Job hunts are time-consuming and stressful. Shortlisting companies and applying to them takes a significant chunk of your time, and then attending interviews takes up the rest. This is why vetting a company before applying to and joining it is super important. This way you can make an informed decision and save yourself some time which you could spend on building a successful career instead.
Capital Placement’s Global Partnership Associate Joshua Nissanka (or as we call him, ‘Josh’) shares his expert advice on how you can research potential employers before applying to any open positions at their companies.
Why should you vet a company?
To put it simply, the last thing you need after going through the whole process of searching for companies, making a CV, applying, going through rounds of interviews and tasks and securing a job is for the company to end up being a bad fit. It’s a waste of your time and theirs.
“You never know what a company’s all about and whether or not you’re going to fit in. Personally, I crave balance at any company I work at. If it’s the type of company to party all day, every day, I don’t think I’d last long,” Josh explained.
“From our experience, it’s not common for candidates to immediately research a company before applying. Usually, only at or after the interview stage, do they start digging deeper. By then, it’s often too late.”
This is why vetting a company at the very start is a much more efficient way to kick off your job hunt.
Googling the company online is always the first step. You can start by visiting the company’s website, which is usually the first thing that pops up when you google a company.
There are many things that you can take away from this alone. Look at how the website is designed. Is it professional? Does it look like it needs work? Is all the relevant information readily available?
“If a company withholds basic information from the reader of their website, that may be a cause for concern,” said Josh.
Next, look at the about us section. Do the vision and mission statements, values, and history align with what you’re looking for in a future employer?
While you’re googling, keep an eye out for any press releases or news articles. Take note of what is being said in those articles. Is it positive or negative? If it’s the latter, is it worth taking the risk?
Adding to this, Josh stated: “A company website’s new section would help you see what they’ve been up to recently. You can use this to further gauge whether or not a company is for you.”
“You can also look up industry insights to compare and contract. This way, you can get a sense of where the company is positioned in the industry and how they’re doing. You can also use this opportunity to see how financially stable the company is, if that information is available.”
Employee reviews are one of the most crucial ways of determining whether a company is suitable for you.
“You can check employee reviews on a number of platforms — most famously Glassdoor, as well as LinkedIn. These allow current and former employees to leave reviews on the management, working conditions, policies, benefits, and growth prospects at a company,” Josh explained.
When looking at reviews, keep an eye out for negative ones. See what they’re saying about the company and determine if the negatives outweigh the positives. Even if they don’t, a company having a lot of negative reviews could be a major red flag.
Adding to this, Josh elaborated, “Sometimes, what is negative for one person may not be negative for another. For example, to a job seeker who is looking for a company that wants to go to the office every day, a negative review saying they have to come into the office may actually be a positive.”
Another thing to keep in mind is, where anonymity is offered, it is entirely possible that some reviews are made up. On the other hand, anonymity also protects employees from backlash.
A company’s social media is a great way to understand a company. Look at the way they design their posts. If they’re unusual and fun, then they probably value creativity and freedom of expression.
If they’re most factual and straightforward, that shows they prioritise disseminating information and take their work seriously. This is often the case with large NGOs, for example, that opt for providing accurate information about their projects or developing situations around the world.
“It’s a glimpse into a company’s culture. Everything from the tone to the colour scheme hints at how the company sees itself and how it wants to be seen. On top of that, you can also read how the company’s target audience interacts with these posts and how the company responds to them,” Josh elaborated.
Companies also often post their achievements, events and trips on their social media, so you can get a basic idea of how well they’re doing and how they treat their employees.
Analyse the job description
A company takes several measures before posting a job role online. This includes the HR department or hiring manager identifying gaps in resources and then deciding on a job role and title to fill that gap. They’ll list out the skills and qualifications they’re looking for and talk about the company’s benefits, culture, values and more.
“All this can be easily found in the average job description, but something vital that is often left out is the salary they’re willing to pay. Companies that place a lot of value in transparency often include the salary range they’re willing to offer a candidate in the job posting itself,” Josh highlighted.
Talk to employees
You can reach out to current and former employees via LinkedIn to get a better understanding of a company.
“This is a great way to learn more about a company’s culture. Sometimes, what you see online is the whole truth. It’s not unusual to hear about employee mistreatment at companies. This is not information they would willingly share with the public.”
Employees can provide you with knowledge from their experience working at a company. They could tell you what they like and dislike about it, how the management is, and tons of other information, including what the hiring process is like and if there’s potential for growth.
“There are some companies where growth is capped at certain levels, beyond which employees can’t progress further. This is rarely ever public knowledge, but it is something that could be shared by a former or current employee.”
This is also a great way to network with people within the industry (as long as the conversation didn’t take too sour a turn).
Look to the upper levels
A company is only as good as its leader (or leaders). It’s vital that you do some research on a company’s leadership to identify the people, their backgrounds, values and philosophies.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of researching a company’s leaders. Who founded the company? Who runs the company now? Who are the decision-makers?” Josh stated.
“Once you know the people at the helm, search them up on Google and/or LinkedIn. See what kind of people they are and what their qualifications and values are. This step might surprise you — in good ways and bad, depending on the situation.”
Remember, you are allowed to ask questions at interviews, so if you do apply and make it to that round, keep any questions you may have noted down and bring them up!
Vetting a company before applying and joining can help you make an informed decision about whether it’s a good fit for you.
“If a successful career is what you’re looking for, start here. A company that fits your needs — as you fit theirs — would be willing to nurture you and give you the space to learn and grow. Your next job should be a place that not only teaches you something new but also adds to what you already know and what you’ve already done,” Josh advised.
“It may not matter if a company pays really well if the environment is toxic. It may not matter if the environment is great if you have no opportunity to improve and grow. This all depends on what you value and so, the company you apply to must meet your needs.”
If you would like to read more about choosing a company to apply to, here are a few more things you should consider.