Researching employers

If you're a job seeker, it's often advisable to check out a potential employer, whether you're intending to apply for a job or if you're going to do some cold canvassing of that employer. If you're a professional, research is essential. Researching employers can tell you a lot about how the employer operates, career prospects, and the condition of the employer's business.

Fundamental research

The most important information is sometimes the easiest to get. Nobody is invisible in the world of business, and often the publicly available information is exactly what you need.

The first things you need to know about an employer are:

  • The basic business overview: What the employer does, what their turnover is, how many people they employ, how long they've been in business. You can find this information in the employer's public records, website, or any information sheets they produce.
  • The state of the business: Is the employer growing or shrinking? What are their known problems? Are they profitable? Public records, annual returns, and business news can find that out for you in a hurry.
  • Their record as an employer: Are they an employer with a good reputation, or are they famous for being the exact opposite? Some of this is local knowledge, available by simply asking people in the business (not necessarily former employees, particularly those who were fired). Some of it is news, like a company which has been laying off people, or has made news for some other reason. The hiring and firing information is always relevant.

Secondary information

This information is harder to get, and takes longer, but it is findable.

Career track information: Does the employer have the positions you need in your career, or can a job with them only go so far? It's worth finding this out, because even if the initial position leads to a promotion, some workplaces don't go any further than that. If you're trying to become a Chief Financial Officer with an MBA, and the job only goes to assistant accountant at best, keep looking.

Workplace conditions: This is something you have to devise a way of checking for yourself. It's advisable to check out the workplace yourself, to form an opinion of the working environment. Some workplaces are easy to spot as dismal places to work, but others may seem nice until you find out that everyone who works there is very high strung.

Analyzing your research

You need to see positives in all these areas for a definitive result in favor of the employer. A good prospective employer will show:

  • The right business environment for your career
  • A healthy business situation
  • A good record as an employer
  • A credible career path for you as an employee
  • A good workplace environment according to your standards

If the employer doesn't measure up, you've saved yourself from what could have been a career mistake. The big positive is you can apply for the job and be enthusiastic about it.