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Employer Research

Why Research Employers? | When Do I Research Employers? | What Do I Look For? | How Do I Research? | Where Do I Start Looking? | Online Resources

Why Research Employers?

Effective employer research is an important part of the job search process for a number of reasons:

  1. It allows you to determine if an organization is right for you;
  2. It helps you tailor your cover letter and resumé to the specific position and organization;
  3. It helps you address the needs of the organization and know what questions to ask during the interview;
  4. It demonstrates your interest in the organization; and
  5. It helps educate you about the particular field of law.

When Do I Research Employers?

Conduct employer research before you apply for a particular position. With a little research you may be able to rule out a firm, non-profit or agency and thereby save yourself time and effort. If you decide to apply, it will greatly inform your cover letter and, to a lesser extent, your resumé.

Employer research is also crucial when preparing for an interview. One of the most important ways to distinguish yourself in an interview is to speak knowledgeably about the organization, discuss how your experiences and qualifications match up with the needs of the organization and the position, and show how you can make an immediate contribution.

What Do I Look For?

You can start your research by locating information about the organization's:

  • Mission Statement
  • Board of Directors (you may have a friend in "high places"!)
  • Clientele/Membership
  • Strategies and goals
  • Areas of Specialization
  • New Projects
  • Divisions/Subsidiaries
  • History/Background
  • Source of Funding
  • Reputation
  • Age
  • Size & Growth Pattern
  • Number of Employees
  • Location(s)
  • Type of Facilities
  • Personnel Policies
  • Limitations on Employees (non-citizens are excluded from certain positions; other jobs may require extensive background checks)

How Do I Research?

Your approach to employer research should be the same as your methods for researching a paper or project. Put together a comprehensive list of resources that have the information you need, study the information and start making judgments about what you find.

Where Do I Start Looking?

Office of Career Services

The first step that you should take is to talk to a UDC-DCSL OCPD staffer to determine if there are connections between the field or specific organization that you are interested in and ASL or UDC-DCSL alumni, staff, students, or supporters. There may be an alumnus or friend of the school currently working for the employer who can provide you with more information or even recommend you for the position. Other students may have worked or interned for a specific organization and can tell you about their experience.

The Career Services Library may also contain helpful brochures or publications that can get you started.

The Employer

the next step is to visit the employer's web site. This can be located through any major Internet search engine. In the process, you may also find articles about the organization that provide a potentially valuable third-party view and current news or industry developments that are of concern to the employer- a wonderful way to make a good impression during an interview.

If you cannot find the information you need on the Internet, call your prospective employer's Human Resources Office and request information like annual reports, brochures, the employee handbook, and a description of the position you are applying for.

Annual Reports can be useful for information about:

  • The organization's mission and philosophy.
  • What types of people they employ.
  • How much the organization values its employees.
  • The health of the industry.
  • The organization's outlook and future growth prospects.

You also have the option of conducting an informational interview with certain employers. If you are really committed to working for a certain organization or in a certain field, you may want to introduce yourself to the organization even if they do not currently have a position that you could fill.

Publications and Professional Associations

If you are interested in a certain field, find out if there is a professional association for people in that area and find out if they have a student membership option. Even if they do not, you can still approach the group for tips and resources. Read magazines, trade publications, and journals related to the field and organization.

Blind Ads

If you find an interesting position, but the employer has chosen not to provide their name and instead lists only their P.O. Box, you have the option of calling the post office and asking them to tell you who possesses that address. Most of the time, simply requesting the name of the organization, while casually mentioning that the group is soliciting the public by a newspaper ad, will get you the answer. If that does not work, you may want to mention that, under The Freedom of Information Act, the post office is required to give out the information on any company that uses a post office box to solicit from the public. In reality, The Freedom of Information Act requires that you make a written or in-person request, but it is worth a try.

Online Resources

General/Business | Government | Law Firms | Nonprofits

General/Business

  • NALP Directory of Legal Employers: Comprehensive employment directory from the National Association for Law Placement, searchable by type of employer (public/private), city, state, name of employer, or alphabetically. Recommended.
  • UDC-DCSL Career Services Westlaw Page: Find a Legal Job and Research Employers. You will need your Westlaw username and password to access features on this site.
  • ABA's Career Counsel: Provides centralized access to ABA career information; daily tips on finding jobs and enhancing careers; a lawyer showcase featuring 100+ attorneys sharing success stories and advice for lawyers and law students interested in their practice area/alternative career; and an online job search question and answer board (Tuesday Job Search Answer Board).
  • EDGAR Database (US SEC): All companies, foreign and domestic, are required to file registration statements, periodic reports, and other forms electronically through EDGAR. Anyone can access and download this information for free.
  • Job Searching from About.com has a list of links to resources for employer research and other career-related information, including a section on the best companies to work for and the capability to search for employers by industry.
  • Researching Companies Online: This business research tutorial presents a step-by-step process for finding free company, nonprofit and industry information on the World Wide Web.
  • WashLawWeb: Collection of links to courts, firms, schools, agencies, etc.

Government

  • National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School is a web portal for useful information about state attorneys general; it includes an easy to use interactive map including employment information.
  • State and Local Government on the Net offers a frequently updated directory of links to state, county and city government websites. The pages also link to national organizations and associations of state governments and officials.
  • USA.gov is the official web site of the US government and provides links to every federal government agency.

Law Firms

Nonprofits

  • Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance provides reports on major charitable organizations. Reports include an overview of the organization, program information, financial data, ratings on compliance with CBBB Standards for Charitable Solicitation, and governance information.
  • Catalog of Nonprofit Literature is a searchable database of philanthropic literature.
  • The Foundation Center offers, for a fee, a huge database of information on foundations and who they fund.
  • Guidestar provides a searchable directory of more than 1 million nonprofit organizations, including funding and salary information.
  • Idealist.org provides a searchable database of more than 80,000 non-profit organizations and a collection of non-profit resources and FAQs.
  • National Center for Charitable Statistics collects statistics on nonprofit organizations.
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