The Ultimate Guide to Researching a Pharmacy Company Before You Apply
This article originally appeared on The Happy PharmD
Most of us don’t embark on a new job expecting to someday leave it, but we probably should.
After all, the era of working at one company for 30 years has ended. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2016 that the median number of years a worker stays in one position is 4.2 years.
So even if the job you’re currently in is just as perfect as they told you it would be, you’ll eventually seek to transition to something else. If, on the other hand, your current job is nothing like you expected, the time to transition may be now.
Either way, transition is inevitable, but it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Before you fill out a single application, you should learn everything you can about the new company.
We research vacations. We research new cars. Doesn’t it make sense to learn all you can before diving into a new job?
1. Begin with the Internet
There are ridiculous amounts of information about prospective companies available on the web.
a. Start with Google, of course.
Search for the company by name. Click on the news tab under the search bar to see relevant news articles about the company you’re considering. Make sure to scroll beyond the first page of results to get to the relevant information you’re seeking.
Watch for legal proceedings the company might have been involved in, and make a mental note if you see a large number of them. Be sure to determine what the outcome was in each case, if possible. Mistakes happen in pharmacy, but if you see a trend, consider whether you’re willing to risk getting wrapped up in future legal proceedings.
b. Read company blogs.
The company’s own website is the best place to discover new projects, initiatives and what they value. Read the company’s blog posts or About page to find out what distinguishes it from its competitors. These facts turn into engaging questions during the interview.
Let’s say that you read on the blog about their recent health fair event. You could ask questions about the outcome of the event, what kind of outcome they hoped for and what they achieved.
c. Determine the company’s financial health.
The company’s annual report is a wealth of information about its financial health, including whether revenues are stable, growing, or struggling. Additionally, the Investor Relations tab on the company’s webpage may offer insight into the company’s future direction.
SEC filings can also provide information about the company’s financial health as well as any history related to bankruptcy.
For startups and other companies that don’t report to the SEC, Crunchbase may provide relevant financial information.
d. Stalk your future boss and coworkers.
Check your future colleague’s Facebook pages. This may seem stalker-like, but trust me that they are doing the same due-diligence work on you.
Here’s a great example of how this tip could have saved someone a LOT of trouble.
One of my favorite TV shows is The Profit. This multi-millionaire Marcus Lemonis travels everywhere to find businesses run by great people but are struggling in business. Well in a recent episode, Marcus found a great business but an untrustworthy owner.
Essentially, one of the owners was a radio jockey on the side who purported racist and sexist comments during his radio show. Marcus found this during the episode and immediately called off the episode stating (I’m paraphrasing from memory), “I can help businesses change, but I can’t change a racist.”
If Marcus’ team did their due diligence and reviewed this co-owner’s Facebook, they would have avoided the time wasted. I found the co-owner easily and saw a few questionable Facebook posts.
Find your colleagues on LinkedIn, too, since LinkedIn is designed for professional posts rather than personal ones.
Watch their social media to see how they interact with other people. If you are an avid Hillary Rodham Clinton supporter and your future boss is a huge Donald Trump supporter, consider whether that’s a relationship you can handle.
Don’t think of it as judging the person, but rather judging how you’ll interact with that person. Your future coworkers will play a huge role in your stress or job satisfaction, so it’s worth researching what makes them tick.
On a side note, you can also check out the profiles of the people who will interview you. If your LinkedIn settings allow the interviewer to see that you have researched her, it may demonstrate that you are doing your due diligence.
e. Watch the company’s community interaction.
Odds are good that if you apply for a job, your prospective employer will review your LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook presence to see what you’re about.
You should do the same. Check out the kinds of stories the company shares with its community. Determine whether the tone is casual or professional. Make mental note of positive examples you could mention if you land an interview.
Personally, I love Wendy’s social media presence, although I’ll never work for them.
f. Go straight to the source.
Glassdoor.com bills itself as a source of “employee-generated content.” The information at Glassdoor is provided by those on the inside of the company and includes information about benefits, culture, and salary, as well as reviews from previous and current employees.
Although you’ll have to weigh the individual reviews, the information should provide general information about the company’s culture.
g. Research the competition.
Understanding the competition, and the industry as a whole, will prepare you to answer questions during the interview. Begin by searching for the company on LinkedIn, and then look to the right side of the page for the list of companies “People also viewed” when searching for this one.
h. Ask around at Reddit.
There are more than 23,000 subscribers to the subreddit dedicated to Pharmacy, and you can likely find people who have a history with this company as well as general information about the company.
2. Activate your Network
Your network is your top career asset. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your network when researching a company.
On LinkedIn, many of the people you don’t physically know will show up as 2nd connections. That means that you are separated by one degree: you have a mutual connection between you. Thatmeans that one of your 1st connections could introduce you to your 2nd connection.
I am reminded at pharmacy conferences that ours is a small industry. On LinkedIn, it’s even smaller. Your existing LinkedIn network can connect you to your 2nd and 3rd connections and can likely connect you with people affiliated with the company.
The ability to use LinkedIn effectively will supercharge your networking efforts. Spend time growing your network, focusing specifically on people who work for the company you’re interested in. Meet them in pharmacy groups, associations, or even in groups they participate in outside of pharmacy.
The first step is to upload your online address book (from your email account) to LinkedIn to expand your network of people you know and trust.
So what do you actually say to your connections when you’re researching a company?
a. To your first-degree network:
If you haven’t spoken in a long time to a first-degree contact, don’t demand anything. You’d be shocked to find out how often people make demands of each other in the online space. Making demands of someone who owes you nothing sends the wrong message. You could be ignored if you even ask a simple question.
