How to do your research for a covering letter or personal statement

Employers want to be sure that not only do you have the relevant skills for a particular job but you also understand what the organisation does, how this role fits in and what it involves.  They want people who are making informed decisions and have a genuine passion for the job.

You may always have wanted to work for Virgin, KPMG, Rolls Royce etc. But now it’s time to put that onto paper and it’s not that easy!

Lets break it down:

In any cover letter & most personal statements you need to cover 3 things:

  1. Why you are applying to this company? – What makes them stand out from other similar companies?
  2. Why you are applying for this role? – Your motivation for applying, show your understanding of the role.
  3. The skills and experience you have that match the job description.( see next blog post)

1 So why do you want to work for us?

It’s often a question that’s asked at interview so do your research at the applications stage and you are saving time.

Often it’s a gut feeling, I’d love to work there, or I love their products or they are highly successful. But what do you REALLY know about the business and the way they work?

Here are some ideas for things you can investigate.

  • What makes this company different? What are their unique selling points – what differentiates them from their competitors? E.g. Tesco vs Sainsbury’s or HSBC vs Barclays. Why would YOU chose one over the other, how would you decide?
  • What products and services do they offer, and what do their competitors do? What are the differences and why is that important?
  • Who are their clients? Perhaps they work with a particular sector, demographic or country, why does that appeal to you?
  • Where are they based and where do they do business? Find out about company size, location and business catchment area.
  • What are their values & ethos, do they fit with yours?

You can usually find all this information on their website. BUT look at the website as if you were a prospective client or wanted to purchase something from them.

If the organisation has a public presence like a shop, hotel, leisure facility or bank visit some of their branches to get a real feel for what they do. Be a mystery shopper for your career!

If the organisation makes a product that is sold in supermarkets or stores, go and look at the products, who are they competing with, what’s the branding like, who buys it?

Do they advertise? Check magazines, TV adverts and billboards who are they aiming their marketing at?

2 Why are you interested in this job?

This one is all about the actual role. Now some graduate schemes cover a number of roles so  it’s helpful to investigate them all and have an initial opinion of where you think you fit.

Have you REALLY considered what working in this job is like?

  • Read the job description – what do they say the role is all about. What are the tasks, what will you be working on, in a team or on your own etc?
  • Read between the lines – what do you think it would be like in this organisation why might it be different to other companies? You might get some hints about this from the recruitment website, graduate profiles, talking to them at events.
  • Read up about what typically this job is all about. Prospects profiles & our Which Career? pages will help.

Don’t forget if a contact is listed on the job advert and you have questions give them a ring! Most people don’t bother, so taking the initiative could be the difference between your application and everyone else’s.

Check out our cover letter, application form & CV guides

If you need help with your application – book an applications advice appointment

See also:

All Applications and interviews Graduate Undergraduate Undergraduate-highlighted

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