The phone rings, you pick it up and the caller invites you to interview for a job that sounds like a great fit, but unfortunately you don’t know much about the company. The next few days are spent researching and preparing responses to potential questions. The day of the interview finally arrives. Your hair is just right, nails freshly polished, blouse ironed, and portfolio stocked.
You arrive to the office a few minutes early, introduce yourself to the receptionist and wait patiently. Soon the interview gets underway. Your heart is racing, but you keep your cool and provide solid examples from past positions. So far so good. When it’s your turn to ask questions, you impress the panel by asking quality questions relating to industry standing, goals, expectations and work environment. The interviewer answers all questions and seems genuine and honest but something doesn’t feel right. Was something left unsaid or are you being haunted by the time you resigned from a job for a “better” position that didn’t turn out as expected?
There is no way to tell where the feeling is coming from, but can you minimize the risk another bad career move? Absolutely! Taking a new job with a company you haven’t been exposed to is risky, so do everything you can to protect yourself.
Contact everyone in your network – friends, neighbors, current and past colleagues, and members of professional associations – and ask them if they either worked for the company or know someone who has. Beyond this, do they know anyone who has had business dealings with the company? This could include contractors, competitors or customers. If they love the company, they will let you know. If the response is anything but completely positive, keep digging.
Although the rolodex is great, don’t forget about your online network. If you have not created accounts in websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or MySpace, do so. Members of these online networking sites are there for just that purpose, networking. They are looking to meet people in their industry, generate new friendships and share ideas. The atmosphere on these sites is typically very friendly and supportive which makes it a great way to get information. Generate a list of potential “friends” by searching companies you worked for or schools you graduated from. See where fellow alumni work and initiate conversation.
Going beyond your network, the internet has several great websites to help you with your investigation. Glassdoor.com is one of these sites. There is no fee to use Glassdoor and to date offers salary information, reviews of interviews, interview questions by occupational title, and reviews of what life on the inside of over 26,000 companies is really like. Submissions are posted by people who have either worked or interviewed at the company. In order to access the data, users must submit summaries of a current or previous employer. The registration process requires applicants to answer a series of questions based on a 5 point scale. Questions relate to competence of senior management, promotional opportunities, and work/life balance. Applicants make comments to multiple open ended questions that are posted anonymously, allowing for more honest entries.
A red flag should be raised if you learn that a company has high levels of employee turnover. There may be a legitimate reason for the turnover, but in general companies that pay well, have good benefits, and provide a challenging and supportive environment hold onto employees long-term.
Almost every company has a mission statement on their website. The statement summarizes the company’s direction, purpose, goals, priorities and philosophy which should be compared to your own values and goals. Does the company stress financial strength, quality of life, creativity, team work, customer service, helping others, communication, open management, research and development, diversity, or compassion and respect? What is important to you and will your values be supported?
After learning all you can from your personal and online networks the job is almost done. Fortune magazine publishes research on “The Best Places to Work”. According to Fortune’s website the list is generated by doing extensive research with employees and taking demographics, pay, benefits, and open-ended questions on philosophy and communication into account. Other information can be learned including percent of minority employees and percent of job growth.
Unfortunately most of us won’t be fortunate enough to have our company included on Fortune’s list of “The Best Places to Work,” so we will have to use the various suggestions listed above. Under the best of conditions, accepting employment with a new company is stressful and uncertain. To help ease the stress, remember you are not making a permanent commitment. Do the research and then take an educated risk. If it doesn’t work out, you are free to move on. If your decision is based on research and solid information provided by people who know what it is REALLY like to work for the company, it will be the right decision. Best of luck!!
Andrea Howard earned a Masters degree in school counseling and offers 18 years of experience in career services. Her background includes working as a high school guidance counselor, a continuing education counselor, an employment counselor, and now as a senior employment counselor with the New York State Department of Labor. Andrea’s customers span the diversity spectrum encompassing a wide variety of education and income levels, cultural backgrounds and occupational specialties. She specializes in assisting with the creation of effective marketing documents, researching the labor market, identifying appropriate career and training opportunities, preparing for interviews, and landing the job. Her cover letters and resumes appear in seven books published by JIST and Impact Publishing.
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