How To Properly Research The Company You Are Applying Too

Lakesia Wimberly


Applying to a new company is a tricky and somewhat risky proposition. If you get the job, you are making a sizable commitment to work for a company you may not know a lot about. Unfortunately, the only way to completely understand what it is like to work for a company, is to actually work for them. This leaves us vulnerable and at risk to take a job that is not a good fit. Even worse, you may be tricked into thinking your new employer is a great place to work, only to find out it is a toxic work environment.

How does one safeguard themselves against making a mistake and accepting an offer letter from the wrong company? It all comes down to research. It is up to you to understand what you are looking for in your next role and conduct the proper research to ensure you find it. However, this is a lot more in-depth than just browning their website and asking a few generic questions during your interview. Here are a few key ways to properly research the company you are applying to.

Start With Glassdoor

Glassdoor is a website that allows current past employees to write reviews about a company. It asks them to rate their CEO, the likelihood of recommending the company to a friend and for a detailed account of what it is like to work there. This is the ideal place to start for two key reasons. First, you will have honest and transparent feedback from people who know the company best. Second, a company cannot take down any reviews regardless of how negative they are.

Now, we should point out that company Glassdoor pages often feature reviews of former employees and sometimes can skew negative. The key thing to look for here are trends. For example, if only one person talks about long hours, then it might not be true. However, if two or more people talk about long hours or unreasonable requests, then it is most likely true. If a company has several reviews of people complaining about the same things, that is a major red flag. The biggest being if a current employee posts something negative at the risk of getting caught.

Connect With Past Employees

It is rare that a current employee is going to be transparent about the negative aspects of working at their company. Even if they hate their job, they do not want to lose it. Therefore, you must connect directly with past employees to get a genuine sense of what it was like to work at the organization you are applying to. The best way to do this is to type in the company’s name on LinkedIn and find profiles of people who are currently working at new companies.

Again, connecting with past employees opens you up to the possibility of meeting disgruntled former employees. First, ask why they left the company. If they were fired for a valid reason, their opinion might not carry much weight. However, if they resigned due to poor culture, unreasonable deadlines or a bad boss, those are red flags that should be noted. Again, it is important to look for trends. If you interview 5 people and they all say don’t work there, then you have your answer. On the other hand, if they all left on good terms to pursue a better opportunity, then that should be noted as well.

Ask Direct Questions

Remember, when you go in for an interview, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. It is important you take this time to ask direct questions about what it is like to work at this company. For example, you can ask how long the members of the team you will be working on have been there. If everyone has been working there for over two years, that is an excellent sign. You can also ask what type of employee appreciation events and perks they offer. If the hiring manager can only talk about a Christmas party and jeans on Friday, that might be an issue.

You can also use this time to ask questions about negative reviews you read on Glassdoor. For example, you can point out that you noticed a distributing trend of former employees complaining about the same topic. It is possible that this issue has since been addressed and the hiring manager should be afforded the opportunity to defend their company. However, if they cannot answer your question or attempt to change the subject, then you have your answer. There is no need to apply pressure when asking these questions. You will get your facts based on the way the hiring manager chooses to answer them.

Take In The Atmosphere

Our last suggestion is tougher to gauge, but it’s still important to try. As soon as you walk into the office, take an inventory of the atmosphere. If you are waiting in the lobby, examine the attitudes of the people walking by, are they happy or miserable? As you walk through the office, take note of the sounds. Is it dead quiet or are people happily talking and conversing? These are all clues to what it is like to work there.

When your interview is concluded, ask for a tour around the office. This is helpful in a few ways. First, you can see what the office is like. How clean is it? How new is the technology? Does everyone have their own space or are they crowded together? Second, you can examine the faces and body language of the employees. Do they look engaged in their work or are they miserable and waiting for the day to end? Lastly, it gives a brief glimpse of how busy or not busy the employees are. You don’t want to see people frantically working, but you also don’t want to observe a sea of workers with nothing to do.

Getting Started

Are you ready to start looking for a new job but are concerned about finding the right company? We here at The HR Agent can help with that! We are a dedicated team of job placement professionals that understand what it takes to match the right candidate with the right company, at the right time.


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