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How graduates and students should research IT and technology employers

How students and graduates should research IT and technology employers

Doing research into an employer is a key step in getting ready for IT applications and interviews. Make sure you’re researching the right things, and in the right places, with our application checklist.
Find out how we do things differently to other companies: what projects we’ve worked on, who are our clients, what sectors we work in.

Jump to: the research checklist | where to start your research

You’ll need to have completed research into an employer in order to tailor your application and ensure that it impresses recruiters. Carrying out research will also help you to confirm your job choices, so you can be sure that the role and employer that you are applying for is the right one for you.

When you're applying for IT and technology graduate schemes, you’ll likely be up against applicants with similar experience, so your enthusiasm for and interest in an organisation will be a key distinguishing factor. ‘It is not just about telling us how many employees we have in different counties and our core values,’ states Kirsty Smith, graduate and apprentice recruitment manager at Capgemini. ‘Find out how we do things differently to other companies: what projects we’ve worked on, who are our clients, what sectors we work in.”

Recruiters will also expect you to have an understanding of how their organisation operates, and the sector on a wider scale; they may even ask you directly ‘What do you know about the company?’ or ‘What distinguishes us from our competitors?’, either as part of the online application or during interviews. Even if you are not asked you these questions, recruiters will still expect you to answer them without prompting.

Your research checklist: what you need to know before applying

Break down your research into bite-sized chunks. Are you able to answer these questions about the employer you’re applying to?

Company basics

  • What does the company do? – (Products made/services provided. For example, does it offer technology consulting services, does it develop financial software, etc?)
  • What are the key moments in the company’s history?
  • Where is the employer located, in which markets does it operate and where does it have its headquarters?
  • What are the different divisions of the company? Which one are you applying to?
  • Who are the company’s customers/clients (and who are the relevant division’s customers/clients)?
  • Who are the company’s main competitors? How do they differ?
  • How, where and why is it growing?

In the news

  • Are there any major news stories that are likely to affect the work of the employer, and how? – For example, major technology developments, effects of the economy and regulatory changes.
  • What is the company’s big news from the past couple of years: has there been new launches, new projects, mergers and acquisitions, contracts won, etc.?
  • Are there any patterns (such as annual cycles) that the industry follows?

The role that you are applying for

  • What jobs or schemes are available to graduates? What do they involve, and are they more technical or business-focused?
  • What are the requirements for the job: do they ask for a specific degree or grade?
  • What are the general competencies and skills that are asked for?
  • What specific technical skills are asked for? – Such as programming languages or experience with certain software.
  • How does the role fit into the overall business?
  • What training will you receive? How do these help your overall career ambitions>
  • What geographic location will you be working in? Are there opportunities for travel?
  • (If you’re able to find this out) what have previous graduates at the company gone on to do?
  • What does the recruitment process involve: a CV, application form, interviews, an assessment centre?
  • When is the deadline for the role you’re applying for? Who is the appropriate application contact?

About the company culture

  • What are the company’s ‘core values’ and aims?
  • How is the company’s reputation within the sector?
  • How does the company portray itself – what image does it put forward in the media and on social media?
  • Are there opportunities for socialising at the employer? Do they have sports teams, networking groups or team events?
  • How do you view the organisation – why does working for the employer appeal to you?

Where to start your research into graduate IT and technology employers

If you’ve done an internship or placement, or if you’ve visited the employer yourself, start off by referring to your own notes. What stood out about the employer, its culture, its work or the people that you met.

Similarly, use your network to find opportunities to ask current employees about their employers. You can built your network through attending networking event, careers fairs or other social events.

Don’t neglect social media as a way to network and stay on top of news. Follow technology news providers, websites, employers and professionals on Twitter (and while you’re there, follow our TARGETjobs Engineering & Technology feed. Join relevant groups on LinkedIn and join in discussions to deepen your knowledge.

The TARGETjobs employer hubs have a wealth of information on leading IT employers and how to get hired by them. While you are there, make sure to read TARGETjobs Insider Reviews to find out what recent graduates and interns really think of their employers.

One valuable source of information is on company’s own websites. Look for press releases, department overviews, projects, ‘research’ sections and information about the company’s culture and values. Many employers also have a dedicated careers site, where they provide tips and advice about how to do well in their selection processes as well as provide information about their graduate positions.

Build up a fuller picture of employers and of industry trends by reading newspapers – make sure to follow stories over a number of weeks; don’t just read the front page, take a look at the technology and business pages too. For industry insights, read technology industry publications and websites. Examples include: techrepublic.com, wired.co.uk, itpro.co.uk and computerweekly.com.

Last, but not least, your university careers service will have information on employers (including local employers with relationships with the university), and will interact regularly with recruiters and alumni. They will also arrange events such as careers fairs and employer presentations.

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