Researching employers

Graduate employers regularly complain that students do too little research for their job applications. All recruiters expect evidence of your knowledge in both written and online applications and at interview – you’re unlikely to get a job without it.

When writing your dissertation you may also need to research a particular industry sector and/or specific company. In this situation try to see it as an opportunity to network and build contacts for the future as well as an academic exercise. Linking the content of your dissertation to the 'real world' will provide you with an example of applied research which future employers may well be interested in. Contacting relevant employers with your ideas may even result in a period of work experience or project work if your research is relevant to their business.

If you are applying to large companies and well known ‘names’, you can normally start by looking at their recruitment website, but you need to do more to be successful. With smaller organisations, you have to be more resourceful to track down relevant information.

This page will show you what employers expect and how to find useful information.

Understand the job

  • What are the typical duties?
  • What training and career development is available?
  • What’s the work environment like?
  • Is the job affected by national or global trends?

Understand the organisation

  • What does this organisation do?
  • Has it been in the news recently? Why?
  • Who are its clients, customers or competitors?
  • What are its major strengths and challenges?

Understand the ‘big picture’

  • What are the issues and trends in this profession or industry?
  • What impact will economic and technological changes have?
  • What skills are likely to be needed now and in the future?
  • How will your job impact on the company's performance?
  • How does your role fit into the organisation?

Information sources

Try these sources to understand what’s involved in a particular job:

  • Look at the selection of career options on the Placement and Careers Centre (PCC) website
  • Prospects – click on 'jobs and work experience' and then ‘find types of jobs’
  • Employers’ websites or those of organisations with similar jobs, some have more detail than others
  • Reference folders in PCC with information and press cuttings on over 100 different types of jobs
  • Books and DVDs on job hunting techniques and on various occupations, available to look at in the PCC
  • Talk to Careers Consultants, academic staff and your other network of contacts
  • Look at employer insights for independent reviews on top graduate employers

Information on employers and the bigger picture

  • Glassdoor Database of company reviews, salary reports, interview reviews and questions - from an employee perspective. The site also advertises jobs
  • Prospectsfor sector information. Go to ‘industry insights’ for information on around 30 job sectors
  • Professional bodies and associations. Some produce careers literature and others provide information about member organisations or industry trends. Some associations also offer student membership with the chance to meet established professionals
  • Employers themselves for recruitment brochures, annual reports, publicity material and in-house magazines


  • Graduate recruitment directories such as Prospects, TARGETjobs and Inside Careers. Some cover a specific industry (eg Target publications for IT, finance and engineering) and others are more general. Most have job adverts and editorial features. Free copies in the PCC or look at the related websites; you will find the links to these in our career options section
  • Directories on the web, many of which are available with free search facilities. A popular one is Kompass but a Google search will list many others
  • Print business directories such as Kompass and Kelly's are available in the Quick Reference collection on the ground floor of the Library, near the Help Desk. For more information refer to the 'Finding Company Information guide', available on the Library website, or contact the Business Librarian, Alice Cann at


Databases contain information on companies and industries and enable searches by date and keywords. These include market research reports and company profiles in Business Source Premier, GMID, and Mintel. Financial information is available in raw data databases, such as Fame and Thompson One Banker. Some other databases you may wish to look at include:

  • LexisNexis Business; Professional and Executive – database providing worldwide business news articles from a range of trade journals and newsletters
  • Emerald – academic journals
  • ABI – trade journal
  • Northcote databases contain annual reports from UK companies
  • Hemscott pulls together information on quoted UK companies, including share price graphs and company news
  • You can access the databases above from the Business and Management subject pages of the Library website which also include Business Source, Premier, FAME and Datastream

Useful people and places

The PCC:

  • Have lots of relevant information and we can help you track down the best sources elsewhere
  • Regularly visit recruiting organisations to gain up to date knowledge of graduate jobs and recruitment processes
  • You can meet employers on campus at our range of events
  • Our information on finding local employment is also useful

Other useful resources include: 

  • Brunel University London Library has business directories, specialist employer directories, trade publications and other useful information
  • British Library Business & IP Centre 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB Tel: 0870 444 1500
  • City Business Library via the City of London website. The City Business Library is a leading business information resource - click on 'services', 'leisure and culture', 'libraries', 'City of London libraries' 1 Brewers Hall Garden, London Wall, London EC2V 5BX Tel: 020 7332 1812
  • Public reference libraries eg Central Library, High Street, Uxbridge Tel 01895 250600 for local company information
  • Sector Skills Councils produce useful labour market and other research on their industry. Click on the contact directory link in 'Find your sector skills council'
  • For local information to the area where you live, look at your local council website – for Uxbridge area this is Hillingdon

Page last updated: Monday 22 September 2014