Researching an Employer Before an Interview

We talk a lot here about how important it is to research a potential employer before a job interview. But we’ve never explained in detail about how and why you should do so.

Take a look below for why researching an employer is valuable and how to use the information during your interview.

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  • Start with the company’s website.

You’ll find a true wealth of information there. Check for news releases: this will tell you what the company is proud of and also will tell you if it’s planning on expanding, if it won an award, if it just hired a new marketing manager, etc.

You should look through every tab listed on its homepage. Look at its social media accounts. See what’s new and what its employees have accomplished.

If the company is publically traded, you’ll probably see a menu tab labeled “Investors” or “Investor Relations.” (This section might be under the About or even the public relations/marketing section, and if the company is multi-national, you may have to do some digging around the site to find it).

This section truly a gold mine: companies publically traded on a stock exchange in the United States must file each quarter what are called SEC filings.

You’ll want to check in particular for what are called “10-Q” reports. These are free to download and you will find within them what the company’s profit and loss was for the quarter, what went well for the company and what – well – didn’t go so well. (You may see a link to its annual report in that section and you should read it, but an annual report often only is filled with the positive stuff; quarterly filings tell everything about a company’s financial health. The Securities and Exchange Commission requires it.) The reports also often give an overview of what challenges and opportunities the industry in which the company offers services/products is facing and how well the company is faring inside those industry challenges.

Seriously: read the 10-Q reports. They are fascinating! (And just watch a hiring manager’s eyes widen in admiring amazement when you say at some point in the interview: “I just read your 10-Q for the third quarter and I found it interesting that….”)

  • Set a Google Alert for news about the company.

Go to Google Alerts and type in the name of the company, provide an email address where the alert can be sent and decide how often you want any alerts to appear in your inbox (once a day should suffice, especially if it’s a large company).

Now you’ll see in real time news about the company, such as press releases, news articles, even employee reviews on review sites, etc.

  • If you know the name of the hiring manager, check out his/her LinkedIn profile.

Don’t worry that this could be construed as stalking. After all, you can bet that if you’ve been called in for an interview, the recruiter/hiring manager already has checked out your profile!

If you’re not already a first-level connection, consider asking for one.  (If you’ve already scheduled an interview, the hiring manager should easily accept.)

See if you share any connections and if you know any well, ask them for any insight they might have into the hiring manager’s background, personality, etc.

  • If working with one of our staffing recruiters, ask for insights into the company and hiring manager.

Helpmates’ recruiters will provide you with lots of information regarding the company, the position and the hiring manager before you go on an interview. We’ve worked hard over the 40-plus years we’ve been in business forging great relationships with companies throughout the Orange County and Los Angeles region and we know their needs well. If looking for work, you can rely on us to help you as much as possible. Contact us today.

If You Want a Raise, Be Prepared

So you’ve been working hard, really hard at your job. People have noticed and commented. Your boss has noticed and commented positively.

Then performance reviews roll around. Your boss speaks highly of your work and gives you a very positive review. And you wait, expectantly: you know that mention of a raise, perhaps even a promotion is coming. Sure as know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, a raise is coming. You. Just. Know. It.

And then? Bupkis. The boss never mentions a raise. The word promotion never leaves her lips.

You, naturally, are stumped. What happened?

You didn’t ASK for a raise is what happened!

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Of course, some bosses automatically reward hard work with raises, but not always. Your boss has many other things on her mind: she needs to make sure the big project gets done on time. She needs to keep her own boss happy. She has plenty of fires to put out, people to manage and worries of which you have no idea. There’s a lot your boss needs to manage and know.

But one thing she doesn’t know is that you want a raise and she doesn’t know it because you haven’t told her!

Asking for a raise is the first step to getting one. The most important step. But it’s not the only step: you need to prove to your boss that you deserve one!

Before the Ask, the Preparation

You can’t simply approach your boss and say “Boss, I’ve been working hard; I’d like a raise.” If you want a raise, you do need to work hard, but then you need to show how that hard work has benefited your boss, your department and/or company in some tangible way.

And that is where the preparation comes in. Follow these four steps as you prepare.

  1. The process starts weeks and months before you ask.

As you perform your job, send your boss quarterly, monthly or even weekly updates. Tell her what you’ve accomplished in measurable terms (you brought in $X in new sales, you posted X blog posts, you handled X number of customer complaints, you’re halfway through a project and are two weeks ahead, etc.)

If you do something extraordinary (landed an account three times your usual size, for example), include that, as well.

Sending these reports does two things: it keeps your supervisor apprised of your accomplishments and it acts as a way for you to remember your accomplishments months later. After all, it’s easy to forget you completed a project three weeks ahead of schedule six months later.

  1. Don’t feel you can ask for a raise only at your annual performance review.

If you believe you’ve truly gone far above what’s required of you and if you know – and can show – how that work as helped your boss, department or company accomplish its own goals, there’s no need to wait to ask for a raise. When extraordinary work has been accomplished, it’s appropriate to ask for a reward soon after.

  1. Think about how your boss likes to be approached about important things and act accordingly.

Does your boss prefer directness? If so, you may want to set an appointment and let her know upfront you want to discuss a raise. If your manager prefers a more subtle approach to important topics, bring the raise up in a weekly or monthly check-in meeting. In other words, study when your supervisor is most amenable to considering requests and approach her in the way that has the best chance of success for her.

At the least, if you feel she’s troubled, in a bad mood, stressed, etc. at the time of your meeting, see if you can reschedule.

  1. Prepare your case.

Before meeting with your manager, look through your updates and collect proper “evidence.” Show the facts: that you brought in the big client, finished the project early, saved the company money in some way, received an “atta boy” letter from the CEO for your great work, and so on.

