Jobs and Careers Pt 1 : 9 useful tips to assess your prospective employer or company

July 12th, 2013 By: Ash

One of the biggest challenges in one’s career is finding an employer that’s aligned to their beliefs.

If you’re someone who wants to have work life balance then finding an organisation that actually walks the talk is not going to be easy in today’s world.

Before deciding on whether or not you want to apply for a particular job, it’s well worth investing some time on:

  1. Getting a better understanding of your own strengths and aptitudes. Richard Bolles book titled What Colour is Your Parachute is a good resource. He tends to release a new version each year. 
  2. Deciding on whether the cultural background of the organisation in question is a good fit for you.

For more tips around jobs an careers check out the next two posts in this series :

A great job in an organisation that is culturally not aligned with your values is going to be a miserable experience regardless of how fantastic the actual job description appears to be.

Here are some ways to find out whether or not an organisation is a good fit for you.

1) Get a low down on the CEO

In most cases the CEO of an organisation influences the company’s culture to a very significant extent. Especially when it comes to middle management roles and above.

A CEO with a background in corporate turnarounds has most likely been brought into the organisation to whip it into shape and this means your job is going to involve long hours as a minimum requirement.

The organisational culture is most likely going to be very top down where orders descend from the (corporate) heavens and minions do the bidding.

2) Talk to your networks about the organisation

Your contacts don’t necessarily have to be current or past employees though that would be ideal.

They could be suppliers to the organisation or buyers of the organisations products. They’d still have some insight into how the organisation operates. Often better insight than someone who’s working inside it.

3) Get a feel for the organisation’s stance on work life balance

 

Several organisations talk about work life balance with great enthusiasm but fail to match their practice of it with the same vigour. Talk to your networks to find out what the organisation’s actual stance is on work life balance.

Ask probing questions about their work life balance in the interview. Don’t be shy to drill the interviewer on recent real life examples. A good interview is one where questions go in both directions.

4) Get to know about the sub culture in the team that you will be working in

 

This is a lot harder to do than learning about the organisations culture but the dividends match the elusiveness of this information.

After all a very high percentage of job satisfaction comes from the interpersonal relationships in the team around you (as opposed to the job description).

If you can get this right a lot of other factors can be taken more easily in your stride.

5) Research the attrition rate in your organisation and the team

 

This is always a really good clue. Unfortunately this information is also usually pretty hard to get.

To my mind the easiest way to do this is go contact someone from within the team and get their feedback on what they estimate the attrition rate to be and why.

A company or a team with high employee turnover is clearly a red flag and warrants a lot more research before even considering a role in the organisation.

6) Look up your future manager’s profile on LinkedIin

 

Getting a perspective on your hiring manager’s career path is critical in understanding her better.

It can give you valuable insight into her management style. e.g. a manager with a background in investment banking is more likely to be quantitatively driven as compared to a manager with a background in the non profit sector.

7) Check out the company’s profile on the web by researching employer review sites such as glassdoor.com

 

Glassdoor.com is a good resource to give you an insight into your prospective employer. The employee generated content can be quite informative and gives you a reasonably good picture of what it’s like to work in the company.

While the site isn’t completely exhaustive in it’s information it’s certainly a good starting point.

I wouldn’t rely on the site completely to make a decision though

8) Go to the official corporate website and scan the annual report for key metrics

Look for trends in key financial metrics such as revenue and profit figures in the last financial year. This is critical. It provides an excellent springboard for intelligent conversation around the organisation at the interview.

More importantly it also gives you a perspective on how the organisation is doing financially which may be a deciding factor in your application.

Having a read of the introduction to the annual report usually gives you a very good handle on major challenges the organisation has faced in the recent past and expects to face in the future.

It also gives you a perspective on the organisations products and how it operates within the industry.

This provides great food for thought about the company and why it does what it does.

9) Contact your professional organisations

 

Approach the professional organisations of which you’re a member and ask them if they can refer you to people who can give you the inside story on your prospective employer.  

This must be the least used and most useful resource when researching an organisation.

While the process of getting in contact with the right person in the prospective organisation through your professional body can be a bit arduous, it will probably win you a valuable networking contact, stand you in good stead for the interview if you choose to go ahead with the role and will lead to a better decision career wise.

What are your experiences with organisations and their work cultures? How do you research your prospective employers?

Don’t forget to check out the next two posts in this series :

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6 comments

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Comment by first-time home on June 10, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Thanks very much for your kind words. Much appreciated. Please do feel free to check out the other posts on Jobs and Careers too – there are 3 of them. 🙂

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Comment by clash on September 11, 2014 at 10:18 pm

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Comment by Ash on September 18, 2014 at 3:19 am

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