You've decided it's time for a new place of work. A new opportunity. You've fired up your laptop and logged into job boards. Maybe you've even shortlisted a few vacancies that look particularly interesting. But your mouse hovers over that 'submit resume' button like a surgeon deciding whether to slice.
The doubts are setting in. Is this truly the company you want to work for? What do you really know about this organization? It's time to do some research. But if you're like the rest of us on the job hunt, it's incredibly difficult to know where to start. Here are your answers:
why is it difficult?
Access to the internet gives us all a distinct advantage over our predecessors since information is now more readily available than ever before. However, it's still incredibly difficult to uncover tangible, useful information about what it's really like to work for a company. This is because every company worth their salt employs highly paid marketing specialists to spout fanciful prose about their company culture and recent achievements. You'll find it on every corporate landing page in the world. You'll need to read between the lines to get to the real information -- and the valuable stuff is in the details.
Here are some steps you can take in order to find out the truth about the job and the company you are applying to:
1. research company info
Start with the company website. Sure, you've probably already done this - but have another look for real tangible examples of the type of work they do. They should show client information, recent projects and employee profiles - particularly those in top-level positions. If you're not finding much, keep in mind that it may be due to conflicts or confidentiality, or because they're not particularly tech-savvy - so give them a pass. However, keep it in mind so you will ask about it later.
2. search social networks
Cross-reference interesting employee profiles with LinkedIn accounts. What are their backgrounds? What universities did they attend? What work responsibilities or achievements have they listed? Within which office are most of their employees located? If 99 percent of employees are based in the New York office, it's a pretty good bet that the company is highly focused on NYC with other offices being satellites. Next, check out Glassdoor for some candid reviews of the company. There will always be a few disgruntled employees (so try not to take every review to heart) but it may give you broad overview.
3. ask around the market
If you're interviewing already, ask competing organizations what they think about this company. You'll be floored at their honest feedback. Sometimes the body language alone will tell you everything you need to know. If all else fails, do a Google search of the company name and recent news. Anything good - or bad - that they've been involved in recently will give you an interesting perspective of their current reputation.
4. get to know the lay of the land
Is the office address in the heart of a major financial center, or more on the artsy outskirts? Try to find a few pictures of the interior of the building. Companies that are proud of their working environments will be posting those pictures everywhere they can. Those less proud will make it hard to discover anything visual. Finding out what is between the four walls will give you more information than any job description.
At the end of the day, your best bet is to dive in and apply for the job. What's the worst that could happen? Go to the interview and see what it's like. Use that time to get a full picture of the organization by asking questions. If it's not for you - all the better. At least now you've narrowed down your search. That's one less bad choice you could be making.