If you have been contacted for a job opportunity, it may be a very exciting moment. But you also want to make sure the position is right for you. Will you fit in with the company’s work culture? Is the organization on stable footing? And how do you learn about things like benefits or vacation policies?
This potential new employer wants to know all about you, so you should try to find out as much as you can about them, too. Let’s examine these ways that you can vet a possible employer.
1. Ask questions during the interview
We assume that a job interview is all about the employer peppering a candidate with questions. But in many cases, it’s just as much about them wanting you to feel comfortable in the role. In every job interview, you will usually be presented with the chance to ask questions, and that’s when you can find out many things about the job and the company’s mission and culture. This will also help you get a better sense of whether the hiring manager is someone you’d like to work for. Many employers will actually view you negatively if you don’t ask questions, because it may suggest a lack of interest in the company or the position.
There is one word of caution, though, which is to avoid asking too many questions that might indicate you’re only pursuing the job for the money or the perks. For example, asking only about vacation policies, salary, or benefits may backfire. While those are important questions, they can be addressed if you get an offer. (See also: 5 Questions You Should Ask at Every Job Interview)
2. Online reviews
There are a number of websites that offer the chance for employees and former employees to share information about a company. It’s worth noting that some of these sites can skew to the negative, as workers may only be inclined to leave a review if they have a complaint. But many of these reviews are simply rundowns of objective facts on things like salaries, benefits, vacation time, and workplace policies. Popular review sites include Glassdoor, Indeed, and Careerbliss. There are also review sites for specific groups, including Fairygodboss, which is focused on women in the workforce. Searching LinkedIn may also reveal some reviews from current or former employees.
3. Talk to current employees
It’s not a good idea to cold call people you don’t know, but if you are friendly with people within the company, it’s a great idea to pick their brain. Do they like working there? How would they describe the workplace culture? Is your potential supervisor someone you might enjoy working for? Your friends will likely put a positive spin on things if they like working there, but they’ll also be happy to share any information that will help you succeed. Similarly, they will also let you know if they are unhappy. (See also: 10 Warning Signs Your New Boss May Be a Bad Boss)
4. Social media
Performing searches on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter may reveal some details about a company. Employees may post updates on projects they are involved in, suggesting that they are proud of the work they are doing. You may come across photos of people at work functions, appearing to have a good time. The company may also post information about awards or promotions, indicating that they celebrate workers who are succeeding. On the flip side, you may come across workers venting their frustrations about the company or their boss. Be sure to take all complaints with a grain of salt, but if your social media searches reveal a barrage of negativity, be wary.
5. LinkedIn profiles of current and past employees
You can glean some details about a company by looking at the LinkedIn profiles of those who work there and those who worked there in the past. If the employees seemed to have long tenures in numerous roles with increasing responsibility, that’s a good sign. But if it seems like workers don’t last long, that could indicate a problem. (When scanning LinkedIn profiles, be sure to browse incognito so people don’t know you are checking them out.)
6. The company website
Obviously, organizations work to make themselves look good online. The messaging on websites is usually designed to cast a positive image of the organization, its work, and its employees. But if you dig around, you can find a lot of objective information about workplace policies, such as 401(k) plans, health benefits, telecommuting options, and more. In addition, public companies are required to release financial information, so you can have a good sense of whether the company is doing well or not.
7. “Best Places to Work” lists
Many local and national publications produce annual lists of companies that have a good reputation among workers. These lists will celebrate organizations with above-average salaries and benefits, and highlight those firms with perks like free food, generous vacation policies, or flexible work schedules. These lists may not necessarily help you learn if you’ll like your boss or the job itself, but you may be happier if the company finds itself on one of these lists.
8. News articles
When it comes to companies, sometimes no news is good news. It’s one thing if your prospective employer is in the news for the successful launch of a new product, or for hiring 1,000 new workers at its headquarters. But if the company is in the news for poor handling of sexual harassment complaints, that’s bad. News about mass layoffs, poor earnings, or changes in leadership may also be red flags, though it’s important to know the difference between temporary, fixable problems and those that are indicative of larger issues.
9. The Better Business Bureau
The Better Business Bureau is designed to help consumers, but it can be useful for prospective employees, too. Most people would prefer to work for a company that has high marks for customer service, as opposed to one that gets a bad grade. Complaints received by the BBB can also help you glean whether there are systemic problems within the company. The BBB is geared toward offering information about contractors and charities. If your company does not have a BBB profile, that’s neither good nor bad.