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Summary:

A friend of mine who’s worked in a slew of web jobs that have sorely disappointed him has finally found a role he thinks will be fun, challenging and rewarding. He knew of the company, met multiple times with different team members, had been taken on […]

top_secret-A friend of mine who’s worked in a slew of web jobs that have sorely disappointed him has finally found a role he thinks will be fun, challenging and rewarding.

He knew of the company, met multiple times with different team members, had been taken on a tour of the office space, and was happy with the offer they’d negotiated. It all looked good. But before he jumped in and signed up, he made one final check that all web workers should undertake.

He called a friend of his who used to work for the company to get the inside story on what it’s like there.

His friend had left the company, but he trusted her opinion, so he spent an hour discussing the company culture, the attitude to various aspects of the work that were important to him, what she’d liked and disliked about working there, and so on. In some ways, this conversation was almost like a sort of reverse job interview. And it confirmed many of his thoughts on the organization while alerting him to other aspects of the place and people that he hadn’t been aware of.

By the end of the conversation, he felt he had a clearer, real-world view of his potential employer from someone who knew the company well, yet had no personal or business interest in whether or not he took the job. And he decided to accept the position.

How to Find Out What It’s Like On the Inside

Obviously it’s important to get to know the company you’re considering working for as best you can. But if you haven’t had any experience with the organization yourself (for example, as a customer or client), you may fear you’ll be left with its web site and your interviewer as your only sources of information.

There are a few other ways you can research your potential employer. The first is, of course, to ask someone who’s worked at the company how they enjoyed their time. Of course, their reasons for leaving the place may skew their answers to your questions, but this is a good starting point — if you know such a person. If not, don’t worry: there are other tactics you can use to get past the company sales pitch and find out what life’s like on the inside.

Speak to a Current Employee

Ask if you can speak to another person who works for the company about what it’s like there. You might suggest this to your potential employer as a way to get a feel for the company culture from an objective party who doesn’t care whether you join the organization or not. Of course, you’ll want to keep in mind that the details of your conversation may well be fed back to the staff that are considering hiring you.

But spending half an hour with someone who works in the organization can be a useful way to gain insight into the way the place functions, how it demonstrates that it respects and values staff and clients, and so on.

Speak to a Current or Past Client

If you were considering contracting your potential employer to do some work for you, you’d undoubtedly check their references. So why not do the same if you’re considering working for them? Most organizations will already have a few referees on hand for prospective clients to speak with, and they may be happy for you to speak to one of these individuals.

Speaking to a client can give you an insider’s view of how the company treats clients and delivers its services. You may gain insight into the processes the company uses to manage clients and complete projects, or the swiftness with which is responds to client complaints, inquiries, and reported technical issues. Again, keep in mind that the details of this conversation may well be reported back to your potential employer.

Review Community Discussions

Most company web sites have a blog, discussion forums, reader comments or a combination of these. Check these sources to see how the company deals with its audience, responds to their comments and thoughts, and deals with negative feedback.

The way a company interacts with its public online may give you rare insight into deeply-held attitudes that underlie the company culture, as well as things like complaint resolution procedures, how involved the broader team is with customers and clients, and how open the company is to new ideas, technology, and so on.

These are the methods I use to research potential employers. Have you used any of these approaches — or others — to get a clear view of what your life might be like if you worked for a given employer?

  1. Contracting with a company before signing up fulltime is another way to “try” the company out. You can speak with employees who still work there and get first hand experience. You can even work out 3 month contract to hire plan for fulltime positions sometimes.

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  2. [...] in touch with people extremely valuable. It was also easy for me to see that their advice on things to do before you accept a web job could easily be adapted and made relevant for anyone considering accepting a new position! Whether [...]

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  3. I had a potential client, but I didn’t have a good feeling after exchanging a few emails. So I asked the person who referred her to me about his experience working with her. He confirmed what I was thinking and I didn’t take the gig. Talking to someone who has worked for the client or company is a very good way to learn about the company.

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  4. [...] Worker Daily: Tells you to do one little thing before accepting that job over the web. Hint: Get to know who you are working [...]

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  5. [...] Do This One Thing Before You Accept that Web Job | Web Worker Daily [...]

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