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11 Ways to Identify Your Next Employer

To Do List for 2009 by JD'na on Flickr

To Do List for 2009 by JD’na on Flickr

Having a target company list is not just nice to have in your job transition; it is a critical step to a strategic, proactive approach that accelerates and optimizes your transition. Having a criteria list, as well as a target company list ensures that your time is well spent pursuing opportunities that you have prequalified as good fits.

Think of it this way: do you think that recruiters spend their time looking at the larger candidate pool for anyone who might be available for a job? Or, do you think that they look for candidates who first meet their basic qualifications and possess skills that are necessary for success and then dig further to make sure that a candidate is also a cultural fit for the organization? Why shouldn’t you do the same during your job search? Doesn’t it make sense that if recruiters are specifically targeting potential candidates and you are specifically targeting particular opportunities and companies that you’ll meet sooner in the middle?

I would really love to eliminate from job seekers’ belief systems that the wider you spread your net, the faster you will transition. This proves time and time again to be inaccurate, and job seekers continue to experience frustration as they find themselves working that much harder to achieve even less traction. Then depression, resignation, and anxiety set in. These emotions are not good states of mind to be in when making decisions about the future. Assumptions are made about what is possible, and they become self-limiting beliefs. We’ve discussed this time and time again.

These self-limiting beliefs and assumptions can all be prevented by being more proactive than reactive during a job search. Last week we talked about criteria that you can use to qualify your next position. We demonstrated why creating a list of criteria can mean the difference between taking any job offered and landing the right job. Once you develop this list using the 11 categories we suggest, you can use it to identify companies that meet your criteria so that you can proactively and effectively market yourself to them, and beat out the competition for opportunities.

 

 

1. Workplace environment:

Choosing a workplace that you will like is just as important as the job itself. If you don’t like the workplace environment, it could quickly become a drag on your happiness and productivity. Consider what types of environments you like to work in. Do you need a large and well-lit office? Do you prefer a window that you can easily look out of from your desk? Do you prefer an urban setting with a visible city skyline, or a more suburban setting? Determining a potential employer’s location and type of workplace environment could be one of the easiest ways to look for target companies. But, this does require you to physically be in the environment that you want to wind up in and see what’s at a location.

 

2. Management:

What is the boss like as a person? Does he or she clash with employees? Or, are they loved as a leader by the staff? Ask specific questions of your network. It makes for a good, short agenda for phone calls that you can parlay into introductions and greater traction once you identify a company as a fit. Visit Glassdoor and Vault.com to get a general sense of management from employees, even as you call contacts within your network.

 

3. Passion and interest:

This is more internal. You can use a number of personal assessments tests, such as the passion test, strength indicator, Myers-Briggs personality test, and the DISC Profile to help you determine your personality and passions. But, all of these assessments depend on your ability to be introspective. Chances are, you’re going to have to ask yourself questions you might have been afraid to answer, or reluctantly answer because you believe those answers not real possibilities for your life. Answer them anyway, because the ideas you may have created about yourself may not be based on truth. After all, our thoughts and our ability to tell ourselves untruths is more powerful and common than we think. We all have a negativity bias because our brains are wired to think this way. Recognizing the untruths we tell ourselves and making a conscious effort to overcome these lies go a long way in realizing what is possible in our lives.

 

4. Flexibility:

Will you have the ability to telecommute? This one is pretty easy because most job descriptions for a company will include whether the position is remote. However, just because the company has flexibility for one position does not mean they’ll allow other positions to have such flexibility. You want to validate whatever your findings are by asking people in your network. If a company doesn’t offer the ability to work remotely as a policy, it doesn’t mean they won’t. You’ll also want to understand if the policies are written based on cultural decisions or security decisions.

 

5. Job structure:

Does your target company give you the freedom to work at your own pace? Or, will your supervisor always look over your shoulder? This is also information that you may be able to identify through Glassdoor, job descriptions, or your network.  Some companies experiment with their structure, and may even write case studies about things they have tried and if it has been successful.

 

6. Public perception:

What does the public think of your target company? When companies win awards it usually implies that there is a positive public perception of them. If this is important to you, check award lists. Awards may be granted by professional organizations, at conferences, and even industry publications to particular companies. Business awards run the gamut from local to international. Some prominent examples include the Best in Biz Awards (judged by members of the press and industry analysts), The American Business Awards, and the SCORE Awards. You can also search your local business journals, newspapers and magazines for companies in your area that may have won awards.