Then, do your homework: do some research to find out what raise percentages usually are given out at your company, in your region, in your industry. You want to ask for a reasonable raise, but as mentioned below, if you accomplished the extraordinary, feel free to ask for a larger-than-normal raise. Just be doubly prepared to give solid reasons why your accomplishment warrants it.

You’ll probably be nervous asking for more money, and that’s OK. Just don’t let fear hold you back from asking for a raise when it’s deserved.

Not all raises take place with your current employer: switch to a new employer and you typically receive a 4 percent raise just by leaving one company for another.

If you think it’s time to move on from your Los Angeles or Orange County job, check out Helpmates’ current openings and, if one interests you, apply for it!

Why a Cover Letter MATTERS

Job openings always ask to see a resume and often ask for cover letters, but not always. So as a candidate you may think that a cover letter is an “option,” as in “not required.”

And it may well not be required, but it’s never not an option, not if you want to greatly increase your chances of getting an interview.

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A cover letter can be very powerful. It can help your application stand out in a sea of candidates with about the same skills, background and education requested in the job posting.  It can be “the determining factor” in whether or not you get called in for an interview.

The Many Benefits of a Cover Letter

  1. It helps you stand out.

As mentioned above, when having to choose who to interview among similar candidates, a well-crafted cover letter can end up being your golden ticket to the interview.

  1. It can showcase skills and background that don’t fit in a resume.

You are so much more than the work history on your resume. There are difficult projects you completed that need to be highlighted, challenges overcome in a job not easily delineated in a resume, skills possessed that aren’t required in a job description but which are helpful and should be described, and so on.

  1. You can target a cover letter easily for each position for which you apply.

Every account manager position is different from any other account manager opportunity and while your resume will speak highly of your abilities and accomplishments as an account manager in the past, your cover letter allows you to speak specifically as to how and why those skills will help this employer.

For example, the job posting mentions that the person selected for the account manager position will be expanding into a new product territory. You worked at your last employer for three years, but six months of your tenure there saw you expanding a product line’s sales by 150 percent in a new territory. An accomplishment such as that should be placed near the top of your cover letter to pique a hiring manager’s or recruiter’s interest! (And also mentioned on your resume.)

  1. A cover letter can explain gaps in your employment history.

Few of us have a job history with no breaks. If have a job history hole of more than six months, you can address the reason in the cover letter. This is especially important if the gap in work history is recent.

Examples: “After taking time off to complete my master’s degree in psychology in a year…” “After taking time off to raise my children until they reached elementary school age…” “After taking time off to help care for my father with Alzheimer’s disease…”

Bottom line? Always include a cover letter for each application. Write a different cover letter for each position, highlighting the skills, background and accomplishments relevant to the position that showcase your value to the employer.

We’ve been helping Southern Californians find – and land – great jobs for 45 years, so we know a thing or two about making candidates attractive to employers. If you’re looking for new opportunities, check out our current job postings and then either apply (don’t forget the cover letter!) and/or contact the Helpmates office nearest you. Contact us to learn more about our recruiting services.

You’re Working Hard, Yet You Haven’t Been Promoted. What to Do

You’ve worked at your employer for at least a year, possibly even two or three. You’ve worked hard, have always come in on time (if not even early) and never left until after everyone else had gone home.  You did more than was expected of you and were often complimented on the great work you did. Your boss also has given you an atta boy/atta girl several times over the last few months.

Yet as much as you want a promotion, as much as you absolutely deserve a promotion, you’ve watched as others received them, but not you.

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What gives? We’ve listed several possibilities below.

  1. You never actually asked for a promotion.

That’s right: you need to ask.

Should your boss notice your great work and accomplishments? Sure! But will she? Maybe, but maybe not. After all, she has her own concerns and more than likely is focused mostly on making sure she does her own job well. She needs to be sure she’s keeping her own boss happy (and securing her own promotions). And even if she does notice the great job you’re doing – and certainly appreciates it – she  may have thought that if you wanted a promotion, you would have asked for it.

Scenarios where the boss surprises you with a promotion and a fat raise? Those usually happen only in the movies. You need to ask to get.

  1. Your boss doesn’t think you’re ready.

Your supervisor did notice all your hard work and accomplishments, but when you bring the subject up, your boss tells you she thinks that while you’re on the path to promotion, she doesn’t think you’re quite ready.

Why might she think it’s not your time yet?

  • Your boss may feel you’re not enough of a team player. This trait is important if you want a promotion that moves you up to management.
  • Your supervisor feels that you don’t handle stressful situations well or that you’re too much of a people pleaser, and wants you to “mature” a bit more.
  • And so on.
  1. You didn’t show your boss the value of a promotion.

Just because you work hard and go the extra mile in your current position in no way qualifies you for a promotion. A promotion always entails more responsibility, more “skin in the game,” so to speak. So what has all that effort provided your boss, in addition to simple hard work?

Did you bring in more clients? Did save the company more money? Did you make the department more efficient? In other words, what tangible results did your work produce?

  1. There’s no benefit to your boss.

Yes, this appears selfish on her part, but in order to get a promotion, your boss needs to get something out of it. It must be something that benefits her, personally. For example, by promoting you, does a particular goal or project she wants completed get completed because of your particular skills?

If you’ve been working hard, providing terrific and provable value to your employer and have asked for a promotion to no avail, it may be time to move on. Helpmates can help. Take a look at our current job opportunities. Yes, many of our openings are temporary, but many are regular, full-time career positions.  Plus, temporary positions often can advance your career.

Contact the Helpmates office nearest you today to apply.

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