How to assess employer potential

How much research did you do on your company before accepting your job? Had you heard of them before you applied for the position?

How much research did you do on your company before accepting your job? Had you heard of them before you applied for the position?

When you start a new job you learn the ropes of an organisation — what its company culture is like, what its focuses are and how good the coffee machine is.

You can’t always find out these things before you start — asking about company perks during an interview isn’t the smartest approach — but you can do research. You may even begin before you start your job hunting to target a particular company.

Research does not just mean sitting at your PC and going to the company’s Web site. But that’s as good a place as any to start. You may — or may not — get a feel for the company culture this way.

Check out Techtonics site, for example. In addition to explaining what the company is all about, this site — in its company culture section — also provides an insight into the company’s sense of fun. Not all companies will share this sort of information online but it’s worth a look.

Even if you don’t get “soft” information, you may discover what the company is about and who its customers are.

You can also get some of this information from company reports — but the Web site should be able to provide you with the most up-to-date information (and you may also find a company report online).

Nowadays many companies include, in their site vacancies section, a bit about the type of people they’re looking for. Take a look at Wang's site: its “work at Wang” section lists a variety of jobs, experience and skills needed and desirable attributes they’d like to see in employees.

If you want to check the background of the company, you could try the Companies Office. It provides a variety of services. Some services require you to pay a fee, but it costs nothing to do things like check who the company’s directors are.

You could then research these people and see what other companies they’ve been involved with and search a list of banned directors for free.

The Equal Employment Opportunities Trust site is also useful if you want to find what companies are membersand are recognised with awards for their good attitudes.

Some companies pay lip service to this sort of thing so check out newspapers and magazines as well, where you may be able to find less complimentary facts about companies.

Most publications, such as Computerworld have an on-line presence and often provide search engines for archived stories.

There are also resources such as Newsroom and Scoop, which have many stories from a variety of sources.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for online, you can always dust off that library card and search your neighbourhood library’s newspaper databases, where you will also be able to find company annual reports.

Industry directories are also useful. Computerworld also has an industry directory, which is helpful for finding which companies’ provide what products and services.

Networking and word of mouth are of course also useful tools.

Join an organisation like the New Zealand Computer Society, with branches nationwide. If you can find people who already work at the company you’re targeting, you maybe able to get the real oil.

Kirstin Mills is Computerworld’s careers editor. Phone her at: 0-3-467 2869; fax:0-3-467 2875.

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