Researching the Company Sector

It is crucial to understand the wider sector the company is operating within as it will give you context and insight.

Careers

Why Research the Company Sector?

Thoroughly researching the sector the company is operating within is key, whether you are currently within the sector or completely new to it:

  • What is your genuine interest in this sector?  If you are clear about this, it will reflect very well on you, and will demonstrate you are not just applying for any job but that you are genuinely committed to working in this sector for a specific reason. What are the general trends and recent developments within the sector?  What challenges or risks do they face?  It would be useful to read up on any recent news stories relating to the sector.  For example, if you were applying to a job in architecture, you could look at RIBA website, which is www.architecture.com, to see what the trends are in the profession, or even subscribe to one of the sector journals.
  • Research and learn some key issues within any sector, and as a part of that, produce a glossary of key terminology for your understanding. For example, one current issue in the legal sector involves the rapidly rising cost of professional indemnity fees which are increasing for many firms by three or four times, and in fact many firms are not able to obtain legal indemnity insurance at all.  Other issues include the high volume of law firm mergers, deregulation, and a large decrease in legal aid funding, in particular for criminal, family and professional support.
  • You may also want to investigate doing the same type of job but within a different sector.  For example, if you are just qualified as a quantity surveyor with the RICS, there are many options open to you.  You could work at a small, medium or large private practise, work as a contract quantity surveyor and be directly involved with revenue costs and managing people on site, work in house for an operator such as a pub chain which will have an in house team of quantity surveyors, or you could choose to focus on a very specialised area, like capital allowances.

Where to Find Information?

To find information on the company’s sector, there are lots of resources to look at:

  • Have a look at basic guides, such as the ‘Sector for Dummies’ books, or specific sector based magazines, blogs or forums.   For example, reference points for building and construction include ‘Building’, ‘Estates Gazette’, RICS Matrics.

Magazines

  • Contact people you know, for example friends from school and university, family, and friends of friends.  Actively manage your network to get in touch with people working within the sector for opinions and general research as to what the sector is like to work in.  However, remember that each company is different, and one person’s experience will not necessarily be the same for another.  For example, someone working in a small regional legal firm will have a very different experience to someone working in a large London practice, and even when they seem more similar from the outside, firms often vary in style, culture and ethos.
  • Many sectors have informal and formal trade bodies which will often have news sections, and may have a newsletter to which you can sign up, which will give up to date background information on the sector or profession as a whole, and networking groups and events you can join.  Often these are membership organisations, such as the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the British Psychological Society and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development for HR professionals.  An example of a trade association in the automotive sector is the Retail Motor Industry Federation.
  • It is also a good idea to check trade publications for league tables or rankings to see how the company you are researching compares, for example, the ICAEW produces a league table of the top 50 UK accountancy firms to include the number of partners, turnover, profit and rankings.
  • Try to get some work experience or a placement.  This can give you an immensely valuable insight into a sector, and allows you to try something first to validate your initial view and understanding.

What Are The Key Issues Within The Sector?

If someone is researching career opportunities in the ‘HR sector’ and wants to find out about the main current issues within the profession, they might look at the CIPD website to find issues with recruitment, training, retention and compliance.  For example, the high cost of recruitment to find high quality applicants with the right attitude and aptitude, the constantly changing legislation, and managing motivation and production of teams both virtually and across many sites, which is partly to do with managing communication effectively and creating team cohesion.  For HR, there are similar issues across sectors, within private and voluntary sectors.

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