Job Search Toolkit

Alumni - Job Search Toolkit - Market Research

Market Research

In-depth research - about your target industry, companies, roles, and your own suitability - is critical to a successful job search, particularly if you are making a switch or pivot. Such research gives you the clarity and conviction you need to yield positive results from your networking and interviewing.

  • Marketing Plans

    As you conduct your informational interviews and employer research, use your findings to build your marketing plan. A marketing plan outlines your objectives, your value proposition, and your target market. Your goal in developing a marketing plan is to ensure that there is enough opportunity in your target market and that you are a viable candidate for the positions you seek.

    The marketing plan should include:   

    • Sample roles that fit your objective.   
    • Your value proposition or positioning statement.    
    • A list of your competencies and traits relevant to the roles.   
    • A list of companies, segmented by industry or geography or both.

    Use this guide and sample to assist you:

    Guide to Developing a Marketing Plan

    Sample Marketing Plan

    If you are a Darden alum and would like a word version of these documents, please email us at [email protected]



  • Employer Research

    Developing a target list of companies the foundation of a job search. Not all jobs are posted, and ideally, you want to be on a short list of candidates before a job is posted – be proactive about employers you would want to work for rather than waiting for posted openings.

    The most obvious place to start in researching a particular company is its own website. But for broader information, or if you are trying to find companies that you may not have thought of, here are some resources. Oh and don’t forget about a good ‘ol Google search!

    American City Business Journals

    Local business & industry news from each of 41 different markets around the nation.

    Book of Lists

    Yearly compilation of local business rankings produced by regional business journals.

    Chamber of Commerce

    Directory of local and regional Chambers.


    Up-to-date company earnings calls.

    Forbes Lists

    Ranking lists, i.e. "America's Best 100 Small Companies”.

    Fortune Rankings

    More rankings, i.e. "100 Fastest Growing".

    Research jobs, salaries, company reviews, and interview questions for thousands of companies.

    Going Global

    Country and city-specific career and employment information.


    Database of nonprofit organizations.

    Inc. 500

    Searchable database of the fastest growing private companies.


    A personal workspace and CRM to help job seekers organize and manage all elements of job search. Provides access to a proprietary database of 8,000+ target companies as well as 30+ job boards.

    Net Impact

    Career guidance for those interested in transformational social and environmental change.

    PE Hub

    News and information in private capital.


    A web-based hiring marketplace for graduate business candidates and the companies that hire them. Streamlines the process of company research, networking with recruiters, and managing employer relationships.

    UVA Library

    UVA alumni have access to five online research tools from EBSCO.


    Employer profiles, industry blogs, plus over 120 print and digital career guidebooks.

  • Informational Interviews

    So, you’ve figured out what you want to do - now it is time to test your hypothesis. How certain are you about what you want to do – do you still have questions? What are the various roles you could pursue and who are the players (companies)? What skills are required for these roles? Are you a viable candidate or are there skill gaps to fill? If you’ve identified some target companies already, how well do you know their inner workings? A great way to answer these types of questions is by conducting informational interviews.

    Informational interviews should not be confused with networking. Networking comes later, when you have answered all of these questions and have adapted your marketing materials and story accordingly. At this point you are seeking answers, not selling yourself. Therefore, consider seeking “safe” connections for informational interviews. Think of people that have the knowledge you seek but that wouldn’t necessarily be critical to opening doors. For example, perhaps they work in a city you aren’t targeting, or perhaps they are former employees of a company you’re interested in.   

    • Decide on a time and place that is convenient to the person you are interviewing.   
    • Meet in person if possible.   
    • Be prepared to drive the conversation and questions.   
    • End the conversation within 30 minutes unless s/he offers more time.   
    • Always send a thoughtful, sincere thank you. Email is okay.

    Click here for a sample of questions you might use in an informational interview.

  • Compensation Research

    A critical part of your research is understanding the market compensation for your target role(s). Not only do you need to know that your target role(s) meet your compensation expectations, but you also need to be prepared to disclose your compensation expectations very early in the job search process.

    Web Sites:




    Salary Expert



    Executive search firms and recruiters can give insight to industry and market trends in compensation. Consult the Executive Search section to understand better how to engage with search professionals.

    Relocating can have a big impact on compensation needs and cost of living. Some good sites for exploring geographic pay/cost differentials are:

    • Money Magazine COLA calculator – site that calculates the cost of living adjustment (COLA) and how far your salary will go in different major cities.
    • Homefair – a comprehensive site including salary calculator, cost of living, mortgage calculator, moving costs estimator, and side-by-side comparisons of cities and schools.

    Your network can also be a great resource for compensation information. Former managers or colleagues can be great sounding boards for compensation. Of course you can’t ask people what they make, but you can get their feedback on ranges that you are considering.