Many people I meet fall into the trap of getting really excited about a job offer, skipping the due diligence part, and jumping ship only to realize their boss is a mysognist and that “marketing position” is actually a sales job.
It’s flattering to get a job offer but that’s not a great excuse to skip your research. Save yourself pain down the line. Before you even meet a company you should be doing a lot of digging.
Here’s my approach.
#1 Thorough online research
Start with a Google search and Google News. That’s that little button that says “news” at the top. Read everything you can about them. If they are a private company then you can look at their financials and quarterly earnings reports.
Use Crunchbase.com to find their latest funding rounds, if any, and information on their team. CBinsights.com is another great resource.
See what people are saying about the company on Twitter. Check out how active they are on social media.
Find their founders and team on Linkedin. Read about the founders. Read anything the founders have written to get into their minds. Make sure you know how to pronounce their CEO’s name.
Don’t get too caught up if you find some “dirt” on the CEO a long time ago. People do dumb things sometimes, but people also change. Keep digging until you have a fuller picture.
Also, just because a company is struggling or people are leaving doesn’t mean it’s “good” or “bad.” Maybe they are restructuring and building out a totally new digital business, moving from an offline legacy business to a newer online one. This could be a great opportunity for you to come in with the right skill set, despite the turnover and lay offs. This could also indicate their culture is changing.
Similarly, if millions of people are complaining about their customer service, then you know they have a customer service problem. You might think, “they suck, I wouldn’t want to be their customer.” Or, you might think, “there is clearly an issue here and I can come up with a solution for them.”
#2 Talk to people who used to work there
Go to LinkedIn and type in the name of the company in the search bar. Find the people who have previously worked at the company. Send them a message asking to have a quick chat. If they don’t get back to you find them on Facebook.
“Hey John I’m considering applying for a job at X company where you previously worked. I’m doing research on them now and wanted to hear first-hand from someone who worked there. Would you mind meeting or doing a 20 minute skype chat?”
People usually are happy to help. Also it gives you a good chance to ask them why they left. Everyone has a different reason for leaving and in the end you might determine that the place is absolutely terrible. Or maybe you love it. Maybe you feel like John is a massive complainer and got fired from his job…That’s for you to judge and find out.
Regardless, it’s a great window in the company but it’s just one “lens” of many. I suggest talking to more than one person as this will help build a more complete picture.
#3 Use the product/service
This may or may not be possible depending on the company. But people somehow skip this very important part. Download the app, use the service, order the product, observe the end-to-end user experience.
Maybe you fall in love with it. Or you could find several problems with it but are determined to fix it, which gives you a bolt of energy and enthusiasm. It’s an important step that you’ll need to go through anyways if you decide to interview with the
#4 Glassdoor is…OK
People have been complaining for thousands of years. Literally.
…So it’s not surprising that we have developed an easier means of complaining.
Glassdoor is full of people who complain, and people who complain tend to be the least successful in life. So please take it with a grain of salt. Of course, there is certainly truth to what people say and you should use it as a starting point.
If you find that there is something that people are consistently saying about the company on Glassdoor, then write it down. When you meet with the CEO or hiring manager, ask them very directly about Glassdoor comments and watch their reaction. Give them a chance to answer.
“I noticed on Glassdoor there are mixed comments. Some people describe your culture as results-driven, while others describe it as a very aggressive and cut-throat sales culture. Can you comment on this?”
A good answer from them will be logical and will take responsibility and ownership. If they respond defensively and brush it off, that’s your sign that they are hiding something and there is truth to the glassdoor comments.
Or, they might give you a rational and humble explanation.
“Yes we’ve certainly had our issues in the past and it’s something we have worked to fix. We’ve recently changed our compensation structure as well as performance review structure to encourage a more team-based environment and have seen increases in company morale. It’s an issue we’ve been transparent about and I encourage you to ask our other employees about how we’ve developed our culture to hear their perspectives.”
#5 Make an educated decision
I wouldn’t rule out applying for a job because you found something online. The internet is full of complainers, so if you are looking for reasons “not to apply” then you will definitely find many of them.
You can never have 100% certainty, but you can diversify the numbers of ways you are researching. Make an educated decision after you’ve had a chance to meet various stakeholders in the company. A mix of people + online research will give you the best results.
And remember, just because there is no job posting online doesn’t mean you can’t apply for a job. Most of the job market is hidden — you can read more about that here.
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