A job seeker’s guide to choosing your own top 100 companies

8 Apr 2016

Ten years ago graduate job hunting was simple. A student with good grades was likely to receive a reasonable offer after just three or four interviews and if the role didn’t match up to expectations, they would simply find another.

Today’s graduates have to work harder. According to Ryan Webb, an employability specialist with UQ’s Business, Economics and Law faculty, research is key to finding the right opportunities yet many students are limiting their options by lack of industry knowledge.

“Students often have a narrow understanding of their chosen industry and know only a few companies within it. Typically they will target just the top three or four firms – the big names their family or friends have told them are the ones to work for – even though only two per cent will succeed in getting jobs with these companies.

“I encourage job seekers to compile a list of the top 100 companies they would like to work for, then find out more about them and understand why they want to work there. This not only expands their potential pool of employers but also makes them look more closely at themselves and the type of role or workplace that is best suited to them. Ten years ago, it was okay to go into a job without knowing what you really wanted as you could get another quite easily, but these days you might not be so fortunate.”

So how do you go about compiling your top 100 list? Ryan offers the following advice:

1. Learn to use LinkedIn
If you haven’t already done so, create a LinkedIn profile and explore the features it offers. While LinkedIn will certainly help recruiters to find you, and it is a good way to expand your network, it is also useful for researching companies and building your industry knowledge.

“LinkedIn is an excellent research tool, yet in one work industry learning course in which we interviewed 235 final year students applying for industry placement opportunities, we found only a handful had a LinkedIn profile,” says Ryan.

“Students use social media all the time. I’d suggest that for every fourth time you go on to Facebook, go on to LinkedIn and do some research or read a short article – that way, you can build your knowledge quite quickly yet it doesn’t feel like work.”

2. Search for companies
There are two main ways to find companies on LinkedIn. You can search for ones you already know by typing the name into the search box, which brings up an assortment of results including employee profiles, jobs and the company’s LinkedIn page. (If you’re having trouble finding the LinkedIn page, click on ‘Companies’ instead of ‘All’ in the side bar.)

Once you are on the company’s page, look to the right of the screen where you will see suggestions for similar firms. Go on to their LinkedIn pages, find more suggestions and gradually build your list. The second way is to search by industry and location – for example IT firms in Brisbane – and again, click through to the LinkedIn company page.

The company LinkedIn page will have a link to the website where you can find out more about the company  and check out the recruitment or careers section. If the company is of interest, click ‘follow’ on the LinkedIn page to receive updates as this is likely to be the first place vacancies are posted.

3. Follow companies on Twitter
Twitter is another useful tool and again you can search for specific companies and follow them, or search for topics that people are tweeting about. There is a range of search options including ‘News’. Try searching for industries in conjunction with ‘careers’ or ‘jobs’ – for example ‘banking jobs’ - to find specific advice from business leaders in your sector.

4. Identify thought leaders
As your research gets underway, you will start to come across individuals who are spokespeople or thought leaders within your industry and whose blog posts or articles can provide useful insights. Again, you can follow them on Twitter, visit their sites or follow influencers on LinkedIn Pulse.

5. Read the trade press
Industry publications are another way to keep up to date and learn about an industry and industry  developments. While some charge a hefty subscription fee, often you can sign up to receive shorter, free email newsletters which may be adequate for your purposes.

6. Use search engines
Finally don’t forget about good old Google which is not only useful for finding companies but also stories about them in the media (set the time range to find only the most recent ones), and general industry news.

Ryan Webb adds: “Researching your industry in this way will widen your net, give you a greater understanding of companies’ expectations and help you identify areas where you need to improve your knowledge – for example, on new legislation coming into force.

“This type of knowledge proves to an interviewer that you are a serious candidate. If you can demonstrate that you are well prepared, understand the market and company’s position within it, and are aware of the strategies competitors are using, how could any employer fail to be impressed?”

For advice or help, contact the Student Employability Team careers@bel.uq.edu.au, alternatively if you are an MBA student or graduate please contact the MBA Career Resource Centre MBAcareers@business.uq.edu.au.