As the old saying goes…if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. Never is this truer than for a job application. Arming yourself with the right information is vital and could make all the difference.

There are three main areas that you should get an insight into – the role, the company and the industry. Having knowledge about these areas will show any employer that you are committed and enthusiastic.

The role

This is probably the easiest part, as a brief job remit should have been included in the job advertisement. Companies will usually give some sort of idea of the skills and level of experience they’re looking for.

However, there are some other things you can find out about. What will the interview process be likehow many people will interview you and what positions do they hold in the company? There may be some sort of test involved or you could be interviewed in a group.

The more you know about what to expect, the more you can practice and the less nervous you’ll be on the day.

The company

What?

Try to think about their products and services (especially new areas they’re looking to break into), the markets/industries they’re in and who their competitors are.

Find out how long the company has been around and how is it structured. What are the key objectives for the firm and what can you offer to help achieve them? Has the company won any awards recently, joined with a key business partner or done some charity fundraising?

All these pieces of information will familiarise you with the company.

How?

The company’s website is always the best place to start. Most will feature an ‘about us’ section, which will have lots of information – perhaps a mission statement or a breakdown of the company structure. An annual report may even be available, which will give an insight into the company’s background, future plans and financial status.

Check out the events calendar at your careers centre or at the Inside Careers events calendar to find out which companies will be visiting your university to hold workshops and seminars.

Go along to as many careers fairs and information days as possible – talk to the staff on the stall and find out as much as you can about the companies you like. Ask them how they got their job and why they like working there.

Public records will be another great source of information. Get along to the public or university library and see what you can find out. You can often find trade journals, research papers and press cuttings about your chosen company.

Finally, when you have an interview set up, ask your contact if they can send you any of their in-house publications. This is a great way of learning about projects they’re working on.

When you’ve established a good understanding of the company, make a list of the things that interest you – a ‘top five’ reasons why you want to work there.

“Always research the company you are applying to – there is nothing worse for a recruiter to either read an application form or conduct an interview where the candidate doesn’t understand what the company does or worse mixed it up with a company of a similar name. Our common one is people thinking we are Lloyds TSB – it is very frustrating,” says Victoria Payne, Graduate Recruitment and Development Executive at Lloyd’s of London.

The industry

During an interview it’s essential that you show an awareness of industry news and developments. This will highlight an added level of commitment to the profession that your competitors may not have. Keep up to date with the national media as well as trade press.

Find out which professional body represents the industry you’re interested in – most will have business news on their websites and you may even be able to sign up to their mailing lists.

Most importantly, find out where your prospective employer fits into the industry and how your potential job relates to it.

“You need to demonstrate that you have taken the time to research the industry, key bodies, qualifications available and major industry players.

“Like with any other interview you need to show that you have researched your prospective employer thoroughly. Statistics indicate worryingly that entry level candidates frequently do not bother with this key stage of their job search, yet you need to know that your employer will be able to support you in your ambitious career path.” Sarah Bergin McCarthy, Director at Sammons Pensions Recruitment Consultancy.

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