Certainly, you’re looking to do the obvious: research potential employers so you don’t waste time and energy with the wrong fit. But, you’re also looking to answer questions like, “Does this employer genuinely align with my values and career goals?” and “Does this employer have a bad reputation with its’ employees?” In a way, you must turn into a bit of a private detective.
We often think that researching an employer is a one-and-done process, however, continued research should be done throughout each stage of your job search and the employer’s hiring process. Such as:
- Before Applying to The Company
- In Preparation For an Upcoming Job Interview
- Before Negotiating Your Salary & Benefits Package
What exactly should you be looking for?
At the time of application, you’re looking for some quick details. For example, industry, size, and overall public appearance of the employer. Simply put, on the surface, does the company look promising (e.g., competitive, growing, stable)?
At the time of the job interview, you’re taking a deeper dive into the possible relationship. For example, you’re looking for details about the employer’s culture, growth/declines in employer turnover rates, happenings going on with the company, etc. These may be topics you can leverage during your job interview.
At the time of salary and benefits negotiations, you’re researching the employer’s financials.
For a publicly traded company, seek answers to questions like these:
- How’s the company’s stock doing?
- What’s the latest news about the company’s earnings?
- Does the company’s stock have good ratings by investment analysts?
Good and bad information is much easier to uncover for public employers, no doubt. So, use your judgment when data collecting.
For a privately owned and operated company, you may struggle with finding solid financial information, especially for those employers who keep it “close to the vest.” To track down some valuable insights into the financial health of a private employer, look for press releases, industry articles/reports, public interviews (e.g., YouTube), or any other website or social media page that can provide you with public information.
Regardless of the stage you’re at, your mission is to look for facts and first-hand information to help you make a solid decision BEFORE leaving your current employer.
Where to Start Researching Potential Employers (Before Applying to The Company)
Begin researching potential employers at “ground zero”: aka their company website. Most often, an employer’s website provides enough data to determine whether you’ll apply – or avoid their employment altogether! For example, a website can educate you about the employer’s:
- Products & Services
- Office Locations (and whether they’re a national or international company!)
- Customers & Vendor Alliances
- Mission Statement
- Size of Operation; e.g. # of Employees
- Who’s @ The Helm
- Years in Business
- Publicly Traded, Family Business, or Privately Owned
You’ll likely find details for these on a mix of the example pages below:
- About Us/Who We Are
- Press Release
- In The Media
- Mission Statement
Beyond The Website – Tools to Research Potential Employers (In Preparation for an Upcoming Job Interview)
1. When preparing for a job interview, start by researching the employer using Glassdoor.
You’re seeking quick answers to valuable questions like this one: “What do current and former employees say about this employer?”
Exiting employees can offer insight into what’s wrong and what’s right with employers. Maybe the employer has irrational policies and procedures, makes job promotions difficult, has a particularly demanding department manager, etc. This is information you want to be armed with BEFORE attending an upcoming job interview.
You will need to create an account with Glassdoor to access its data that spans beyond employee reviews. The features that Glassdoor offers include:
- Job Openings
- Salary Data
- Interview Questions Asked by The Employer
2. Social media properties offer a bit of “above ground” and “underground” research too.
The most obvious above-ground and go-to social property is LinkedIn. The site can be somewhat of a rabbit hole of information, so here are a few research options and action steps for you to choose from:
- View The Employer’s Business Page
- Scan Its Current/Former Employees (see the “People” tab)
- Chat With Your Connections That Happen to Follow The Employer’s Business Page
- Use The Site’s Search Bar to Find & Chat With Current/Former Company Employees That You Are 1st Connections With
- Leverage LinkedIn’s Rich Search Filters to Search For Info Based on Connections, Location, etc.
It’s important to note that the company controls most of the information contained about itself on LinkedIn.
For “underground” information about an employer, look no further than social properties, such as X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc. Social media is a great place to discover what the public says about potential employers in real time. Certainly, social media properties give you the lowdown on employer happenings, but they can also be equivalent to reading gossip rags where you’re presented with outlandish and salacious headlines and stories. So, be careful.
There are different ways to search social media for specific company information: use hashtags, company-specific keywords (e.g., SQL Server for Microsoft), and the exact company name.
To dive deeper into hashtags, search for branded hashtags used by major employers, such as #JustDoIt by Nike, #PrimeDay for Amazon, #PutACanOnIt for Red Bull, and #CleanEnergy for Tesla. Indeed, you’ll find a lot of company-produced SM content, but you’ll also find non-official folks (e.g., former employees) talking about those brands as well.
3. Industry Organizations & Trade Associations
Another go-to resource for researching employers is through industry organizations and trade associations. We must admit this is a much easier task for employees who are in the same industry as the target employers. For example, let’s say you’ve been in the insurance industry for the past 10+ years, and for your next job, you want to work for another major insurance broker. Well, diving into the insurance industry through insurance organizations and trade associations is much easier – and relevant to you. In fact, you should be signed up and monitoring these resources even when you’re not in an active search IMHO!
Not sure how to find professional associations to identify and research potential employers? Here’s a list to get you started:
There’s also Crunchbase, Owler, and let’s not forget, LinkedIn.
With any organization or association resource, the goal is to find information about potential employers, but also their competitors as well.
Research Potential Employers (Before Negotiating Your Salary & Benefits Package)
Getting the inside scoop on potential employers doesn’t stop once you’ve interviewed and received a job offer.
Instead, this is where your due diligence is the most crucial because you’re seeking answers to 2 major questions:
- Is this a “bad apple” employer?
- How is this employer sitting financially?
Not every resource available will uncover “bad apple” employers, unfortunately. A common issue that seems to have risen since the onset of COVID has been struggling companies that continue to recruit and seduce good employees from their current employer to their “sinking ship” of an operation. Some of the critical information you need to know about these types of employers includes:
- Average Turnover Rates
- Issues With Micromanagement
- Realistic or Unrealistic Employee Expectations
- Type of Company Culture
To avoid such a misstep, you MUST reach out to one or two current employees with the target employer. Sometimes you could get lucky and get access to an HR Manager or Recruiter who shares a bit of company dirt, but at the end of the day, you need a resource such as Glassdoor or a current/former employee to talk to you directly.
As we mentioned above, researching publicly traded companies – and their financials – is much easier than private ones. Using resources such as StockAnalysis.com (one of my favorites!) provides insights into the employer’s stock prices, happenings, etc. Pop over to Google News as well. With a combination of these resources, you can find out the good/bad that’s happening with your target employers.
For example, has the employer just entered into a merger, business deal, public participation, newly announced products/services/programs, pricing alterations/why behind them, or business expansion contract?
Armed with this positive information, you’re in a much better position to identify where you can offer the biggest ROI (btw, be sure to use your resume during negotiations!), and therefore, negotiate a higher salary and benefits package.