Don’t create a big ask or send tons of questions. You don’t have permission to ask questions of someone you haven’t even started a conversation with. Ask permission first, and don’t assume they have the time or the willingness to be involved.
Offer something in exchange for their time. Consider this: “I’m thinking of applying for this position, and I’d love to ask you a few questions about it. Could I buy you a coffee? If you’re too busy, then no worries!” Coffee is inexpensive, legal, and it gets people talking.
Provide a way out as part of your request. People are busy, and you should acknowledge that. Create a way for them to say no without feeling guilty. Try saying something like, “I’d love to ask you a few questions, but I completely understand if now isn’t a good time.” Even if they can’t help now, they may be able to help someday. You’ll leave a good impression and they’ll want to help you later on.
Your first-degree contact is really about permission. Asking permission is one of the easiest ways to get all your answers. Beyond that, you can move it into an offline setting which is much more effective for building relationships. Email is not an effective way to build relationships.
If you request to connect with someone on LinkedIn, introduce yourself and explain why you’re interested in connecting. Requesting to connect without an introduction is the equivalent of handing your business card to someone at a party and walking away with no explanation at all.
Springing for coffee or dinner is an invaluable way to spend your time and money, and you’re likely to get the information you’re looking for.
b. To those outside your first-degree network:
Begin by asking your existing network if they know anyone who works for the company you’re seeking information about. Most likely someone will, and he can provide an email introduction, which is a great way for someone to speak to your character and qualifications.
Being referable is vital to your career. Our course Career Jumpstart has an entire lesson on how to increase your referability in the job market.
Try cold-calling. It’s not an ideal scenario, but there are ways to do it effectively if it’s the only option.
Send a message explaining your intent and your hope. “I’m considering applying to your company but I have questions I’m seeking clarification about.”
Send a video message explaining your intentions. No, I’m not kidding. One of my clients told me that she was scared to send a video message, but she discovered it wasn’t as bad as she thought. “I started getting interview requests from managers because I sent them this silly little video introducing myself,” she told me. Video messages establish a rapport that isn’t possible in email.
Videos create connections and humanize the sender. Is it unorthodox? Of course, but 99 percent of people won’t do it. Are you willing to do what the others won’t?
Realize, too, that visual information is processed 60,000 times faster than text, which leads to a higher retention rate. Video messages are rarely ignored, even by Amazon execs or university deans. Try introducing yourself, and then explaining that you hope to connect if the recipient has time. This is how I do it:
3. Make the Call
This one requires some fortitude but the connection is worth it. Find the company’s phone number on the website and call.
a. Start with the receptionist.
The receptionist is a “window into the soul of the company.” Start by introducing yourself and explaining that you’re interested in applying for a job with the company. Ask preliminary questions about the workplace.
What do you like most about working here?
How would you describe the work environment?
What personality styles thrive in this environment?
How important is teamwork in the company?
b. Aim to speak to a manager.
The goal is to discover aspects of the position that the job description doesn’t provide. Again, introduce yourself and explain that you’re interested in a position with the company.
What are the daily responsibilities of the position?
What does a day on the job look like?
Do employees have the freedom to suggest improvements?
What’s the most recent improvement you have implemented in your processes?
Pharmacists frequently suffer burnout at the hands of managers who refuse to consider changes or improvements in the workplace. Understanding the company’s view of change is a vital peek into its mindset.
4. Visit the company.
Did I lose you here? Feel like a bridge too far?
Visiting the company is a great way to make a first impression. One of the speakers at our The Happy PharmD Summit landed an interview by simply visiting the company. He successfully transitioned out of retail pharmacy into another because he was willing to show up.
He made an impression on the people he met. He didn’t interact with hiring managers or see the inside of the pharmacy. He simply met the receptionist, but that was enough. The goal was to score an interview, which he did.
It was likely the worst interview I ever delivered, but the impression I made on the first visit was enough to get me my first pharmacy job.
You’re demonstrating a willingness to do what 99 percent of people aren’t willing to do by visiting in person.
5. Register for a conference.
Conferences provide a spectacular opportunity for networking, connecting, and building relationships, but few people understand how to leverage the opportunity.
Determine who the sponsor is and visit the exhibit. Introduce yourself to the representatives there and find out what they do. Listen long enough to determine whether it’s of interest to you. There may be less obvious roles in the company that would be a good fit.
Ask people at the conference if they have experience with the company you’re considering.
Make a good impression on everyone you meet. They may not know of a job directly, but they may know someone who does.
6. Sit tight.
The “grass-is-greener” syndrome is a powerful motivator. When you’re unhappy at work, it’s tempting to move quickly in an attempt to escape the pharmacy job you hate.
The reality is that moving too quickly can move you from bad to just-as-bad. Furthermore, if you do it too many times, it can paint you as a job-hopper, which companies typically try to avoid.
Invest the time to research new companies before investing too fully in the hiring process. The ideas presented here are largely free, except for the cup of coffee.
Use every tool at your disposal to determine whether the new company is a good fit for you. Make use of your hard-fought network and your valuable time to make sure you know what you’re getting into.
Be willing to do what the other 99% will not.
Alex Barker, PharmD, is a pharmacist by day, a pharmacist career coach by early morning, and family man at night. He’s helped over 100 pharmacists find new jobs and start new businesses. He's a fan of freedom and minimalism. He paid off his house 27 years early and became 100% debt free 5 years after graduation. He pursues self-experimentation like a 30-day rejection challenge and reading one book every day, but also loves Japanese anime, coffee, and all things Star Wars.