University of South Carolina :: Darla Moore School of Business   the Competitive Edge

with Sean Campbell

Overview/What You Will Learn

Think of all the cover letters your target company receives and how important it is to make your letter stand out.  Consider, too, the competition you face when interviewing and how critical it is to be a well-informed candidate. Sean Campbell, market research expert and author of the e-book Going Beyond Google: Gathering Internet Intelligence, shows you where and how to find substantive information online to incorporate into your cover letter and your interview discussions, and which powerful websites to mine for information otherwise inaccessible to company or industry outsiders. 

Key Points

  • Distinguish your cover letter from your competitors’ letters by weaving in insightful background information about the company you’re targeting.
  • Several websites offer research and data that are easily accessible and free of charge.
    • Slideshare includes Powerpoint presentations (the “language of businesses”) that companies have used at industry conferences, analyst meetings, etc.  The site contains a wealth of data and information about products and services, business trends and subsidiary businesses your target company deals in.
  • Google search within Slideshare leads you to company data and presentations ordinarily inaccessible.   Using Oracle as an example, Sean demonstrates how to tap into research you wouldn’t find just by searching Google alone separate from Slideshare.
  • LinkedIn’s Company page aggregates insightful statistics about employees, their job functions, years of experience, locations, etc.  This arms you with a sense of what type of candidate your target company might hire or need.
  • Google News tracks news items and data related to a company’s products and services or how it’s performing according to analysts, experts or customers.  You can personalize your request for news by category or specific company and compile the information to use when you need it – like when you’re called in for an interview.
  • Other powerful resources include:
    • Google Reader, used with Google News, which fuses news about a company with information from blogs and independent sites that offer third-party perspectives on your target company.
  • shows a company’s business trajectory over time based on visitor traffic on its website.  Gives a sense, for example, of a company’s popularity with customers at given times.
  • Google Finance finds information about competitor companies, helping you compare your target company to the competition.  Use this information to express why you’d want to work for your target company over one of its competitors.
  • compiles data related to your target company’s history over time, how it has performed or positioned itself, etc.  Draw on this research for interesting discussion points in your interview or for insightful approaches in your cover letter.

Your Next Steps / Tips for Targeting Your Research for Cover Letters and Interviews

  • Select a few target companies.
  • Log onto and glean all the information you can.   Explore further using Google within Slideshare (within the search box on Slideshare, type in ‘’ followed by a space and then a company name – e.g., ‘ oracle’) to uncover even richer background material.
  • Go on LinkedIn and click on the ‘Companies’ option at the top of the menu bar.  Search this site for data about your target company, its employees and their experience, work locations, etc.
  • Access Type in your target company name.  Set up your own “personalized dashboard” by going to the ‘Personalize Google News’ menu on the right side of the page.
  • Explore Google Reader,, Google Finance and to access the array of substantive information that will enrich your cover letters and interview discussions.

Expert BIO
with Sean Campbell

Sean Campbell founded his competitive intelligence work on many years of working with bleeding-edge hardware and software technologies long before they became mainstream. Sean has written several books for tech giants such as Intel and Microsoft and co-wrote Going Beyond Google: Gathering Internet Intelligence, listed as a must-read for 2009–2010 by the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals society (SCIP). As a recognized thought leader in the competitive intelligence space, Sean regularly speaks at national events on competitive intelligence and industry analysis. He received the Catalyst Award from SCIP and co-chaired the Oregon SCIP chapter. Additionally, Sean is a contributing assistant professor at Willamette University’s Atkinson Graduate School of Management, where he teaches industry analysis and competitive intelligence.  Learn about Cascade Insights at