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How to Research Potential Employers

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Lucky for you, it’s a job seeker’s market right now. That means many employers need you as much as (or maybe even more than) you need them. For this reason, it’s essential to treat the job application and interview process as a way to determine whether the opportunity meets your needs, just as the employer is using it to decide whether you’re a good fit for them.

How do you start? With the right research. It’s never been easier to research potential employers online. Sites like Glassdoor are tailor-made to help job seekers find their fit by divulging information you won’t get in an interview. Some of this information is irrelevant or deceptive, though, and can lead you to the wrong conclusions. Here are some tips to get your research right.

Take Online Reviews with a Grain of Salt

Glassdoor takes great pride in delivering what it calls a helpful, balanced, and authentic community. But in 2016, several companies took legal action against Glassdoor, asking the company to reveal the identities of anonymous users who wrote company reviews they alleged were defamatory or false (courts have since agreed on a few accounts).

When it comes to bad reviews, large employers may fall victim to what’s called “review brushing” or a large volume of bad reviews posted fraudulently, often funded by a competitor. Usually, though, unfair reviews are posted by current and previous employees who feel deceived or bitter in some way toward the employer. In contrast, overly positive reviews could be a result of deceptive practices, too, like forcing employees to post what they want. In the end, consider online company reviews with a healthy dose of skepticism. Look for clues in social media and online searches and during the interview process that either confirm or contradict what the reviews claim.

Dive Deeper as You Get Further Along

Don’t spend endless hours researching a company before you initially make contact. It’s OK to dive deeper as you get further along in the interview process. Balance Career recommends getting a bird’s-eye view before applying—know the company’s industry, what they do, who their clients are, and the names of the company’s relevant executives. You can likely get this information from the company’s website.

Before going in for the initial interview, intensify your research by finding out what others are saying about them—including former and current employees and the media. This is the point in which you should turn to social media, review sites, and general Google searches.

By the time you receive a job offer, you should know the financial standing of the company and what competitive compensation for the job might look like. Financial information can be found online through the SEC for publicly-held companies and GuideStar for nonprofits. Popular job board and career sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, and PayScale have tools to help you determine a fair compensation package.

Be a Social Wallflower

Scanning the social media activity of the hiring company as well as its executives and even the hiring manager and interviewers should give you a good sense of the company’s culture. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should connect and “friend” these stakeholders right away. If it’s a big company like Apple or Amazon, liking and following the company and some of its high-profile executives makes sense. But if it’s a small company, there’s no need to connect right away. Take a look at what’s posted publicly first, keeping in mind that on LinkedIn your privacy settings and whether the individual is a LinkedIn Premium subscriber may reveal to them that you were peeking at their profile anyway.

Don’t Tattle

Indeed warns that showcasing the new-found information you uncovered during your interview can backfire. Do it strategically. “Use the information you’ve learned to connect your skills and experience to the job description, goals for the department, and vision for the company throughout the interview,” states Indeed’s Complete Guide to Researching a Company. The information, adds Indeed, may be especially useful when writing your cover letter and when answering the common “so tell us why you want to work here” question.

When you work with a job recruiter, much of this research becomes exponentially easier. A reputable employment agency will answer many of your questions about the employer as openly and honestly as possible—even questions about integrity and compensation that may not be appropriate to ask the employer directly. Your employment agency doesn’t succeed unless you succeed, so we work hard to help you find the right fit.