Let’s do a quick test: In the past week, have you browsed a friend’s Instagram way past a respectable post date? Have you clicked so far into the depths of a website you’re reading that you don’t even know how you found the article you’re on? Do you sometimes look up from Facebook and not know how you got to the photo you’re looking at?
Don’t worry, these skills can actually come in handy in your professional life. (So, pat yourself on the back you professional development all-star!) Knowing how to accurately research a company can mean the difference between finding an organization that’s perfect for you and falling into one that’s completely wrong. And that means the difference between liking your new role and having to restart the whole job search process in six months.
But before you can begin stalking, you need to put your own thoughts in order. And to help you do that, we’ve created this free worksheet to organize your thoughts and the steps you should take:
- Open it up. (See, this will be easy!)
- Put the following words in order of importance to you and feel free to add (or remove) anything that’s missing: Transparency, competition, fairness, data-based, work-life balance, flexible hours, maternity leave, understanding for working parents, hard-working, inclusivity, diversity, self-improvement, self-starter, hard-working, innovative, first to market, access to leadership, integrity, discipline, fun, respect, collaboration, team player, accountability, stable, change, competitive salary, autonomy.
- Pop your top five to 10 into the grid and keep it handy as you follow the next steps for each company you’re considering.
OK, onto the stalking!
So, how does one do it effectively (and not creepily)? Here’s your ultimate guide to getting the inside scoop on a company before you make a mistake:
1. Check Their Career Page to Learn About Their Mission
A company’s website is probably the best place to get all the details that really matter (with a more-buttoned-up spin, of course). The best page to check out is the one that outlines their mission. While this might be a little buzzword-y, it will give you an idea of what they believe in and how they communicate that to the outside world.
If they’re a smaller company, they might also have a team page where you can “meet” all the employees (at a bigger company, you’re better off searching for your teammates on LinkedIn).
From here, you can ask yourself: Is there diversity? Do they seem fun? Silly? (I know, it’s just a photo, but sometimes a smile or goofy pose—or lack thereof—is worth a thousand words.) Do they have standard titles or more creative ones? While you don’t want to read too much into anything you see on these more polished pages, you should keep an eye out for trends that you’ve spotted during your other research.
2. Check Out Their Other Profiles Around the Internet to See if It’s Consistent
You’ll find things such as what certain employees do in their roles, what it’s like to work in certain departments, what the office (or offices) looks like, and any additional fun facts or bits of information that might tip you toward or away from applying.
3. Check Social Media to Get a Feel for a Company’s Personality
A company isn’t a human. But that doesn’t mean that it’s soul-less (or, I should say, that it should be).
Do a quick search on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn for their company profile. Some even have multiple you can browse—one for customers, one for customer service, one for clients, and one for careers or jobs.
Keep an eye out for the following:
Also known as how they express themselves and talk to or about their customers, clients, or employees
— WAXIE (@WAXIEbuzz) August 30, 2017
. @JacquelineErens You can buy bars here! Just give a call before you head over Monday-Friday 9-5pm during non-holiday times (312) 624-8200.
— RXBAR (@RXBAR) December 21, 2016
What kinds of things do they tend to post? Company events or product launches? Outside work activities? Social initiatives?
— Join CSC (@joincsc) August 28, 2017
— Capital One Careers (@capitalonejobs) September 26, 2017
Their Activity Level
Finally, how active are they? For example, if a social media marketing agency doesn’t update their Twitter ever, it’s fair to wonder if they stand behind everything they’re saying. Note: It’s OK if the organization doesn’t update! There are lots of companies in that boat who can’t prioritize it. But it’s good to note with the right context.
Check Company Reviews for the Truth
Now that you’ve gotten the PR-friendly, company-approved spin, you want to get a more honest and well-rounded perspective.
Employee reviews (like on Glassdoor or Indeed) are great for getting candid feedback from real employees. They’re also probably one of the few places online that highlight the negatives of the organization or role. Don’t ignore them, but try not to read too much into them.
It’s like any review on a hotel or restaurant. A few people may say the service at one establishment was a little slow, but if all you care about is the food quality that probably won’t stop you from going. Similarly, if a company review says some employees stay late a few times a week, that may not bother you if the work itself seems interesting.
In the end, it’s all about knowing what matters to you.
(And, if you’re worried about the reviews you’re seeing, you can read even more on this topic here.)
Check Out Google for Assorted News
Last but not least, plug the company’s name into Google to find any articles, news stories, or videos about them. This will help you learn their reputation from a less biased perspective. You might discover things that’ll impact your experience there. For example, if they’ve recently raised funding, reorganized teams, or merged with a competitor.
You’ll notice that I didn’t lay out too many red flags here. That’s because stalking a company online has a lot to do with listening to your instincts. If something seems off to you, that’s not something to ignore.
However, it shouldn’t deter you from applying or taking the job—especially because you can (and should) bring culture up in your interview. Your hiring manager may surprise you or reveal something you wouldn’t ever learn from the internet—the beauty of context!—and make you feel more confident about your decision.