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Conducting Research on Potential Employers

By: Angelique Caffrey - Updated: 17 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Sales Marketing Sales And Marketingsales

Have you ever had the feeling that you made a mistake after accepting a job with a new employer? It’s a common problem… but fortunately it’s also 100% avoidable.

To make certain you know everything possible about a prospective employer, you owe it to yourself to conduct research on that employer. Even if you’re working with a recruiter or recruitment firm, don’t assume that they’re doing all the investigating on your behalf; sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t.

Where to start? Try the organisation itself.

Corporate Websites

Go directly to the company’s website. (If they don’t have a site, ask yourself whether they should. Perhaps the management of the organisation is stingy with funds to the point of being short-sighted, which would make your role as a sales and marketing manager very, very difficult.)

Once at the corporate website, evaluate the content in terms of:

  • Professionalism—If the site looks highly amateurish or has many glitches, the technical skills of company workers might be extremely low or non-existent. Though you may be able to overcome such challenges as a sales and marketing leader, you have to be prepared for them.
  • Company History—Most company sites include an “about us” or “history” page. Read it very carefully. Usually, the real corporate mission and vision will show up in this area. (As opposed to the “advertised” corporate mission and vision statements that might not be accurate.) If the company site devotes a lot of time to praising one or two executives and never mentions other staff members, it could be indicative of a corporate culture that doesn’t value the “team”.
  • Readability—Finally, if you’re continuously met with typographical errors or grammatical mistakes on the company website, it’s an indication that either a) the organisation powers-that-be do not care how they look to the public; b) the organisation powers-that-be are unaware of the appearance of their site; or c) the organisation powers-that-be did not hire writers or editors to help with the web development project.

Of course, perusing a prospective employer’s site only tells you a tiny bit about the company. To dig deeper, conduct an Internet search.

Google and Yahoo! – Your New Friends

For instance, if you were preparing for an interview with company “ABC Inc.”, you would submit that moniker into a top ranked search engine such as Google or Yahoo! and see what information you can find.

Be on the lookout for news releases, corporate mentions in articles and similar publicity. Dig deep during this investigation—don’t assume that because the first 10-20 search engine results are positive mentions that there aren’t any “red flags” you need to consider. Take several hours (in total) and research as many of the results as you can.

If you find that you’re encountering mostly supportive sites or company mentions (even if there are a few negative ones thrown into the mix), you can feel pretty confident that there isn’t much controversy bubbling under the surface.

Word-of-Mouth Investigations

If you’ve gotten this far and are still feeling good about applying to and/or interviewing with a company, consider asking people you know about the organisation.

In the case of local employers, you’ll probably gain behind-the-scene insights that can’t be found on the web, such as anecdotes about corporate policies, office politics, et cetera. If the company you’re targeting is located a considerable distance from your residence, you may not be able to unearth quite as much information about it, but you never know until you begin asking people.

Should you have the opportunity to speak with a former employee of the company, do keep in mind that he or she is only telling one side of the story. So if the employee gushes about the experience, don’t assume that the organisation is perfect; on the other hand, if the employee is disgruntled, that doesn’t mean the organisation is terrible. It just gives you more to think about in terms of moving forward.

Advertised Position Openings

Still interested in the employer? There’s one more highly important research strategy you need to apply and that’s to check job banks online and in the newspaper.

If you notice that the organisation in which you are interested has recently advertised many company-wide position openings, it can mean one of two things: a) the company is in a growth mode; or b) the company has had a recent surge in turnover.

Though neither a) nor b) is a definitive reason not to interview with the potential employer, don’t be afraid to ask the company’s representative about the large number of jobs available during your face-to-face meeting.

By conducting this type of research, you’ll have a much better chance of working with an employer you can respect over the long haul.

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