You have a job offer in the bag for a position you want, but there’s one big hang-up: You’re not so sure about the company.
Nearly half of people looking for a new job are motivated mainly by company culture, according to recruiting company Hays. So you’re not alone in prioritizing “fit” for your next position.
Here’s how to vet your potential new employer before you sign on the dotted line.
How to vet a company before accepting a new job
Hopefully you did your homework before hitting send on your job application. But if your instincts are telling you to review a company a second time, use these five methods to find out if there’s evidence to support your gut feeling.
1. Follow up with your hiring manager
If you’ve had job interviews in the past, you know that you’re typically given a few minutes at the end to pose your own questions. Now that you’re further along in the process, reconnect with the hiring manager and ask for more time to fire away.
You might already have a handle on the department you’d be joining, so use this time to ask broader questions about the company. You could learn more about its mission and your manager’s vision for your team’s future, for example.
If you don’t believe in the company’s direction or your prospective manager’s plan for your team, that could be a red flag. But if the responses put you at ease, move on to the next step.
2. Speak with potential co-workers
A company’s careers page often will tell you about the perks it offers employees. You might even see social media links pointing to smiling faces at company outings.
To ensure there’s no trouble in paradise, arrange conversations with other employees.
Try to match some of your concerns with questions you ask your potential co-workers. Here are some examples:
- If you’re concerned about the demands of working at a startup, ask an employee about their schedule.
- If you’re concerned about how friendly your colleagues would be, ask an employee if they ever hang out with their co-workers.
- If you’re concerned about your job description ballooning to include undesirable duties, ask an employee if “stuff” is known to roll downhill.
If you don’t have specific concerns and are just fishing for potential problems, ask the employee about how their values line up with the company’s. You might discover that the company lives (or doesn’t live) up to its values by talking to someone with firsthand knowledge.
Try to arrange your meetup outside the office. If you meet someone for coffee, for example, you’re more likely to catch them in an honest, forthcoming mood. Better yet, see if it’s possible to shadow an employee as they go about their day.
3. Do some recon on LinkedIn
If you’re uncomfortable asking your hiring manager to arrange a chat with another employee, you could fire off a LinkedIn message to someone in your network.
To do this, type the company name into LinkedIn’s search bar. You’ll land on its company profile page, which will tell you how many people work there, including your connections.
If you don’t have a connection there, make one. You could send a “cold” message to someone who works in the department you’d be joining.
You also could ask a mutual connection to introduce you. Find this person by clicking on the company’s list of employees and viewing your shared connections.
Beyond expanding your network, consider using LinkedIn’s search function to track the careers of employees who previously held your potential role.
I once turned down a job at a nonprofit, for example, because I learned that three different people had held the same title in the past two years. My instincts had told me burnout was likely with this position, and my LinkedIn research confirmed the hunch.
4. Look for warning signs on employer-review websites
Talking to current and former employees you find on LinkedIn can help calm your concerns.
But you also should check out an employer-review website like Glassdoor for a more holistic view. It boasts more than interview questions to study; it also has employee-written reviews of more than 600,000 companies.
This could be especially helpful if you’re considering joining a company with a long history and many employees. Say you’re a technologist considering a gig at IBM, for example. The company has been reviewed more than 34,000 times by its many current and former workers.
Use filters to ensure you’re looking at the most recent and useful reviews. Narrow your search results to reviews about specific office locations and from people holding specific job titles. For instance, about 700 of IBM’s reviews were posted by current, full-time software engineers working out of U.S. offices.
What you learn through research on Glassdoor or LinkedIn could lead to additional questions for your hiring manager.
5. Fill in the gaps by Googling
If you’ve made it this far without digging up dirt on your potential employer, you might already feel good about joining the team.
But if you want to be sure, fill in the gaps of your research by being an expert Google searcher. You’d be amazed by what you could find by searching for the name of a company next to an ominous word like “lawsuit” or “bankruptcy.”
Another trick that could be useful is to search related:web address (one example is related:google.com) to identify your potential employer’s competitors. You might find out what they have to say about the company.
Make sure you’re accepting a job you truly want
The initial phase of your job interview process was probably focused on you and what you could bring to the company as a new hire.
Toward the end of your interview process, flip the script and see what the company can offer you before you decide to accept a position. Once you’ve vetted the company online and offline, it’s time to ask yourself if this is the right job for you.
If this is your third or fourth job out of college, you should have the experience and self-awareness to know what kind of company is best for you.
If you’re still not sure, forget for a minute that you’re a job applicant. Ask yourself what you’d think about the company if you were a customer or an objective observer — and not someone receiving a salary from it. Then you might have your answer.
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