Job seekers have a lot to think about, from finding good opportunities to passing aptitude tests and making sure you show off your best qualities. But while you’re focused on getting prospective employers to like you, don’t forget that the application process goes two ways: it’s also your opportunity to decide whether the employer is a good fit for your needs.
There’s loads that you can do to find out what a job will be like before you join, and if you can afford to be picky then you should be. Switching to a job with a bad culture will make you wish you’d held out a little longer for a second offer, so be sure to do your research.
Ask the right questions in interview
You may want to know more about the role, the benefits and the structure of the team – those are all great topics for questions, but make sure you also throw in something about company culture. Ask them what the mood is typically like in the office, or how employees are encouraged to look after their work life balance.
Aside from the answer itself, their manner as they answer can be very telling. Hiring managers that are happy to talk about these kinds of topics, and open and honest about both the pros and cons, generally reflect a more employee-friendly work culture. If they’re reluctant to discuss it then that’s not a good sign.
Read employee reviews
Review site Glassdoor pulls together reviews from current and ex-employees to help give you an idea of how workers at company X really feel about their jobs. Be wary of one-off negative reviews with vague criticisms, as these may not always be reliable. Instead, look for patterns and trends, as well as very specific comments that discuss the things that matter to you. The more reviews sharing an opinion, the more likely it is to be an accurate representation.
Look at how they treat their customers
How a company treats its customers is a good indicator of how much respect they have for people. If they don’t seem to care too much about the customers, then chances are they’ll have the same attitude to their staff. Similarly, if company representatives seem disinterested when helping customers, then it may be because they don’t feel particularly well looked after themselves.
Look at reviews left on social media and sites like Trustpilot to see what customers think. You should also pay attention to how the company responds to negative reviews. Are they friendly, helpful and willing to admit fault? Or do they ignore unhappy customers, or act dismissively?
Read any press coverage
The press probably won’t have much to say about day to day company culture, but local newspapers do sometimes pick up on particularly egregious events such as allegations of bullying or unfair dismissal. It’s worth having a cursory search.
Consider the interview process as a reflection of the job
Finally, don’t forget that the way a company treats you while you’re interviewing is a sign of how they’ll treat you long term. If anything, companies are on their best behaviour while trying to attract candidates to work with them. For instance: how much time do they expect you to spend on tasks to prove your skills before coming to the interview? And how long is the interview once you’re there? Unless you’re going for a particular senior role, companies that ask for too much are showing that they don’t respect your time.