It’s been a while since my last entry on One Day, One Job, but I thought that it was worth revisiting a topic that I wrote about back in February – Using the Internet to Become the Candidate of Choice. Executive bios and news releases are great research tools, but the Investor Relations pages on the websites of publicly traded companies provide a wealth of information about how a company is doing and what direction they are planning to take over the next year. Admittedly, the information found in investor relations is not as easy to digest as what you might see on a Recent News page, but clever deductions from Investor Relations information can pay dividends in an interview, pun intended.
Unless you are a financial genius I suggest that you skip reports that are heavily numbers-based, such as SEC filings. Without commentary it is very difficult to determine how to interpret financial statements. Financial statements can often be misleading due to the way they are prepared and can give an incorrect picture of the company’s financial position.
After you’ve steered clear of a sticky accounting situation, I would suggest that you dig into the most recent annual reports that are available. Annual reports provide a great summary of what the company has been up to, what has worked well, what hasn’t worked, and what their strategies will be going forward. The best part is that annual reports are written in layman’s terms so they are easy to read and understand. Because annual reports spotlight historic performance and future goals, it is important to read reports from at least two consecutive years. This will give you an idea of what has been achieved in one year’s time and an indication of any ongoing strengths and weaknesses.
One company that has a great Investor Relations page and has previously been featured on One Day, One Job is LeapFrog. A cursory glance over LeapFrog’s two most recent annual reports provides some great topics of conversation that could score you some crucial points in a cover letter or an interview. 2006 wasn’t a great year for LeapFrog and in the 2006 Annual Report the company introduced a strategy called “Fix…Reload…Grow.” While 2006 served as the Fix year, the Annual Report outline specific strategic goals for the Reload year ahead, such as web-connecting their products and implementing a metrics driven corporate culture.
Fast forward to Annual Report 2007. LeapFrog made some significant strides throughout 2007, and in 2008 they will release the web-interactive Tag Reading System. This is their first new platform since the release of the LeapPad was introduced in 1999, and it meets the web-connection goal that they put forth in 2006. Mentioning this new product in contacts with the company would illustrate a level of research that goes beyond skimming the homepage 15 minutes before you leave for your interview. You’ll also show that you have real interest in the company’s core business – most candidates probably won’t even know what the core business is. On a different note, there is no mention of the metrics system that was being heavily pushed in the 2006 report. What happened to this system? Did it fall by the wayside as things in the product development department started looking up? A topic like this is a great segue from a discussion about corporate strategy to a discussion about corporate culture… and hopefully your benefits package.
Pulling together the few points described above took me about 30 minutes in total, but I can guarantee that is a 30 minute period that most applicants will not devote to their company research. If you are confident in your own ideas, you might even venture to add your own opinion on the direction the company is taking. A simple original strategy, delivered in a modest way (remember the person you are talking to is part of the company you are proposing to fix), shows creativity and drive and can impress a potential employer. Once you receive that offer letter you will certainly be glad that you went beyond the “About Us” section. Just remember, the candidate of choice doesn’t get a job offer, they deserve it.
Photo Credit: Flickr user Bert van Dijk
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