Every job candidate fully expects the hiring company to carefully interview and research candidates before a selection is made and an offer is given. Those activities include resume reviews, employment history, reference checks, drug tests, social media reviews, and, of course, extensive LinkedIn profile reviews. Shouldn’t the candidates spend an equal amount of time and effort in researching the company? A hiring error, determined by either party, results in a considerable amount of wasted time and energy on everyone’s part. The impact on the candidate is much more severe than on the company. It robs the candidate of a precious resource that can never be recouped; their time. Everyone’s working career is finite. Time spent in the “wrong” position is time that is wasted. It, therefore, makes sense that the candidate spends at least the same amount of rigor in researching the company as the company certainly will do in researching the candidate.
Research sources are plentiful. The Internet has done most of the heavy lifting. The emphasis should be on “who” the company is and not only on “what” the company does or “how” it has performed in the past. The “who” involves exploring the company’s culture, personality, and attitudes. What do customers, business partners, the media, and, for public companies, investors and analysts, say about the company? The chances are that someone in your circle of friends knows someone who currently works for the company or has dealt with the company. Of course, social media most likely will have comments about the company as well.
A very simple but highly effective starting point is to examine a company’s reputation with both its customers and its employees. Attitudes about one group extend to the other. There are some old quotes, “You play like you practice” and “There is no such thing as a game face” that apply to a company’s attitude toward their customers and employees. If a company has a great reputation with customers, they will have the same reputation with its employees and vice versa. Social media will tell both good and bad stories about one or the other group. During the interview process, negative attitudes about either group will not surface – look for independent observations. For example, some telecom service providers today have a miserable reputation with their customers. Ask some employees that are not involved in the interview/hiring process and do not be surprised if they candidly express the same frustration as the company’s customers.
As a word of caution, we all know that negative news travels faster and lingers much longer than good news. Temper your conclusions knowing that negative biases are ever-present, everywhere.
To begin, develop some objective criteria about the type of company that you want to pursue. The ability of a company to hire you and provide a paycheck is not enough! Carefully think about where you want to be in five years. Also, think about the company and the markets they are serving and will be serving five years from now. Honestly reflect on what skill sets you have that can be of value to the company in meeting their goals. Your “fit” into the company is more important than the “function” you will perform. Your “fit” will determine your success. Perform at least half your research before approaching the company for the first time. It is not a “numbers game” with flooding the Internet with resumes. Numbers games always favor the house, not the player.
Your research has to include the people that you are interviewing with as well. LinkedIn is a tool that works both ways. What was the career path of the individuals that you will be meeting? What are their interests outside of the office? What discussion groups are they part of? What do they physically look like? Know their names and faces before you are introduced to them. Your goal should be to create a mutual bond between yourself and anyone you meet. Attempting to form that bond only during your first face-to-face exposure is too late. Do your homework – you will “get a grade” during the first few minutes of each interview interaction.