One of the key aspects of creating a good impression with a recruiter, an interviewer, or a network contact is your knowledge of his/her company and even the contact as an individual.
Without the knowledge provided by research, you risk looking lazy and/or clueless - not characteristics sought by any employer.
At the least, this research should enable you to provide an intelligent answer to the scary job interview question, "What do you know about us?"
Researching before you go means that you will be well prepared to understand the company's issues and atmosphere.
You will also be able to engage in a more meaningful dialogue, and demonstrate your level of interest to the interviewer.
Even with only 20 minutes of effort, you can do useful research.
The knowledge gained from research will provide a solid foundation for each networking meeting or interview, demonstrating your level of interest and allowing you more time to explore key issues.
The knowledge gained from research will also hopefully help you avoid taking a short-term job. People often grab the first job offer they receive, particularly in a tough economy. That instinct, which seems like self-preservation, may lead you to accept a job that is not a good fit for you or which may be at an employer which is not a good fit. In either case, you are either miserable in your job, or you find yourself job hunting again too soon.
Both of these advantages will more than make up for the time invested. They may, in fact, result in a shorter job search than if you just jumped into your job search, without sufficient information or direction.
Parmelee Eastman is president of EastSight Consulting which helps provide more effective utilization of external information in internal decision-making processes. EastSight Consulting clients range from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Prior to founding EastSight, Parmelee was the vice president of the global technology and communications practice at Fuld & Company and employed for 16 years at Digital Equipment Corporation. Parmelee holds a B.A. from Wellesley College and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.