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How to Identify the Right Company to Work For

Hunting for a job can be a stressful event. Not only are you looking for your next role, but a place where you can shine, contribute, further your career, and with which you feel proud to be associated. One way of making a search easier, and helping you to feel better about the process, is to look beyond the job description, and research a company in terms of its values and culture.

Your job has more meaning and influence on your life than you may imagine so it’s critical to identify the right company to work for. Since so much of your time and energy is invested on the job, finding a place of employment that’s a good fit with your core values is crucial to your well-being. Here are a few important criteria to consider when evaluating your next career move.

Shared values

At Planet Forward, we do a lot of recruiting for the oil and gas industry, and the companies we represent have principles and world views that impact their decision making. In any industry, concerns you have about a company’s environmental impact or public policy, should be researched before you apply. To ensure that your views align with those of a potential employer, have a thorough look at the company’s website, and follow-up with a reputation search to find out if they live up to their values.

Cultural fit

When we work with candidates, we put a lot of emphasis on the importance of a cultural fit, which dovetails closely with values. Even before you get to the interview phase of the process, we recommend you look for company reviews online. You can learn a great deal about how an organization’s management works with its employees, and the expectations for roles that are the same or similar to the one you’ve applied for. It’s also worth your time to see if the company shows up on social networking sites, which may provide information that won’t be found elsewhere.

Company size

Pay attention to the size of an organization as well. Company websites, LinkedIn pages, and the same online review sites can give a lot of insight here as well. The number of employees, and the way they’re managed, is very important, especially if you’re entry level. You may want to know how accessible your managers are or if there’s open communication within a department, or between departments. You may also be able to find out what they offer their employees in terms of growth potential, and opportunities for career enhancement.

Communication style

When you’re finally ready to interview, you’ll have another good chance to decode for cultural fit. It’s important to keep in mind that you’re interviewing a potential employer just as much as they’re interviewing you. It’s also worth noting that when speaking with potential managers or colleagues, everyone’s true personality may be a bit muted. However, you should pay close attention to how they communicate not only with you, but each other as well.

While it may be a given that you ask about what a potential employer is looking for in a candidate, don’t shy away from asking about a company’s values, organizational dynamics, management, and communication style.

During the interview, as you ask and respond to questions, observe how people react. Red flags may include not allowing you to finish sentences, talking over you or each other, or being avoidant or vague when you ask specific questions about the role or company culture.

Physical environments

For candidates interviewing to work on site, an office’s physical environment matters. Look around when you’re given a tour of a facility. If you can’t work in a cubicle, and that’s all that’s offered, pay attention to your discomfort. The same goes for noise levels; large, shared workspaces; or office space with no access to natural light.

If you’ll be working remotely, or in a hybrid arrangement, ask if the company assists in setting up home offices. Also check to see if flexibility is part of their strategy to keep employees engaged and retained.

Due diligence

If the position is offered, there are still ways you can identify if this is the right company to work for. Touch base with someone who works on the team you’re interviewing with. Or use your network to find someone you, or a friend, may know that works at the company. Ask some basic, friendly questions, like ‘What are you working on? and ‘How is the process being managed?’ or ‘What is the culture like?” Their answers will reveal a lot about how the team functions. Find out how long other employees have been on the job. If you’re connecting with solid people who’ve been working there awhile, it’s a very good sign.

It’s also worth asking if you can come in and spend a few hours working with your prospective team. A day with the group should give you a good idea of how people interact with each other.
Just remember, if the information you’re getting doesn’t align with what you’re seeking, it’s best not to take the job. Your values, and those of your employer, will affect your day-to-day experiences, and they should mesh enough for you to feel good about being there. By being observant, listening to your gut, and doing your homework, you’ll easily be able to identify the right company to work for.


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