 

7. Force for change:

If you’re looking for a particular affiliation, look at companies that sponsor events like 5K’s, Black Tie events, or conferences. Attend these events whenever possible because the chances of you being able to ask questions of someone within the organization about your list of criteria are very high. If the company has a blog, a Facebook presence, or a Twitter presence, they will be promoting their change initiatives through these outlets and seeking engagement with the community. You will also want to check if they have a press page.

 

8. Culture:

There’s no better way to observe a company’s culture than by observing its people. Sit outside the company while people leave for lunch. Check to see if there are many cars outside when 5 o’clock comes around. You can gain insight into a company’s culture by observing how employees dress and what kinds of cars people drive. Do only the executives drive nice cars? Or do the employees also have nice cars? If so, the employees are doing well, too. Of course if you’re in the city, people may not be driving at all. You’ll still be able to get a good sense of what kind of culture a company has by observing the people who enter and exit the building.

 

9. Values

Values take more work to identify, because you’ll have to take a cross-section of people who work there and look into them a little bit further. See if your target company employees have social media profiles, and observe what they’re making public and posting. If the company employees are not posting anything sensitive such as politics or religion as a group, you may come to the conclusion that people are not going to be very verbal about these beliefs in the workplace either. Another way to learn about a company’s values is to look directly at its leadership. Is the CEO outspoken about his or her religious or political views? Does a company website directly state its core values? Check news articles, publications and other forms of press to gain insight about a company’s political views. Do CEOs regularly contribute to political organizations? Have they ever voiced support or opposition to a major political issue? It is possible that employees may not share their employer’s views, but learning about them can give you a better glimpse into a company’s values before you pursue a position.

 

10. Co-worker relationships:

You can make a lot of observations at 5 o’clock. Do multiple people get into one car?  Or do they all go their own separate ways? If there is a pub or restaurant in the vicinity, are coworkers going there together? If employees constantly gather after hours, it implies that co-workers have social relationships that extend outside of the workplace.  Dig a little deeper. Do the employees seem to just be executives? Is it a boys club? There’s a lot you can observe this way.

 

11. Best methods:

You can use a variety of organization methods to keep track of your target company list. Create a spreadsheet, use one column for your list of criteria, then add a column for each company, and cross-reference your criteria for each company. If a target company matches your criteria, further expand your spreadsheet with columns for contact information, companies you’ve sent a résumé to, interview dates, and times to follow-up. Make sure to add and remove companies from your list on a regular basis. Tools such as DropBox, Google Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive will allow you to access and instantly update your documents on any internet connected device. Block out a period of time each day to work on your list and keep to your set schedule.

 

Creating a target company list allows you to take an informed approach to your job search. Instead of applying for a position at any company, being selective allows you to focus on what you really want from a potential employer. Casting your job search net too wide doesn’t yield better results; it just takes up more of your time. In the same way, recruiters and hiring managers focus their attention on a few promising candidates. If this approach works for them, it can also work for you. Don’t search harder for more employers- use your time to search smarter. The time you spend targeting and researching companies will pay tenfold in the future, as you land a job faster, negotiate the salary you really want, at an employer you know will be a good fit for you.

 

If you need or want more help developing a list of criteria, we’re here for you. Our Criteria Identifier and Target Company Evaluator is a great tool to aid in your employer research.

 

The Correct Response to a Job Lead

 

"Using Three Laptops at the Same Time" by Michael Kwan from Flickr

“Using Three Laptops at the Same Time” by Michael Kwan from Flickr

“Your network is your net worth.” This succinct phrase is the title of Porter Gale’s book. Gale, a marketing expert and public speaker, argues in her book that a network of personal and professional relationships is the most important asset in a portfolio. Think about it. Over 80% of jobs are unadvertised and obtained through networking. Your network connections can help you obtain job leads and even land a job. When someone in your network produces a job lead for you, your response matters. How you respond to a job lead can mean the difference between discouraging your lead sources, and successfully capitalizing on a lead. In order to capitalize on a lead, it is important to make a smart inquiry about the quality of the lead. Not every lead is a good match for your qualifications, so it is critical to learn more about the source of the lead and the potential job.

There is an important distinction between a job lead and an introduction offer. If someone in your network offers to introduce you to someone, do not decline the opportunity. There could be synergy between you and the other party, and a conversation might lead to a job opportunity. People are the ultimate connectors. You won’t know if there’s an opportunity until you have a meeting. Graciously accept the introduction offer, attend the meeting and follow up with your source. Feel free to ask your source questions about the party you’re meeting with to attend the meeting fully prepared. An introduction is a direct invitation to establishing a relationship with someone at a potential employer. A job lead is the knowledge of an open position, and when you can establish a relationship with hiring managers you increase your odds of being chosen as the candidate who gets the offer.

