Use Detective Skills to Evaluate a Job Offer

When companies recruit you, they often stretch the truth or outright lie. To find out the truth, you have to use detective skills to evaluate a job offer. Here are some strategies to use:

– Sign up for accounts at CareerBliss, Glassdoor, and Indeed. While it is true that unhappy people tend to write more reviews than happy ones, it is worth reading the reviews to look for trends. If a lot of people say the same thing, that’s a pattern that is worth noting. At Glassdoor, for instance, Amazon has 12,000+ reviews. Most of them say the culture is a tough one. Costco’s CEO has a 92% approval rating out of 1572 reviews.

Detective Skills to Evaluate Job Offers

Photo credit: “Window Hand Magnifying Glass” by geralt – Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

– Google: What is it like to work at <name of company>? As an example, a Google search for what it is like to work for McKinsey brings up this Quora article with responses from former and current McKinsey employees.

– Follow the company on social media. Notice how they interact with customers, what values they display by the controversies in which they get embroiled and quotes by their leaders.

– Try to find out the turnover rate in the department where you would be working. It would be particularly useful to find out where the person who last held your job is working now.

– Use LinkedIn to find some people who recently left this employer. Ask one or two of them, “Is there any reason you know that I shouldn’t accept this job offer?” People will be unlikely to tell you straight out not to take a job offer, but their answer may still be revealing if they are evasive and cannot say anything good.

– Google the person who would be your boss to uncover any public scandals. See if they write a blog or post to social media. Read books they have authored. Search for videos of any presentations they have given.

Listen carefully when people talk about your prospective boss. Are they using carefully chosen words that imply this person is a poor leader? If so, that’s bad. If they are clearly enthusiastic about working for this boss, that’s good.

– The best sources to do business research are often subscriber-based and are expensive, but public libraries offer access to their patrons. Once you have a library card, you can probably access the databases from home.

– When interviewing the employer, ask only open-ended questions that don’t reveal what you hope the answer to be. Suggestions include, “What do you value most in employees?” “What types of people are most successful at your company?” “Which parts of your mission statement are the ones that best describe your core commitments?”

– Press them harder when they make vague claims about valuing work/family balance or supporting the learning goals of employees. “Please tell me about a time you supported an employee challenged with a conflict between work and family.” “Please describe a time when an employee made a significant mistake and how the leadership team responded.”

– If they say they support flexible schedules or telecommuting, ask for specific numbers about how many employees actually use the policies.

– If you can visit a coffeehouse, restaurant, or bar where the employees frequently hang out, do so. Try to listen to what they are saying or better yet, engage them in conversation. If you are feeling brave enough for it, ask the barista or bartender their opinion of employees from the company you are investigating.

– If you are invited to share a meal with the person who would be your boss, take the opportunity to see how that person treats the waitstaff. It is a very bad sign if they are anything other than kind and appreciative.

– Offer to sign an NDA in exchange for being given more information about their mission statement, business plans, products, and financial situation. For a nonprofit organization, ask to see any grants that fund or affect your position.

– For a startup, use this list of questions to ask a startup before accepting a job offer. Also, Crunchbase is a resource to help you do research about a startup.

– In health care settings, if they have a lobby that is public, go sit in it for a few hours. You can learn a lot of their service and culture by watching how their front desk interacts with patients, by watching the patients and families as they arrive and as they leave. Evaluate whether the culture seems respectful.

– Go to the company at the end of the day and watch how employees look when they are leaving. Do they seem exhausted and depressed or energized and happy? At one organization, there is a joke that if you stand in the doorway at 5 pm, you would be stampeded because everyone is so eager to leave.

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