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How best to research a potential employer?
January 30, 2006 10:30 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to go about researching a potential new employer?

I'm being given an opportunity to advance my career by an old boss at a new job... but she's so new there she only has glowing things to say about the place. I want to see if there's any other attitude about working there before I start, and I don't want to go to current employees and just ask because I think she might take it as my not trusting her (which isn't the case, I just want to Cover My A--)

So, how would one go about researching the work environment, corporate culture, etc, of a company without actually asking current employees? Are there internet forums that cover this kind of thing? Is there some way to find out about previous problems between this company and employees? Any help would be great.
posted by blingblong to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Talk to clients. I mean, this may be hard but I have no idea what kind of service this business provides, but if you can talk to people you can let them know you're thinking about working there and ask what kinds of things they like about working with a company, and does it seem like the kind of place (people wise) that they would want to work. Are they doing business with this company because they are the only game in town, or because they really know how to handle people?
posted by bilabial at 10:34 AM on January 30, 2006

bling...not that you were going to go this way, but be careful about using the internet to make a decision. There is so much information out there, and much of it unconfirmed or flat out wrong, that you may make the wrong decision if you let it guide you. I agree with bilabial...try to talk to clients. What kind of reputation does the company have. Also, maybe ask the boss to interview potential co-workers--that would help you get a sense of the environment (you can tell the boss you want to make sure you fit in personality wise).
posted by Todd Lokken at 10:43 AM on January 30, 2006

Todd Lokken has a good point. People are much more likely to take the time to complain than to praise. That means that the critical mass of opinion on the internet is likely to shift negative in general. Take with a grain of salt any individual complaints you might read, especially about large companies. If you see a pattern of the same complaints over and over again, that's worth being concerned about.

If it's a large company, try lists of 100 best companies to work at put out by everyone from Forbes to Working Mother. Even if you're not a working mother, the kind of company that tries to be a good employer is the kind of company that tries to be a good employer, regardless of whether you're a working mother or a single guy.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:52 AM on January 30, 2006

Jac...a couple of things. 1st--you can call me todd! Second, I think that's a great idea with the 100 best companies. While the particular company bling is looking at may not be on the list, perhaps someone higher up in the company had previously worked at a top 100. It's a bit tedious, but it's worth a look.
posted by Todd Lokken at 11:17 AM on January 30, 2006

I have no problem straight up asking whoever is interviewing / negotiating with me what the staff turnover is like. Or if that's a bit obvious for you formulate the question as how long your team/department have worked together, something like that.

Also try to get an office "walk through" and have a look to make sure that ofice equipment - PCs, photocopiers, etc - look up to date and well maintained. I once worked in a place where the equipment was falling apart and it stressed everyone out beyond what you would believe.

If you get the walkthrough, take the opportunity to look for signs of some sort of red flags, whatever they may be to you - massively disorganized filing area, no coffee for staffers, unusually small work areas, no signs of home life at peoples' desks, few support staff. And if you see them, ask about them!
posted by jamesonandwater at 11:45 AM on January 30, 2006

I have found Vault to be useful and entertaining. Grain of salt as with all things, but worth a glance.
posted by gsh at 12:06 PM on January 30, 2006

I second the walkthrough, you will get a lot about the general atmosphere and mood of the place and the general health of the company.
posted by clarkie666 at 2:07 PM on January 30, 2006

You might try contacting current and former employees of the companies that your considering through a networking site like LinkedIn. FYI-I'm not affiliated with LinkedIn. I've been using it recently with some success, and it's free.
posted by DenVogel at 2:14 PM on January 31, 2006

Seriously, I would take the Vault with a high grain of salt.

Keep in mind, I suppose, that there's an inherent bias in any report you're going to find online about an employer, because of this: if you're happy with your job, are you going to take the time to find job review sites and praise your employer? Very rarely. It's not unheard of, but it's not common at all.

Because of that, you're going to see a disproportionately large amount of complaints versus praise.

Just something to keep in mind.
posted by WCityMike at 9:42 AM on February 4, 2006

bling...just curious...whatever happened here? How did you get info (if you did).
posted by Todd Lokken at 10:55 AM on March 14, 2006

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