How to Make a More Informed (and Satisfying) Career Decision

Sharon Patterson Blog

looking through magnifying glass at computer screen

Poked, prodded and put through the ringer. Most of us understand that a job interview can be a draining, rigorous process where prospective employers probe deeply into our qualifications, work history and even our psyches.

But what about the employer? Shouldn’t interviewees spend a bit of time poking and prodding the organizations doing the interviews?

Doing some research about a prospective employer can serve two principal purposes.

First, it can educate you about the employer so that, in an interview, you can demonstrate more than a passing knowledge about what the organization does, how it does it, and its place in the broader job market.

However, vetting a future employer also helps ensure that, in the event you are offered a job, you will be going to an organization where you have the best possible chance of achieving your career goals. Getting a job that has the right title and fits with your skill set—but is with an employer that has a structure and culture that runs contrary to your career aspirations and values—may not be a good job after all.

At the very least, you need to know from the outset whether a job offer is just a means to earn money and gain some experience, or whether the organization presents an opportunity to develop a true career.

Detailed information on employers—what they pay, how they operate, how they treat their employees—is just a click away for most job seekers.

Sharon PattersonEVP, Human Resources
How can you dig deeply into the DNA of a prospective employer? With business-orientated social media and other web resources, vetting an employer has never been easier.

In general, you want any and all information on culture and performance. Look for online annual reports and, if the company is publicly owned, filings with securities regulators. Scan these documents to determine the financial health of the company, and whether it is on an upward or downward trajectory.

Then, look for any news articles, both recent and historic. Has this company been lauded for an aspect of its operation and culture? Has it been involved in scandals?

You should also scan social media sites like Twitter, Linkedin and Glassdoor, the latter of which offers lots of information about pay levels and organizational culture. Use these resources to reach out to current or former employees and ask them about their experience. If the feedback you get addresses only pay and benefits, it could be a red flag; you want to hear people who volunteer details about things like the positive work environment and a culture of respect.

The information gathering and vetting does not stop when you walk in the door for an interview.

During the interview, ask questions and then assess the consistency and content of the answers. Probe to find out if this is an organization that offers long-term career opportunities; perhaps the job is a stepping-stone within the company to a job with better pay, more responsibilities and more robust challenges.

To aid in this process, compile a checklist of questions to assess a prospective employer for overall fit. Some questions could include:

  • Is this a company where I can build a career?
  • Will I have some work-life balance and flexibility at this company?
  • Will I have to move to another city, state or country at some point in the future?
  • Does this company support continuous development? Does it provide opportunities for ongoing education? Do employees get opportunities to go to conferences and upgrade their skills
  • Does this company keep its people up-to-date on technology and provide them with the latest productivity tools?
  • What is this company’s impact on the community? Is it involved in philanthropic or advocacy activities
  • What issues does the company support publicly, and do leaders speak out on current issues?
  • Environmental and political profile: does this company have views that align with mine? Or, do I even want to work for a company that is constantly speaking out about issues of the day?

It’s not acceptable to go into a job interview blindly, with no information about a prospective employer. Detailed information on employers—what they pay, how they operate, how they treat their employees—is just a click away for most job seekers.

A job change is a big move with a lot of implications. Know the employer before you say “yes” so you’ll be making a more informed, satisfying career decision.

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