First of all, I am one of those who care about the culture, the people, the leadership, the process, and many more things about a potential workplace. I strongly believe that finding the right “match” is as important for the job seekers as for the employers (when they try to determine the culture fit). I’ve been through many interviews and did A LOT of research on potential employers. A long time ago, I realized that doing such research can significantly reduce the risk of ending up in a place that is not the right fit for me. I consider myself quite picky and spend a lot of time trying to understand the prospects, and the list of my questions is growing and evolving. Every person has different preferences and may be looking for different things when they evaluate a company to join. There is (rarely) right or wrong answer. It’s a matter of what you care about. Here are the steps I go through.
1. Company’s website.
Read every single (relevant) page. For smaller companies, it is feasible, for large companies, use your judgment (e.g. reading about all faculties on a university website might not make sense =). This can help you learn about the product and services they offer, how complex the product space is, how good or bad design is. The amount and depth of the information they share through the blog may be telling of their design maturity. The way they highlight their team members may be telling of the company’s voice and tone and its level of formality. Sometimes, you can find the full list of all team members vs just the leadership team. This also tells you something 😉
2. Company’s social networks.
The choice of the networks and quality of content can also tell you about its culture. Look for the marketing fiA good signal of stronger marketing “trimming” is when you see Instagram posts grid with a perfectly planned combination of photos (intended to show a fun environment) and some visuals/graphics with quotes or something like that (intended to show… expertise? wisdom?). I completely understand why companies do that. On one hand, such a clean and pristine showcase conveys professionalism, on the other hand, it feels completely staged and artificial. Whether it’s important to you or not, is up to you. Also, I suggest that you should also search for the company name on networks directly. Sometimes, the company website won’t have all the links.
The most well-known place to look for the downsides. It is an essential resource for the employer’s research. However, take it all with a (big) grain of salt. The world of anonymous feedback/reviews has its own fundamental challenges, and I have not seen those being solved. I always read all of them but read in-between the lines. I know that competitors can leave negative reviews to harm the rating. I know that a negative review can be caused by a disgruntled employee who may have nothing in common with you and whose expectations of the culture, leadership, etc. may be completely nuts. I know that people can get very upset (especially, when being fired) and just write very negative things while feeling very emotional. I know that a toxic person can be the cause of multiple negative reviews. The person may have left already, but the negative reviews will live there forever, and the company rating will never recover. On the other hand, I know that some companies
tell ask their employees to write positive reviews to bump up the rating. Also, with Glassdoor’s user verification mechanism, one can create as many accounts as they want, and leave as many reviews as they want. Not a reliable system. So, read all the reviews, use your gut feeling to digest and analyze those reviews, and don’t jump to conclusions.
Most value is to find how you are connected with the company. Maybe, you have 1st connections or solid 2nd connections you could use to get an intro. The hiring manager, the potential peers, the HR person, the leadership. The purpose is to connect with some people at this company who can shed more light on the day-to-day, the culture, the vibe, etc. And also, checking on those people’s Linkedin activity (what they post, what they like, what they comment on) may give you more insights into the team. Doing research on key employees is also important to understand your potential future team members. This part is almost like its own research process but in high-level – check their Linkedin profile in full (previous history, patents, projects, testimonials, both received and given, etc.), read their social media feeds, twitters, mediums, YouTubes, etc. Anything you can find.
A relatively new resource, similar to glassdoor with more detailed anonymous information, but has a better identity verification mechanism – you have to use your work email to register. This is much better than a fully anonymous glassdoor way. However, I’ve also seen some hesitation and privacy concerns over using real work email and if the current employer can somehow gain access to your blind account. Probably, they can’t, but the concern is there. There is a very delicate and tricky balance between identity verification and anonymity. (Could blockchain solve this problem? 🤔)
Here you can find information on the company funding history, the amount and recency may give you some extra information about their financials. Also, some companies show founders and key employees, and you can see their previous history with other startups.
Interviews, demos, webinar recordings, etc. I am more interested in seeing the company’s people sharing their stories and views on important topics. The interview style can also reveal how “formal” their CEO is, for example.
8. Online search.
Trying to find company reviews, news mentions, articles, etc. This will likely produce broader results, though may help you discover some interesting pieces not found in the previous resources. (I recommend using DuckDuckGo to all my friends).
With the growing popularity, more and more interviews can be found by searching for the company name or employees’ names. Mostly, related to the leadership roles, though this is just a beginning. More and more people experiment and try their “hand” in podcasting.
And keep in mind, that no research can be 100% reliable. It’s all either somebody else’s opinion or a marketing effort. The only foolproof way to understand the culture of a company is to work there for a few months. Only then you can feel it for yourself. Absorb all the information, talk to people, ask them more questions you care about, and make your own conclusions.