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Researching Employers: Why and How
To effectively sell yourself as a job candidate, you must persuade the employer that you are a good fit for the employer's needs. Employers aren't going to interview and hire candidates who are not a match for their needs.
You can't present yourself - in cover letters or interviews - as a match for the employer's needs if you don't know much about the employer - DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!!
Targeted letters, individualized to a specific potential employer are more effective than "form" letters - you know a form letter when you get one; employers do too.
In interviews, employers expect you to know something about the organization. If you don't, you look like you're not really interested in the job. You have to be able to answer the critical question of why you would like to work for that employer - and not sound like you would take any job.
Research helps you decide what questions to ask in your interview.
How to research specific employers
Talk to people: Find people who work for or know about the organization. This could be family members, neighbors, parents of friends, students who graduated ahead of you, and alumni contacts. Yes, use the alumni from your college or university to help you with job leads or organizational information.
The employer's web site: This is a no-brainer! Look for basic facts, information about mission, culture, values and more. If the web site posts jobs and/or the organization invites e-mail from job seekers and/or accepts resumes online, follow the instructions the employer provides.
Call or write the organization and ask for information AFTER you've searched for it elsewhere. This is perfectly appropriate to do if you simply cannot find information about the organization through their web site, or if the information is not clear.