How To Research A Prospective Employer and What To Look For
Progressing in your career is important and we all want to be happy at work.
So, in the same way you might research a big ticket item, like buying a new car, it’s crucial that you research companies that you are considering working for.
In today’s blog, we’ll run through a few tips on how to research a prospective employer.
What do you want to research?
While you may have researched a company for the purposes of an interview, it’s time to dig a little deeper. When researching a prospect employer, if you have particular concerns then you’ll want to address those nagging doubts first. Is it the culture, the department structure or maybe the values that you need more information on?
Perhaps ask yourself a few questions and then choose an area to focus your research:
Do I understand and align myself with their company values and goals?
Will I receive support, progression and development?
Will I be sufficiently challenged in the role?
What is the company culture and working environment like?
What will my role be within the business?
How will I benefit from working here?
How will I contribute to the growth of the company?
Will I find the work fulfilling?
Culture & Environment Research
When you research a prospective employer, start with your basic needs. Studies show that office environment and company culture have a huge impact on well-being, happiness and productivity of employees.
Let’s start with environment. Think about what environment you work best in.
Do you prefer a quiet, focused atmosphere? Or a more busy, upbeat office? Do you need open plan, with big windows or are you happier in a closed office? Plants, office dogs and music?
If you want answers to these questions then it’s just a straightforward Google search. Simply search the name of the company and add the words ‘offices’ or ‘London’ or ‘inside’ and then view the images.
Many businesses will also have a Google Maps listing and should have images attached, showing both the outside and the inside of their offices. With larger brands, Google will also highlight images from their social media, press and many other websites.
Research Employer Culture
If you attend an interview, while you wait for your meeting take note of your surroundings. What is the atmosphere like? Do people look happy? Did you receive a warm greeting from other employees?
Social Media is also an important pit-stop on the road to effective research. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are often the places companies feel the most at ease sharing insight into their office environment. You’ll often see photos around the office, fun activities that employees can get involved in and also any social activities. Social media is the lighter side of a company’s brand and will give you an inside look at their culture.
Culture from an outside perspective is harder to define. You’ll need to look at the company website for this information. Most companies have a clear ‘vision’, ‘mission’ and ‘values’ statement that governs the type of culture they want to cultivate, their business goals and defines how they want to be perceived. It can also be an indicator of how they treat, and communicate with, their employees. Whether under ‘About’ or ‘Careers’ sections, if a company is serious about improving its internal culture, this information will be easy to find.
Burberry are an excellent example of transparently communicating their values and culture with prospective employees. They make clear statements and have sub sectors for important areas of culture, including ethical responsibilities, diversity and professional development.
Researching Company Culture
If you’re attending an interview make sure you ask about the company culture, “How would you define your company culture?” or “Why do you enjoy working here?” or even “What do you think is the biggest benefit to working here?”.
Benefits are a big part of culture but don’t always equate to bonuses, days off or pensions. Ask or research around recognition and rewards. Do a few Google searches to see if the company has won any awards for their culture or check their website. You can also see if they are involved in volunteering or charitable causes. If they have a Corporate Responsibility scheme this should also be highlighted on their website.
At Hanover, we encourage our clients to give candidates an inside look at their culture with video, which we then feature in our interactive job specs.
We film managers talking about job roles, the office environment and get testimonials from current employees. It’s a great way to get know a company before you head in for an interview.
Strategy & Projects Research
Culture is covered but what about the actual work you could be undertaking. If you’re researching a company at this stage you should already have seen a job description for the role, so you should have a good idea of the type of work you’ll be doing.
However, if you want more information on overarching business strategy and projects then you need to research their news articles/press, social media accounts and their company.
For companies that purport to be “disruptors” or “ground-breaking” then they should be able to showcase this on their social media or through industry press. TechCrunch is a great website for keeping track of tech and digital industry news, including big brands and smaller start-ups. Or simply do a Google search of their company name and review the ‘News’ section. This should give you all the latest news and you’ll be able to see how active they are in their space. You can also set up Google Alerts for news stories on particular companies.
However, no news isn’t bad news so don’t leap to judgements if you’re not flooded with information. Check out their company blog as this is a quick way to see what projects and business strategies are most important to them. Are they trying to solve a particular problem? Are they launching a new product? Can you see a particular theme across their blog? Do you associate with their viewpoints?
Social Media again is a very effective tool to gaining insight into project work. Follow their business page and connect with company employees on LinkedIn and see what they post. Companies like Transferwise not only sell their product services on social media but also communicate projects and business information.
Employee Voice & Social Proof Research
When companies publicly recognise, reward or showcase their employees, that’s always a good sign. This can again be on social media or perhaps even more promising, is through video. Check to see if the company has a YouTube channel and if they feature ‘working here’ videos . If they have a video about their culture, or a recruitment video, it should include soundbytes or interviews with a variety of employees.
We all love to search out reviews, and employee reviews will highlight both benefits and problems. Remember, take these with a pinch of salt. Too damning could be a jaded ex-employee or too glowing could reflect influence from the employer.
Look for real world examples, constructive criticism, patterns and then try to evaluate all these reviews in a way that gives you a well rounded, averaged, picture of the business. If they do have problems are they addressing them?
A leading site for employer reviews is Glassdoor. The site compiles reviews and gives an average employer score out of 5 stars. It also shows photos, jobs and awards as well as standard interview practices.
Allowing employees to share opinions and give feedback is a an excellent quality in an employer. In your interview ask about employee surveys, performance reviews and whether these are 360. Enquire about employee involvement in strategy and culture and find out whether they have quarterly/monthly meetings, or open forums for ideas.
Researching a prospective employer might seem time consuming but what’s more time consuming is joining a business and finding out it’s not for you and then having to leave. Research will allow you to make an informed choice. If you work with a recruiter, they will be able to supply you with a whole host of information on a prospect employer.
At Hanover, we brief all our candidates and supply them with interactive job specs which features an overview of the company, what they are looking for, along with photos, videos and links to social media. They also feature video from either the employer or one of our Consultants, giving you even more inside information!