Researching Prospective Employers

The contemporary American job market asks a great deal of jobseekers. One of the most instrumental skills for navigating a job search in 2018 is knowing how to research a prospective employer.

You will need to walk into any interview, or even engage in email correspondence, with bundles of information about the company in question at your ready disposal. In the old model of hiring, it was the hiring manager of the company asking endless personal questions of the applicant, and informing him or her of basic company policy, while supplying hypothetical scenarios for the applicant to try and navigate. In the modern model, the hiring manager is much likelier to ask the applicant what he or she already knows about the company, why he or she wants to work there and what original solutions he or she might offer to very real issues the company is facing. It is in every jobseeker’s best interest in today’s market to come to interviews with as much knowledge and detailed information about the company in question as it is conceivably possible to obtain.

How to Learn More About a Potential Employer

There is a plethora of resources available to you for the purpose of researching a prospective employer. You can turn to industry journals, newspapers, the public library, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) documents, and even basic social media to gain access to valuable information about companies for which you are interested in working. Nearly all contemporary companies have an official website that you can delve into, as well. Press releases from official company spokespeople are good sources of knowledge regarding the public relations component of any given business, and you can also sometimes tell from a press release how a company manages a crisis. Professional job boards will often include invaluable video interviews with current company personnel and former employees, where you can learn a lot about the way the company handles human resources.

Of course, the best way to obtain crucial information about any company is to speak to people who work there. Find or establish a connection to a current or former employee to get details about internal workings of the company you are applying to, and bring that knowledge to the interview in the form of structured questions or comments that relate directly to insider company culture.

Defining a Company Atmosphere

There are as many different types of work atmospheres in today’s job market as there are companies hiring prospects like you. In the prime of the startup culture, work environments have become highly individualistic and much more free-spirited than in previous generations. This is not to suggest that modern companies are any less-serious or that traditional formality has been forsaken, but rather that a trend toward more authentic approaches to what a workspace can be have emerged as a result of WiFi and digital automation changing the landscape of what could be done, and where. Your best resources for learning about company culture during your job search are former or current employees of the companies that interest you. For example, you should:

  • Make it a point to reach out to anyone in your network who has affiliations with the companies you are thinking about.
  • Find out basic details about dress code, overtime policies, deadline culture, and even specialized activities, like company retreats.
  • Ask current employees what the best and worst aspects of their jobs are.
  • Find out what angers the boss and what kinds of mistakes are let to slide.
  • Ask thorough questions. Are pets and kids allowed? Can hours be made flexible? How is vacation handled? Are there interesting stock options?

Knowing all of this before you ever submit a resume is professionally priceless, because this information actively prevents you from wasting time on companies that you might later find out are a terrible fit for your work personality.

Uncovering Company Financial Health

No one wants to consign the next portion of his or her working life to a failing company, but financial distress is not among the list of attributes a company is likely to broadcast to potential, new hires. Doing thorough research on the financial status of a company you are interested in is absolutely essential to making the right career choice. You can find company tax and financial history information via quarterly and annual SEC documentation. Many companies will post annual reports on their corporate websites, or you can look in company directories for investor relations personnel, and contact them directly regarding company finances. Form 10-K and Form 10-Q are the primary reporting documents you will want to view, if possible.

Checking out business news outlets is another trustworthy method for learning about fiscal habits of companies for which you are interested in working. Business news writers and reporters are adept at revealing aspects of company financial culture that might not otherwise see the light of day, and business news typically offers a counterbalance to the more positively-slanted press releases given out by the company, itself. It is important to get a well-rounded, factual view of the company you are approaching, and not allow one resource to determine your entire opinion of any company.

Talk to the Competition

Another impressive measure you can take in your research of a prospective employer is to extend your background investigations into the whole field of any given company’s competitors. Know who the industry bigwigs are, the names and past accomplishments of noteworthy CEOs, the intercontinental holdings of the biggest players in the field and any other information you believe bears on the relevance of the company you are trying to sign on with.

You can reach out to distinguished members of competing companies to get a feel for how the company you want to work for is viewed amongst its competitors. This can shed some light on your prospective company’s business practices, overall performance and ethics. Being conversant in the panoramic picture of the industry not only makes you more respectable and relevant in your interview, but lets the hiring manager and other influencing staff realize that you are already in-the-know. Companies look favorably on new employers that they know they do not have to spend as much time or money training to bring up to speed, and your prior knowledge in these instances often functions much like prior experience.

How to Interpret Employee Reviews

There are multiple places on the internet where former or current employees can anonymously review their workplaces and colleagues. While these can be very interesting, and sometimes, dramatic reads, you have to be careful and realistic about not taking everything you read at face value. Remember that employee reviews are typically one-sided. The employer does not have the opportunity to explain the other side of any scenarios that are described in an employee review. Employee reviews are not objective. Whether you are reading something glowing with praise or the details of a glaring injustice, all that you can really glean from this is knowledge that any given incident occurred, not what actually happened.

Utilize employee reviews in much the same way that you would information provided by movie or book critics; that is to say, with the remembrance that it is only an opinion. Opinions vary with moods, and moods are not a responsible point on which to base professional decisions. Let employee reviews account for a small and cursory percentage of the research you do on any prospective employer.

Why Researching Your Potential Employer Matters

In the modern job market, the ball is nearly entirely in the applicant’s court when it comes to making the interview process successful. This means that you must show up to your interviews with the ability to be the main driver of the conversation, rather than relying on the “call-and-response” interview style of yore. Often, a hiring manager or CEO will leave the topics to be discussed in the interview entirely up to the applicant for the sole purpose of finding out how much this applicant knows about the company. Beyond just making sure that you present yourself in the most educated and sophisticated light possible, your working knowledge of the company you are approaching can also determine how much that company thinks you are worth paying. Showcasing commitment, diligence and creativity in your research on a prospective employer lets that employer know that you would show the same characteristics if given a chance at the job, which in turn encourages the company to see you as worth more money.

Treat research on prospective employers like paid homework: it is going to further your knowledge, and eventually, fatten your wallet. Most importantly, proper research on companies you wish to work for allows you control over the work environments that you enter, and this is a privilege beyond price.

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