Gauge how much the person knows about the source and quality of the information they’ve given you. If it is a job lead, and not an introduction, you’ll have to dig deep and research the lead. Not every job lead is created equally. Your source may or may not be intimately familiar with the lead or the position. He or she may have been approached by a recruiter, declined the offer and decided to forward the position information to you. This doesn’t mean the employer is incompatible with your personal criteria. Your lead source may not have been not been actively looking for a job, or the position may not have fit their personal criteria. Knowing that you’re looking to make a transition, your source decided to be helpful and pass the information on to you.

If your source forwarded a lead and doesn’t know much about the company, avoid bombarding them with questions about the position. In other words, don’t make them answer the same questions you would ask of someone more familiar with the position. Go directly to the source. If the source leads you to a company website or job board, go to LinkedIn to learn more about the company and to discover if you have any possible inside connections. Next week I will go further into depth about the top ten websites you can use to research your employer.

Before you consider making a connection with someone at the company, thoroughly research the organization. Your research will help you get further in your ability to market yourself and demonstrate your value. The job position could be a perfect match for your qualifications and skills, but the company culture or its location may be a poor fit. Here are few questions to consider:

 

  • Where is the company located? You may or may not be open to the idea of relocating to another town or city.

 

  • What is the size of the company? If you’ve previously worked at a small employer, switching to a large employer could be a major culture shock, and vice versa.
  • What do employees think of their employer? If a good number of employees are miserable at the job, it may be a place you want to stay far away from.
  • Why do think you’ll be a good fit for the position? This question can also generate great content for a cover letter. Take notes as you discover your answers.

 

Look up a company’s profile on LinkedIn to discover answers to your questions.  Job review sites such as Vault and Glassdoor are more ways to obtain insight about a potential employer. Visit Salary.com and PayScale to learn more about an average salary for the open position at your employer. These are good resources for gathering salary range information based on your job title, skills and education level. Once you’ve researched a potential employer it’s time make a decision.

If you find that the company meets about 80% of your criteria, create a connection within the company. Go to LinkedIn to see who you may know. If possible, try to identify the most logical hiring managers. Once you find the hiring managers, send out customized invitations. Avoid sending out boilerplate invitations, and use the information you gathered about the hiring managers to introduce yourself. Before you send out those invitations, make your LinkedIn profile as appealing as possible. I’ve written extensively on the subject.  Avoid using default headlines and make sure your profile is more than just an online résumé. When you send an invitation to hiring managers, the point is not to directly ask for a job, but to be the answer to the open position. Think of it like this, the company needs to fill an open position to solve a problem within the company. You want to be the first solution that comes to mind.

If the position does not meet 80% of your criteria and you were referred, follow through with the interview and be upfront with a hiring manager. Let him or her know that the job opportunity presented after an introduction isn’t a fit for you. This honesty can lead to better opportunities down the road. When that potential employer has an open position that matches your qualifications and needs to be filled, either internally or referred, your name may be on the top of the candidate list. Focus on your preferred contribution and the types of positions that are in alignment with your skills and qualifications.  If the real issue with a job is a lifestyle conflict, let the hiring manager know. Express to them how you appreciate the time and effort they took to consider you for a position, but it isn’t a good fit with your lifestyle. For example, longer hours at a potential job may leave you unable to pick up your children from school or daycare in a timely manner. Or, the commute may be too long.

 

Always follow through with your source. They took the time to send information for a possible lead, thank them, and update them on what happened. They have a vested interest in the outcome and will want to know if it worked out. This is the best way to reinforce with your network that the efforts that they make on your behalf are not in vain. If, however, too many job leads they send seem to be wrong, they will get discouraged. Give them a little guidance, if necessary, but always with sincere gratitude.

Making a smart inquiry about the lead, and being responsive to your source can be the difference between discouraging them from ever sending you a lead again and receiving more job leads. Again, thank them for their time and research the lead. Your research will enable you to decide if pursuing an open position is worth your time. You can also use your research to put yourself ahead of the competition by crafting a customized cover letter. Learn how to use your research to get immediate responses from employers with our cover letter secret sauce. Above all, gratitude and research is the best response to a job lead.

 

You Can’t Afford Not to Investigate Your Next Employer!

"Office" by Julia Manzerova.

