Only a couple of generations ago, when you started work, whatever job you started was probably likely to be ‘the one’ for the duration of your career, working up through the ranks as you gained experience. Now ‘a job for life’ is virtually consigned to the past. Fast technological progression, ever-fluctuating economies, an increasingly competitive jobs market and the desire for continual personal improvement means that most of us will change employers several times throughout our careers.
To successfully compete for desired roles, not only do we have to constantly improve our on-the-job skills and experience, but we also have to keep our application and interview skills sharp. There is plenty of good information and advice freely given about what to look like, what to say and how to prepare to make sure you present yourself as the perfect candidate to match your prospective employer’s wishlist. While this good advice is very important to get ahead, it all too often overlooks an important part of the recruitment process: checking that not only will you be a good match for the role but equally that the recruiting organisation will also be a good match for your personality, your goals and your career.
After all, whatever your personal motivations are, we all start new jobs because we want to improve our lives. Sometimes life means we have to accept whatever job we’re offered first, but at some point you will be able to choose to move on again. To give yourself the best chances of success, try and find out as much as possible about what it’s really like to work for that particular organisation beforehand. This can be tricky because the recruiting company will obviously paint a rosy picture of what it’s like to work for them but this is what you should be considering if you aren’t lucky enough to already know someone on the inside:
Read the advert:
- Really read it carefully, and then read between the lines. The presentation, the style in which it is written, the amount of information provided. Have they just listed the bare bones of the job requirements or have they taken the time and thought to explain to candidates about potential growth opportunities, benefits and what makes them unique and great to work for?
- If the company seems to regularly advertise for similar positions then this may be a sign of a high staff turnover which could suggest that they may find it difficult to retain employees.
- Research the company online (which of course you’ll be doing anyway). Find out what the company vision or mission statement is and pay attention to the small links at the bottom of the page with headings like: ‘about us’, ‘core values’ and ‘social responsibility’. These are the bits that will give an insight into the ethos and values behind the organisation.
- Check the company’s social media pages too, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to see what they have to say.
- Some recruitment websites such as Glassdoor may even have reviews posted by fellow jobseekers or even employees, but these should be treated with caution without knowing how these are checked and verified.
- Pay attention to how the interview is conducted as this could be an indicator of what it might be like to work for these people. If they seem disorganised, distant, unprepared, not really listening or the questions seem either pointless or repetitive then you need to reflect on this before accepting any offer. And if they ask you questions that you are either not comfortable with or know are against the law, such as asking about any disabilities or if you have or plan to have children then you may be best avoiding them (unless you are applying to be their consultant HR lawyer).
- Ask the interviewers what they like about working for the company as well as how they would describe the company culture and working environment.
- Also ask them about staff turnover and what is the average length of service amongst their employees. Employees who are happy tend to stay.
- If appropriate, negotiate a trial morning or day. Not only does that give you a chance to demonstrate your skills but hopefully it will give you a chance to speak to would-be colleagues in the thick of it, rather than hearing from the hiring manager’s perspective.
We have all worked in places where we either did not fit in despite our best efforts or felt powerless and stuck in a toxic atmosphere. Every workplace will have its good points and its not-so-good points, often these don’t fully emerge until you have got your feet under the desk. It is tricky trying to make judgements on very little information but take the time to try and assess whether the overall corporate culture, morals, values, politics and even the sense of humour fit right with your personality and goals so you and your career can thrive.