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Skills at Library Essentials

Guides to search skills and using library research resources

Finding company information

Why research future employers?

In this guide there are loads of tips for improving your search skills when doing your university work, but you don't need to stop there! This page will show you how you can use these skills to research potential future employers before applying for a job.

This research could be useful for finding out about the history, finances and policies of a company, so you can decide who you might like to work for. Doing your homework could also prove useful should you get an interview with them. 

What type of company are you applying to?

Some companies (usually quite big ones) are "publicly quoted companies" (often called "listed companies"). This means that you, as a member of the public, can buy shares in the company - the shares are "listed" on a stock exchange. Often, for UK listed companies, that means the shares are on sale at the London Stock Exchange.

Usually, in the UK, if a company is listed, it will have PLC at the end of its full company name.

Listed companies, because they are offering shares to the general public, have to reveal a lot of financial and other information to the general public. And so, if your company is a listed company, you will be able to find out a great deal about it.

Unlisted companies, don't sell their shares to the general public, and so don't have to reveal as much information as listed companies. Therefore it's sometimes harder to find out a lot about unlisted companies.

In the UK, unlisted companies usually have the word, Limited, at the end of their name.

You might also be applying to a third type of business, a partnership.

Often accountancy and law firms are partnerships. Most bigger partnerships (especially ones with LLP at the end of their name) will reveal a lot of information to the general public.

Finding company and industry information

What is Orbis?

Orbis is a database with global, regional and domestic company information. This includes financials, corporate structures and other business intelligence. Orbis has information on around 300 million companies across the globe. Use Orbis to find, analyse and compare companies.

You can access Orbis by searching for it on the Library Search, and logging in using your University of Essex email and password.

Finding company information in Orbis

Once you have logged in to Orbis, you can search for a company by name. A list of companies with similar names might appear, in which case you can select the one you want from the list. 

What an Orbis company report can tell you

When you open up the report, you will get a front page with key information including:

  • Full name and location
  • Whether the company is private or public (listed/unlisted)
  • Address, website and contact information
  • Financial information such as turnover and net income
  • Ownership information
  • Financial profile
  • Management details
  • News stories related to the company

Hopefully this key information should cover most of what you might need, but if you want to delve deeper there is lots more to find. Take a look at the table of contents on the left hand side of the page for more:

Orbis Report chapter menu



Listed companies have to reveal a large amount of financial information. One way they do this is through publishing Annual Reports.

You should be able to read a listed company's most recent annual report on its website, but sometimes it can be a little tricky to find (as a tip, look for the term "Investor Relations" on the website - you normally have to go there to find an Annual Report).

If you can't find the Annual Report on the company website, try PI Filings Expert.

Accessing PI Filings Expert

You can access Filings Expert by searching for it on the Library Search. Just log in using your University of Essex email and password.

Finding Annual Reports using PI Filings Expert

The easiest way to find an Annual Report is to used the Advanced search option. 

Once you're in advanced search you can type in the name of the company you want to find (you may have to select it from a list). Then from the menu to the left of the screen select 'Financial Reports'. You should then see an Annual Reports option. 

PI Filings Expert search for Tesco PLC Annual reports

Almost all types of business have a trade association or governing body associated with that type of business. 

Trade Association Forum

You can search the Trade Association Forum in order to find details of the appropriate trade association. Then, once you have found the appropriate trade association you should read its website to see general issues in the line of business that your prospective employer is in.

If you want to find out more about sources available through the Library for researching companies and industries, take a look at the Business and Management Subject Guide

There are links to and information about lots of different sources you may want to use.