Your job is an important part of your life. You want to choose the company you work for carefully. It’s hard to be happy in a place that doesn’t provide the work environment you want or share values that are important to you. The difference between a start-up and an established firm, or a non-profit and a Wall Street firm, can be the difference between success and failure for you and your career.
You need to know how to research a company to make an informed decision about whether you can be happy and successful there. There is no single right answer — it’s personal to each job seeker. The key is twofold: know yourself and research, research, research. That’s how you end up at a company that matches you and your preferences.
Research Company Websites
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. That’s just them saying good things about themselves. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good source of information. Remember, their best may still not be what you’re looking for. They may have a stellar record on DE&I issues, but if you don’t want to work for a start-up, those factors won’t matter. Likewise, if you want to be a lawyer, the expectation that you’ll be working late nights is not going to surprise or deter you. That’s ok. The point is a company’s website is one way they demonstrate who they are, their culture and values, and what it’s like to work there. Often enough what they promote is enough for you to make a decision about whether you want to work there or not.
Research External Rankings and Evaluations
Glassdoor and searching for Best Places to Work lists are other options. You will gain a different perspective. The information won’t be entirely unvarnished truth but something more than complete corporate propaganda. Best Place to Work lists are usually self-nominating, but the forms also require statistics and hard numbers in addition to more subjective information. This means you can compare different companies more easily, as well as judge them on some facts.
Sites that provide company reviews give you an inside perspective but consider this: People are more motivated to leave negative reviews than positive ones. You are most likely seeing an incomplete picture. Hearing from both happy and disgruntled people can give you information, but the middle perspective may be more useful. The company is likely not as horrible a place as the bad reviews says, nor as rosy as the five-star remarks. Look for patterns in the comments to help assess whether the whole is good or bad. This will help you decipher if it’s a one-off situation or a true representative of the culture and company.
Connect with People Who Know the Company
I don’t just mean people who work there, although that is certainly the first category. If you know someone at the company you are interested in, talk to them. If you don’t know anyone personally, use your network to find someone who does. Talking to an individual who works there is going to give you a valuable insider perspective of what the company is like.
You can also gain information from professional sources. Look at what trade organizations and media have to say. Check with the Better Business Bureau or local Chamber of Commerce. You can find out all kinds of things — whether they have had legal or labor problems, their local and national reputation, what kinds of issues they support or fight against, and more.
Talk to Recruiters
Recruiters can help you make the right connections. We have often worked with companies for many years, and we debrief with our consultants about their experiences, giving us valuable insight we can share. Understanding the culture of our clients and the nuances of the job and the type of people who succeed there is our job. We can’t successfully recruit for a company without knowing the ins and outs of the business. This is knowledge that can help you. Recruiters want to match job seekers with companies where they can succeed.
Looking for a job is time-consuming, and you don’t want to waste time applying to places you won’t be happy working at. The first step to making smart choices is to gather information, as much as you can. Narrowing the options can help you target your efforts and spend your time working to get hired where you will thrive, not just get by. Don’t overlook the opportunity to gain information that can help you make a wiser choice.