Many new college graduates begin their job search with the assumption that any job with a decent salary will do. But it's important to make sure that it's the right job, or you'll be searching again sooner than you'd hoped.
Learning how to research a company can help you figure out if a company is the right fit. It can guide your job search, prepare you to ace an interview, and give you an idea of what to expect before you accept an offer. These are our four top areas to research:
1. Who are they?
At a minimum, you should know the who, what, where and why of any company you're applying to. If you live in a large city, figure out what part of town it's in so you can estimate your potential commute. You can save yourself (and a hiring manager) a lot of time by applying only for jobs that offer a reasonable commute. Are you looking for a comfortable, stable role with good work-life balance? You'll have a better chance of finding those qualities at an established business rather than a startup.
These days, a little internet sleuthing may be all you need to learn about a company's location, products and services, mission, and values. Glean as much as you can from their website; later, if you're invited for an interview, you'll need to be able to demonstrate that you're knowledgeable about what the company does. This will impress a hiring manager and help you ask meaningful questions about how you'd fit into the company's mission.
2. What are their values?
Many companies understand that the students graduating from college today are looking for businesses that share their values and outlook on life. In fact, a 2016 study by Cone Communications found that more than 75% of millennials consider an employer's social and environmental values when looking for a job.
If this is an important factor for you, start by looking at the company's corporate website; some lead strongly with their commitment to community service, green initiatives or human equality. Another place to look for this information is in the news — a quick Google News search can turn up press releases and news coverage of a company's involvement.
3. Is their company culture appealing to you?
What do you look for in a company? Do happy hour Fridays and social outings with your coworkers sound great to you? Or are you more of an introvert who'd prefer to come in, do your job and go home? Would you be comfortable in a cubicle where there's not much interaction, or do you need to chat with coworkers to survive the day?
A company's culture is made up of all these things and more — and finding the right environment can be surprisingly critical to your success and longevity in the role. A recent study found that companies with poor cultures have a 48.4% likelihood of job turnover, while companies with positive cultures have a job turnover likelihood of 13.9%.
There are several ways you can become acquainted with a company's overall culture — and most of them involve social media:
- Facebook. Many companies have multiple accounts, with one that focuses specifically on employee culture.
- Twitter. Companies also tend to celebrate employee engagement on Twitter.
- Glassdoor. Sometimes there's a difference between the image companies carefully curate for the public and the reality of day-to-day life. Glassdoor offers a wealth of employee reviews that can give you an honest view into what it's like to work there. Keep in mind that happy people aren't the ones most likely to leave reviews, so you'll have to take all ratings with a grain of salt.
- LinkedIn. You can find people who work for the company and figure out whether you're connected with any of them. There's nothing like getting the inside scoop!
4. Do they offer competitive pay and benefits?
Pay rates can vary greatly for entry-level roles, so it can be difficult to know what you're worth. While it's inappropriate to ask what a job will pay before the later stages of negotiations, you may still be able to find out if a company has a reputation for paying well. Knowing a company's reputation in this area can help you maximize your earnings potential by avoiding employers that pay you less than what you're worth, but you also need to make sure you have a realistic understanding of what to expect when it comes to pay.
In addition to pay, you'll want to know about a company's benefits structure, including:
- Health insurance
- Paid vacation
- 401Ks or other employer-sponsored retirement plans
You may not be thinking about retirement or your long-term health yet, but you need to consider your benefit options and how long you'd have to work for a company before you're eligible for them. Sometimes a company offers a salary on the low end but double the vacation days of its competitors – and if time off is more important to you, that information could help you decide whether to apply.
Glassdoor reviews can be helpful as you research compensation. Even employees who leave negative reviews might include statements like, "the pay is competitive, but…" You could also contact the recruiter who lists job postings for that company—after all, recruiters work with many companies at once and see a wide range of salaries. Many are more than willing to have a conversation with you about what you should expect to make in an entry-level role.
5. What kind of history does the company have?
An employer's history can tell you a lot about potential job security. For instance, if they have increased their revenue year-over-year for the past 10 years and significantly increased their staff, this might be a good sign of future growth trends. You may be able to find this information during your basic research into a company on their website, but not all companies include their history, and the ones that do may skip over the financial details.
One great resource is a company's annual report, which you can usually find under the "Investor Relations" section of their website (but if all else fails, try doing a Google search of the company name and "annual report"). Especially if they're a public company, this report will outline the company's financials, as well as potential risks. This information can give you valuable insight into what's coming up in their near future.
Premium memberships to sites like LinkedIn also can provide more company information, including how the number of employees has changed over the past few years.
Don't be so anxious to find a job that you end up in a company that makes you miserable. Researching a company before an interview will ensure you can be ready for the right role at a place that aligns with your priorities. Take advantage of Live Career's articles on interviewing and career advice, and learn how to write a resume (as well as how to write a cover letter) to land a job at the company you want to work for.