Sunday, August 05, 2007

Finding Information About Prospective Employers

A friend and I were discussing the process of looking for work, and stressing to each other the value of doing research on prospective employers. She talked about looking at the employer's web site, for instance, to find statistics to incorporate into your cover letter ("I see that your school has very low graduation rates compared to the state average; I could help you with that by doing XYZ").

Did you know ... you can also look in the local newspaper's archive to find out information about prospective employers (if you're lucky enough to live in an area where your local paper's archives are online).

If you have a library card in western Mass., you can search the archives of the Springfield (Mass.) Republican:

1. Go to the Springfield Republican via Newsbank. Type in your library card number. Click on the logo for the "Union-News" (the paper's former name) or click on the button that says [The Republican (Springfield)]

2. Type whatever you want in the search box & click [SEARCH]. The archives go back to 1988 and just about everything from the paper is in there, including newspaper stories, book reviews, composition of the local school committee, sports stories...

The only limit to what you can find is your imagination! Look for yourself or your spouse; find out what your neighbor's house sold for; find out when that restaurant is opening in Williamsburg; check the safety of local bridges ... and so much more!

Here are some search suggestions and tips:

1. Put phrases in quotes, such as "Hampshire College" or "department of public works." Names can be tricker, because the paper's policy is to include middle initials whenever possible. To make sure you get all stories about Holyoke's "Mayor Mike", search for ("Michael J. Sullivan" or "Michael Sullivan") and mayor and holyoke. That'll get thousands of stories, most of which will mention Holyoke's mayor.

2. The default sort order of results is by date, with the most recent appearing first. This is ok if you're looking for recent news or if there isn't a lot about your topic.

You can change the sort order by clicking on the pull-down menu under the search box & selecting "Best matches first" to get the most relevant stories first (the way Google results appear).

You can also limit stories to those published in the last 12 months, in 2007, 2006, 2005, etc., or your can type in custom dates like Jan 1, 2000 - Feb 3, 2000.

3. Your results will first show the paper name (Republican or Sunday Republican), the date, and the article length, which gives you a sense of how detailed the article will be. Then you'll see the article's title -- click on that to get the full-text -- followed by the "lead" or first paragraph of the article.

To find out about your prospective employer, type in the company name in the search box. You may need to try some variations, such as MassMutual or "Massachusetts Mutual." In the case of a large employer, you might want to add a department to narrow your results, or even search for the hiring manager or person with whom you have an interview.

Successful job hunting @ your library!

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