researching company

What to keep in mind when researching a company to work for

Whenever we apply for a job, we mostly fixate on whether or not the company will like us. It seems like they hold all of the power, and that we need to adjust ourselves in order to fit what they are looking for.

This is the wrong approach to take. It’s equally important that the company fits what you are looking for, as a bad match will only lead to problems down the road. But how do you determine if a company is a good fit before you start working there?

The most obvious answer is to check out reviews of the company, usually on Glassdoor. After all, you’d check out the reviews of a product or service before you make the decision to purchase, especially if it’s a substantial one. The same goes for a company that’s willing to potentially bring you on to their team – changing companies is a substantial decision to make, and you don’t want to prematurely pull the trigger and wind up at a company that’s not a good fit for  you.

Reviews of a popular technology company on Glassdoor

Reviews of a popular technology company on Glassdoor

While Glassdoor is arguably the most popular, there are now several websites where current and previous employees can write reviews about their experiences with a company. You can then use this information to judge what a company’s culture is like, and whether or not it sounds like a good place to work.

One thing to be wary of: not all online reviews are trustworthy. Just like fake or paid reviews of products or services, there are some dishonest companies that may pay for, or persuade their employees to write, bogus positive reviews to keep their average review score at a certain level. Before you take everything at face value, you’ll need to do a little more research.

How do you determine the authenticity of reviews?

With Glassdoor, it can sometimes be difficult to determine the authenticity of reviews. Let’s say a company has overwhelmingly positive reviews and the overall rating stands at a 4.3 / 5. Are those reviews legitimate, or were the employees instructed to leave them?

First, look at what the reviewers left in the “cons” section. Sometimes, even though a company review might leans positive, there are still some unappealing or negative aspects included, however minor they may be. Glassdoor encourages full transparency in its reviews, which is why they’re all done anonymously.

If you see that every positive review for a company doesn’t really list any cons, or lists them in a way that can be spun into a positive (“There’s no room in the fridge, because the company keeps growing!”), try to be skeptical. A legitimate review would include a con that is an actual negative aspect of the workplace, such as “little room for growth” or “low compensation.” (Of course, it’s reasonable to expect fully-positive reviews with no cons, but look for patterns or outliers that may seem “off.”)

Moving on from Glassdoor, Google reviews can be the next stop in your authenticity detective work. Normally, customers or clients of a company will leave reviews for the company based on their performance or services. If you see reviews from that company’s employees, that’s a red flag.

Why? Because employees should be leaving reviews about their company on Glassdoor, or Indeed, or wherever. Why would an employee suddenly decide to write a glowing review about their company on Google? Why would 6 or 7 of them in a row decide to do the same thing? Chances are, they’re being told do to so by management to outweigh previous older negative reviews. And if these employees are being told to do this, I doubt anyone would want to work for such a company.

While there may be some fake reviews that don’t conform to what we mentioned above, being on the lookout should help you to weed out most of them. When reading through reviews, it’s much better to be overly cautious, rather than believing everything you read (as with most things on the Internet). Hopefully you’ll be able to gather enough general information about the company and its culture that even if one or two unreliable reviews slip in, they won’t alter your opinion too much.

Tap into your connections on LinkedIn or your personal social circle

If you can, you don’t want to rely entirely on online review sites. Gathering more information about the company from other sources will paint a clearer picture, and ultimately help you to make a better decision. For starters, you should look within your own professional network to see if you know anyone that works at the company, knows someone that works there, or at least hash information on what it’s like working there. Maybe a friend or previous coworker has experience at that company and can shed some light. If not, perhaps they know someone they can put you in touch with. First-hand accounts are a great resource, making your network a good place to start. LinkedIn is especially helpful in this regard, as you can see the past work history of anyone you’re connected with.

Besides personal and/or professional connections, you should also do a general search for the company online. How do people rate their customer service? Is it a large or small organization? What kind of work do they do? What is the head of the company like? The more you can learn about this company, the better prepared you’ll be for the interview.

Put it all together

After spending some time going through different sources, make a list of all the things you like about the company, and any concerns you might have. These are great to bring up when your interviewer asks if you have any questions you might want to ask at the end of the interview.

Remember that while you might need a job, you don’t want to work somewhere that isn’t a good fit. By doing enough research before you interview, you can help ensure that both you and the company are happy with the decision to hire you, and set yourself up with a good working relationship for a long time to come.