IT Career JumpStart

Sep 9 2009   11:52AM GMT

Evaluating A New Prospective Employer

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Though times are tough, and jobs are tight in this era of recession and downsizing, new job opportunities do still pop up from time to time. But with the consequences of a bad choice even more negative than usual — as in “What happens if the new job doesn’t work out?” with no place else to land in view — it’s also vital to do your homework in checking out the company or organization that’s offering any position of interest.

This realization came home to me yesterday, as I met my “old buddy Earl” for lunch at a nearby Mexican bakery/restaurant for lunch. As we caught up with each other, he told me about a California-based network management company that’s recruiting technical sales staff, with an interesting and heavy emphasis on both sides of that equation (that is, they’re looking for people with strong sales backgrounds and experience, but also with equally strong technical skills, knowledge and experience). He asked me to check them out to see what I could learn, and what I thought of his prospects if they should make him an offer. In trying to assess their viability and promise, I found myself looking at various aspects of their public presence, history, and offerings. “Hey!” I thought to myself “This would make a great IT Career JumpStart blog!”

Here’s a checklist of items and questions to work through that I found myself examining yesterday in providing some feedback to Earl about his situation and potential prospects with this company:

  1. Look at third-party product reviews or evaluations, preferably from well-known and -respected publications. Find out if they’ve won any best product, best in category, or other relevant industry awards.
  2. Visit the company Web site; draw your own conclusions about the quality, quantity, and kind of information available there. Pay special attention to press releases about recent financial results, earnings, sales, and other evidence of financial health and well-being (or otherwise, as the case will sometimes be). As a writer, I find trolling through white papers and other lengthier documents pretty informative about a company’s professionalism, thoroughness, and interest in providing useful information to others. You may also find this interesting, or may dig into aspects of the company where your own expertise is more relevant.
  3. Check out the company’s executive staff and board of directors. Do you recognize anybody, or their affiliations? Do you know anybody? If so, such persons could be great added information resources.
  4. Check the financial news sites (Business Week, Bloomberg, Financial Times, and so forth) for mentions of the company. If any are available, are they largely positive? If not, why?
  5. Visit Linked In (or other similar business networking sites) and see who’s active from the target company. Also, check with your own network to see if anybody has links into the company. Follow whatever information leads you can develop this way.
  6. Read job postings from the company carefully. What do they tell you about company culture and work ethics? See any unusual sets of requirements or combinations of skill sets? Try to decide what these things can mean (my old buddy learned that the VP of sales at his target company wanted candidates to come armed to their new jobs with rolodexes stuffed with potential sales candidates to try to boost sales: what does that tell you?).

A lot of this stuff will help you do due diligence if you decide to go ahead with an interview, so this effort is far from wasted. It can also help you make the call about whether or not the company is doing well or poorly and what kind of future or equity prospects a position there might mean. If you do your homework well, you’ll be able to steer clear of the turkeys and steer into the hot prospects. As for my old buddy’s potential situation, the jury’s still out, as he tries to separate out some mixed signals and decide if some negatives he’s turned up might or might not be outweighed by numerous positives he’s also discovered. Whatever he decides, I wish him luck! You, too, for that matter…

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