“Office” by Julia Manzerova.

What if you approached your next employer in the same way you would check out the health report of your favorite restaurant? When we job hunt, we mostly fixate on the position we’re trying to land.  We consider salary, advancement opportunities, healthcare benefits, and other employee perks when looking at our next employer. However, we can often go much deeper in the research of our potential employer.  The company you want to work for may not be a good fit for you. Imagine the joy of landing that job, starting work, and the horror of discovering you hate your new company. You could have a problem with way the business is run, or the company culture in general. In other words, after getting your foot in the door, you’re already looking for an exit. Taking the time to dig into the publicly available records of your next employer is a great way to avoid this scenario. Sometimes, you make discoveries you didn’t want to know about. Other times, there are things you have to know about.

Extremely savvy consumers who want to know more about their favorite restaurants will often start with a health report. These reports are made available by state and local governments. Many counties have a convenient list of restaurants available with dated reports. The reports will often list if the restaurants are in compliance, out of compliance, and if the issue was resolved during the visit. (For an example of a local report, read Ardmore, PA’s Taste of Olives’ inspection.) Additionally, consumers who want to learn more about a particular restaurant can turn to review sites such as Zagat or Yelp for customer experiences.

When researching a future employer you can tackle your research in a similar manner. The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) is a good place to check out the health and safety compliance records of a company. You certainly don’t want to find yourself working for an employer in constant violation of the OSH Act. OHSA has an enforcement inspections database that is searchable by the name of establishments. You can search for employer violations, cases, and inspection dates across federal and state governments. Information is readily available, but it isn’t as easy to interpret as a restaurant health report. OSHA’s Integrated Management Information System is meant for in-house use, despite being publicly available. You can discover if an employer had any violations, if they were fined, and if there was an informal settlement. The number of violations may be concerning, or the complete lack of violations could put you at ease. Just like a restaurant report, an OSHA report is only a snapshot of a company during a specific time.

Job review sites such as Vault or the more popular Glassdoor are a great place to get an idea of a company’s culture, directly from employees. Glassdoor was founded in 2007 and currently has a database of over 6 million detailed company reviews. The reviews cover everything from interview reviews and questions, salary reports, benefits reviews, CEO approval ratings, and even employee recommendations on how the company can improve. Searching for a particular company is as easy as entering a name. Reviewers range from entry-level employees, all the way to up to senior management. The interview reviews provide some insight on the hiring process. Glassdoor is a great way to gather information about an employer. A company with lots of subpar reviews or a confusing interview process may be noteworthy.

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The major downside to Glassdoor is the inability to sort out review by location and career position. For example, you may want reviews from IT Project Managers for Comcast based in Philadelphia. A search of Comcast with those terms yields general reviews of the company from employees in a variety of positions, in numerous locations across the country. There’s no way to hone in on those specific search terms, forcing you to read reviews from similar positions. There are also a lot of anonymous reviews on Glassdoor that tell you very little about a job position. All and all, Glassdoor is still a good resource for researching companies.

Another great way to check out an employer is by word of mouth. Think about it. You would definitely ask your friends about a restaurant you were curious about. In the same way, your friends, social networks, and even networking events can help you determine if a company would be a good match. Don’t be afraid to ask contacts on LinkedIn about a company’s culture. Be sure to ask about company culture from employees at networking events. Facebook posts and tweets make it very easy to get the “word on the street.” Try it for one of your target companies. Often these social inquiries generate leads and introductions without you having to outright ask.

Doing extra research on the front end provides another bonus in your job hunt. If you discover the company is a good match, you will be able to fine tune your marketing efforts. You’ll know enough about the company to hit their hot buttons and land an interview directly with a hiring manager. That’s a huge advantage over your competition!

Researching an employer in the same way you might scope out your favorite restaurant isn’t easy. Searching for work place reports and employee reviews can be a daunting task.  A little work goes a long way in finding out if a company would be a good a fit for you. When taking your career to the next level you want to know as much as possible about your next employer. A combination of compliance information and employee-driven reviews will help to ensure you don’t regret getting the job. The mental stress, depression, and overall frustration resulting from a bad match with an employer can be detrimental to your wellbeing. On the flipside, fully researching a company and discovering they are a good match can help your chances of being hired. Much of what you find out can help you more effectively market yourself to meet their needs. In short, you can’t afford to not thoroughly research a company.

Gin Blossoms – Found Out About You

Music video by Gin Blossoms performing Found Out About You. (C) 2004 A&M Records