a common ratio that indicates the relative value of the price per share in terms of overpaying for it or getting it at a discounted price). 16 is the historical average P/E or “multiple” for publicly traded stocks in the United States. A P/E of 12, for example, may tell you that the price is selling at a discount; a P/E of 40, in comparison, may tell you that the price of that particular stock is highly leveraged and possibly in “bubble” territory.

Privately Held or Smaller Company Research Websites

Private companies can be challenging to research because they’re secretive about their business information, but there are ways to penetrate their “veil of silence,” including cross-referencing their corporate websites, online business directories, news sites, online trade and professional journals, and websites specifically intended to evaluate privately-held companies. You’ll have to be creative, though, because unlike with publicly traded organizations, the goal is to keep private information private! Following are some common sites that will help you “tease” out information to put the pieces of the puzzle together…

Nonprofit Research Websites

The nonprofit world is surprisingly robust. The U.S. nonprofit sector consists of about 11 million workers, or 7% of the entire U.S. workforce, with roughly two million nonprofits in existence today. It’s estimated that 20 – 30,000 new nonprofits are launched every year, and the cumulative revenue for this sector is approaching $700 billion, or roughly 9% of U.S. GDP (gross domestic product). To learn more about a nonprofit company where you’re considering interviewing, visit:

Guide Star http://www.guidestar.org
Charity Navigator http://www.charitynavigator.org
Better Business Bureau’s Wise-Giving Alliance http://www.bbb.org/us/charity/

Company Culture & Social Media Websites

Social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are making it much easier to get the “scoop” on what’s going on at particular organizations and what it’s like to work there. With LinkedIn company profiles, for example, you’ll be able see your connections at the company, new hires, promotions, jobs posted, related companies, and company statistics. Take a look at your interviewer’s profile to get insight into their job and their background. Facebook company pages are now becoming the rage, so privately held and nonprofit organizations may have their own Facebook page, which will definitely be worth looking into. Check Twitter to “like” or “follow” a company to get updates. Search Google+ and Google News for the company name. And don’t forget to access competitor websites to get information on developments in the target company’s industry or sector. Finally, the “company culture” sites listed below may be helpful but require that you proceed with caution when interpreting the data. Clearly any time you’re creating an “open invitation” for workers to log on and share their thoughts about their experiences as employees of particular companies, you’re bound to get overly subjective comments, especially when workers use sites like this to vent. In addition, websites that publish open-source salary data are not validated or confirmed by one unifying entity (like a compensation consulting firm or government agency)—they simply invite workers to share their salary information anonymously. Salary data taken out of context may not be very reliable or even useful. For example, salary ranges are typically very broad, sometimes with a 100% spread (like $100,000 – $200,000), which isn’t very helpful because it doesn’t account for individuals’ years of prior industry experience, tenure with that particular organization, educational / license level, and the like.

So the websites below may have some limited usefulness if kept in perspective, especially if you see overall trends and patterns in the responses. Still, bear in mind that most people don’t log in to say how much they love their company—they usually log in to voice their frustration, so give the following sites only limited credibility:

Armed with these resources and a bit of good old-fashioned curiosity, your research efforts should pay off handsomely in terms of impressing the interviewer. More importantly, it will allow you to make a more informed decision about the company’s potential fit for your longer-term career needs.

Do You Have Additional Recommendations for Company Research Websites and Other Sources?

If so, please let us know by sharing your thoughts in the response area below. We’d love to hear from you. Thank you! — Paul Falcone

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