In a tough job market, it can be awfully tempting to take the first job you’re offered. But desperation is not the best way to make a long-term career decision. Before you accept a job offer, it’s important to do your due diligence. Here are some factors to consider:
#1 Financials (the company’s, not yours)
If you’re considering joining a publicly-traded company, there’s no excuse for not researching the company’s financials. Start with the company’s annual report: Is the company gaining market share or losing it? Are sales and profits increasing or declining? How much debt does the company have? Is it buying back its own stock? Is the share price going up or down…or is it stagnant?
Next, find out what analysts are saying about the company. Unless you have a background in finance, that’s even more important than the raw numbers. Have analysts designated it a buy, sell, hold, accumulate, etc.? What reasons are they giving? If the financials look OK right now, but most analysts seem to agree that the company is headed for the edge of a cliff, you might want to reconsider accepting the job offer. On the other hand, a company with poor financials could be a good bet if analysts are recommending it due to a restructuring, or a change in focus, etc.
Next, look for news about the company. How often are they mentioned by the media, and why? Does the tone of the reporting convey respect or disdain? If there’s been a media crisis, how did the company handle it? What about community involvement? Does the company just pay lip service to social responsibility or do they take a leadership role?
#3 Company web site
What the company says about itself is just as important as what analysts and the media say about the company because it reveals a lot about company culture. Does it focus on innovation? Sales? Employees? Customers? Are the company’s stated values and principles reflected throughout the website, or do they conflict?
Customers are another important source of information. Twitter is a great tool for finding out what customers are saying right now. Just do a search for #companyname. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau and online message boards where customers post complaints.
The last factor to consider is what employees are saying about the company. You may turn up some comments when you research what customers are saying, but, since employees might be reluctant to say what they really think online, you’ll need to dig a little deeper. Use LinkedIn to find out whether you know anyone who works there (or used to). If not, see if you have any second-degree connections, and ask your mutual contact for an introduction. Unless you’re considering a very small company – or one that’s on the other side of the country – you’re likely to turn up somebody who can tell you how employees feel about working there.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that people like to complain. It’s important to consider whether the things people complain about are realistic. If somebody is ranting because a clothing store wouldn’t take back an item that had clearly been worn, that’s not a legitimate complaint. Neither is an employee complaint about low pay, unless the company reneged on the original offer. What you want to look for is a pattern, whether positive or negative. If the same comments keep popping up over and over from different people, it’s probably safe to accept it as at least somewhat true.
There’s more to a job offer than the pay and the list of job responsibilities. It’s also important to consider the company’s financial health, outlook for the future, core values, and employee/customer satisfaction. Considered together, all of those factors can give you great insight into whether a particular offer portends a match made in heaven.