It’s so difficult when you are interviewing to know whether a company is a “good” company or not. Deciding where to work is an important decision, and understanding if a company is potentially good to work for is probably the most important factor in that decision.
There is always the financial factor to consider – is the company solvent? How has the stock price performed over the past few years (if a public company)? What financial plans and considerations has the company implemented for the future? Unless you are dealing with a very small, privately-held company, you can gain a lot of this information from what has become today’s encyclopedia – the internet. If not publically information is not available, don’t be afraid to ask such questions once the interviewing has become serious. After all, it’s your future too!
Benefits and pay are important considerations, but not necessarily do a company make.
Just how important these factors are really depends on your personal situation. You never want to undersell (undervalue) yourself in terms of compensation as it’s very, very difficult to make it up in future jobs. So, even if you have some flexibility with your acceptable level of base pay, make sure that you are at minimum being paid market rate for the job and for your experience. Again check the internet or, if working with a good recruiter, ask their opinion.
Benefits are all over the board in terms of coverage and cost to the employee. Only you can determine what benefit levels are acceptable to you and your family. I have found that a number of younger people do not understand the need for, nor the value of medical benefits. So a word of caution here – do not underestimate your need for healthcare – even if you are young and healthy, accidents happen and you WILL need healthcare benefits at some point in the future.
There has been a lot of news about companies offering all sorts of special “perks” like free Friday beer hours, on-site gyms, gratis cafeterias, the ability to bring your pet to work, etc. How about company contests? Baby picture identifying, ping pong leagues, best Hawaiian shirt day... Do these perks make a company “good”? They might help bolster morale, which isn’t insignificant in creating and maintaining an enjoyable work experience. However, don’t be fooled by such programs – ultimately these activities or perks are not the underpinnings that make for a good company.
The BIG 3: Trust, Pride and Enjoyment
Now we’re getting somewhere! A good company must provide an environment in which employees trust their management, take pride in their work and enjoy their comrades. Sounds good, and they are very important; but how do you assess these during an interview? Not an easy assessment to make, but there are steps you can take to make such an assessment.
Look around when you go for an interview – what is the general mood of the employees you see? Do you see items on desks, cubicle walls that display a sense of pride? Do you see any groups of people? Are they laughing, or talking animatedly with each other (in a good way!)? Ask the human resources person what the turnover rate is for the company. Ask the hiring manager what the turnover rate is for the department. Keeping your eyes open, listening and asking the right questions will get you closer to an accurate assessment.
My opinion though – what really makes a company good to work for, and affects all of the things I’ve discussed above, is good management. Over and over again I’ve seen that the attitude/management style at the top flows down to the bottom. You should be looking for a company whose management team possesses ethics and credibility, illustrates respect for employees through fair treatment, has a positive attitude, and creates an appropriate culture and an environment of camaraderie. And do your best to make sure they “walk the walk”, rather than just “talk the talk” when it comes to these important factors. Use all of the tools at your disposable to ensure that the management team of the company you are interviewing possesses these qualities. What you see, hear and ask during your interview is integral to your decision, but also be sure to make full use of your network of peers to get the real story. Don’t hesitate to work these sources – because, again, it’s your future too!
As with everything in life, there are compromises you will have to make when you decide on your next job, so be sure you understand what is most important to you before you start interviewing. Even though the answer to the question “how do I know if a company is a good company?” may be addressed by what I have covered in this blog post, you undoubtedly will not find it the perfect job.
But never compromise on finding a good management team – everything else will fall into place.