In a recent issue of New York Times Magazine, Virginia Heffernan wrote an excellent article called, “Trust Busting.” Ms. Heffernan looked at websites of “beleaguered” companies to see what they were saying about themselves and how they are “spinning” their latest issues.
After profiling a few of the in-the-news companies like Toyota, she clearly sends the message that companies do what they want with their PR message on their websites to create a story they want us to believe, regardless of the truth. Those companies who are struggling with keeping or restoring trust are the ones that hit it the hardest.
There is another lesson in Ms. Heffernan’s article that points to the fact that hyperbole and perception creation is likely also happening with how jobs are marketed and shared. If a company is “spinning” themselves on the job front as well as the product front, then any one of us might end up taking the bait and landing in a job that doesn’t fit us culturally or even get close to being what is best for us in our career. We could just say, “caveat emptor” and move on, but this is too important of an issue for all of us to pass by it quickly. We are in an age where we each need to get better at tuning up our hyperbole meters so that we can figure out what is real, what is not and what is the truth.
Try these tactics to get closer to the truth in your job and job search:
- Spend real time on the company website and go all over the website. Too many times we spend more time on the job page than we do on any other page on the site. But, if we want the truth we need to dig all the way in. Read the transcript from the last two analyst calls and then match up the PR message. Look at the tenure and time in job of the senior management and the board of directors. You are looking for stability or turnover. Look at the press releases of people hired and people lost. Do the same for customers, partners and investors.
- Triangulate the message. Look to see if analysts, bloggers, Yelpers, company reviews on Glassdoor, etc. all line up, or not. If there is not a thread of a theme consistent with what the company is saying about themselves, then you have to ask if the emperor has clothes or not?
- Ask the competition. Find someone from the company’s major competitor and ask them whether the message is true or not. You have to discount some of their insights because it is a competitor and they will for sure ‘dis the company, but where there is smoke there is fire. They will give you more to think about than you had before.
- Find someone like you to talk to. Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to find someone who works there or used to work there to talk. Find someone you already have something in common with to give you a standard reference. This could be someone who graduated from your same university program or used to also work at the same company as you did. Whatever the commonality, it will help you open up the conversation and also give you a better chance of getting to the truth.
Deciphering the marketing message in a company website and/or a job spec today is like reading a real estate advertisement. Any home owner knows what “charming” or “cozy” means in real estate jargon. Just like buying the house, you have to go see it to find the truth about the house, talk to others about it and do some digging to know what you are getting. The same is too true today in the job market.