Career Advice

What to Look for When Researching a Company: A Complete Checklist

Researching a company is like researching a new city. It has its own unique history, quirks, and culture. And there’s probably more info about it available than you have time to sift through. With so many criteria to judge from, what are the most important? We’ve prepared a comprehensive list of everything you need to look for when you’re researching a company — with tips on how to find the information, as well. Get ready, get set, go research!

1. Locations

Just when you think you’ve pinpointed the perfect company to work for, you find out that they only have offices in… Omaha, Nebraska. For those who aren’t ready to pick up and move to Omaha, grounding your search in location is extremely important. Luckily, websites like Glassdoor allow you to search jobs by location, so you can easily see if the company you’re interested is hiring in a place you can see yourself living. Alternatively, the company website often gives a picture of where offices are located.

2. Company culture

Does the company have the free-flowing ethos of a startup, or does it hold a rigid corporate structure? Are employees treated more like peers or subordinates? Understanding what the company culture is like is critical to your full assessment of the company — after all, it’s the environment where you’ll be spending 8 hours, if not more, of your life every day. “Culture is the only differentiator that can’t be copied,” writes Derek Irvine, VP of Client Strategy and Consulting Services at Globoforce. As in: company culture can vary widely from company to company, in completely unique ways. One of the easiest ways to assess company culture is by reading employee-written reviews, or by talking to folks who have worked at a company — that kind of first-hand knowledge is irreplaceable.

3. Awareness

What kind of values is the company known for? Do they have robust diversity initiatives, a strong commitment to sustainability, a charitable donation track record you can stand by? More importantly, how do these values fit in to your own? These are crucial questions when looking for a company that you feel you can confidently stand behind.

4. The company’s history

Knowing the big events in a company’s history is important — especially if they’re related to scandals or bankruptcy. You want to make sure that whatever caused problems in the past isn’t a factor that’s still in play today.

5. Who you’ll be working with

Is there a specific project or team at the company that would suit your interests — even if it’s not directly related to what the company formally does? “Quite possibly the best advice I’ve ever heard about selecting your next career is to pick your boss, not the job,” says Michael S. Seaver, executive coach and consultant. In the same vein, the project you’re placed on or the department you’re in can make all the difference at a company.

6. Their competitors

While this is more of an in-depth research item, it’s important to think about the company’s long-term trajectory in the market. Especially if it seems clear that another competitor might soon overtake them. Additionally, it can be helpful to compare and contrast the benefits, environment, and culture that similar companies offer for the same position.

7. Financial picture

Knowing detailed financial information about a company will not only allow you to make your own judgments about their future success, but will also give you an impressive background in the nitty gritty aspects of their business if you do decide to interview there. For larger companies, you should be able to gain a sense of their financial health from financial news articles and information like an annual report from their website.

8. The vacation policy

While this may not be posted on the front page of the website, a bit of sniffing around — whether it’s through reading Glassdoor’s “vacation & paid time off” reviews or calling up current employees you know there — will give you information about vacations, options to work remotely, or take paid time off.  

9. Employee community

When you’re joining any sort of team — like the team of people you work with — it’s important to get a sense of what the community dynamics are like. But how do you learn about a community before you join? You can tell a lot about a company’s commitment to community by taking a quick swipe around their social media accounts. Did they post on Instagram with pictures of their last holiday party? Does their Facebook page give profiles on their new hires? Just a bit of sleuthing can give you a picture of how the company’s community really functions.

10. Healthcare benefits

Does the company cover your health insurance premiums, let alone the premiums of your spouse and children? If not, what percentage are you on the financial hook for? What is their policy on dental, optical, prescription drug subsidy, and mental health? While there are many reasons to choose working at a company, having a robust healthcare package can be a huge incentive to pick one company over another.

11. Recent news

Was the company recently embroiled in a headline-making scandal? Did they just announce a hiring freeze? These are things you might want to know before rushing headlong into the application process. Just a quick pass of recent news related to the company can draw out the red flags.

12. General benefits

Yoga classes after work, employee discounts, 401K Plans, charitable gift matching — what benefits are most important to you? On any company review page on Glassdoor, you can find reviews of benefits as diverse as mobile phone discounts to pet-friendly workplaces. These very specific reviews can be an important way to compare the benefits that matter to you at two different companies.

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