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February 25, 2011
7 Tips For Cyber-Stalking a Potential Employer
 
For certain we are enduring one of the worst job markets since the 1930s. Unemployment is still near double digits and we are now only seeing early buds of a recovery. Jobs are few and far between. With that backdrop, you would logically think that landing any job under any circumstance would be acceptable. Not so, kemo sabe! 
 
In my view, we operate in an era that I will loosely call “employment trust,” whereby employee and employer are on equal footing, with each having the right of first recusal. This means that both the job seeker and the employer have equal rights to find each other unfit or unqualified. Sure jobs and job offers are hard to come by. But jumping at the first job that comes along might be foolhardy at best or a disaster of major proportions at worst. 
 
So what is the litmus test to ascertain if an employer is fit to have you grace its presence? You have the best research tool at your fingertips: your search engine. Here are a few critical elements to researching a potential employer online:
 
1. Learn the history, assuming the position is one that lights your fire and about which you have much passion and interest. What is the background of the position you are filling? Have there been any headlines about the post in the trades or on industry blogs? Who was in the job and did the person leave voluntarily? For that matter, has the role been a revolving door? Have you seen the same job listing pop up in your search engine every six months? Unless your predecessor was promoted up the ladder or went on to greener pastures, you may want to take a pass. Rapid turnover is a warning sign that there is danger looming ahead.

2. Examine management stability. Look at the top as well. Has the CEO been at the company for some time? If not, how long has that person been on the job? And what is the history of the CEO slot? You should definitely be able to find the company’s press releases—let’s say for the last 5 to 10 years—online. If the company has had a string of leaders, chances are the company is operating without a rudder. Let that ship sail without you.

3. Study the company’s vision and values, often stated in a mission or vision statement on the company’s own homepage. If their values are not in sync with your own goals and objectives, don’t be blindsided by the offer. The company may not be a good fit. Make certain there is a resonance with your own thinking, philosophy, and personality. Do not compromise your own integrity.

4. Find out if your potential employer really is an “unemployer.” Do your Google or Bing research. Does the company have a record of layoffs, restructurings, or strategy shifts? These are an indication of poor management. If uncertainty is not your cup of tea, run and do not look back 

5. Consider profitability. Unless the company is a startup and in the formation mode, the company ought to be making money. If not, make haste and forget that loser. Again, a news search or trade search will be your best bet. Go back at least five years to get a clearer picture.

6. See what the customers’ gripes are. Sure, every company or service has a long list of complaints on consumer message boards; but if you keep seeing the same complaint over and over again, you may want to take heed. Find out if the customers are pleased with the product as well as the service. Let’s face it, the “customer is always right.” So if you encounter complaints of any sort, where there is smoke there is fire. Just walk on by that frying pan.

7. Check out Glassdoor.com to find out if the company gets a “thumbs down.” Glassdoor.com is a website that takes an inside look at jobs and companies from anonymous sources. What you may find is a broad spectrum of opinion from disgruntled former employees, or from delightfully happy current employees. Consider the source but stay the course. Read all of the reviews and judge for yourself. If you find two or more red flags, you may have a lemon on your hands. Forewarned is forearmed. 

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Gerry Corbett is the PRJobCoach at prjobcoach.com and CEO of Redphlag LLC, a strategy consultancy. He has served four decades in senior communications roles at Fortune 100 firms and earlier in his career in aerospace and computer engineering with NASA. He has a B.A. in public relations from San Jose State University and is a member of the International Advertising Association, National Investor Relations Institute; Arthur Page Society, National Association of Science Writers, and International Coaching Federation.

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