By Alina Dizik, Special to CareerBuilder
Job seekers aren't the only ones who should undergo a lengthy background check; it's important that candidates research the company, too. Anything from pending lawsuits, bankruptcies or layoffs can be enough to raise a red flag. It's important to understand what you're getting into before accepting any position. Doing background research also will help you ask all the right questions during an interview and impress hiring managers. Not sure where to start when it comes to researching the company?
Here's how to conduct your own background check on a potential employer:
Check the finances
"Always look at the financial stability of the company," says Jonny Laurent, vice president and general manager of Sage Employer Solutions, a recruiting firm. While it may be difficult to find specific information for a private company, it's important to try. Do online research, search local news sources and ask former or current employees -- do some quick digging to make sure your employer is viable. When companies experience important financial events like bankruptcies, there's a greater chance you'll be able to find out about them and track results.
Gauge the company culture
Speaking to current or former employees can help you understand whether you're a cultural fit with the company before you take the job. If you're not comfortable with areas of a company's culture, it can hurt your career. For example, a place that prizes cutthroat tactics to get ahead may be the wrong fit for someone who is looking for a team-oriented environment. "Find people in your network or close to your network who do work or have worked for them and start a dialogue," says Laurent, who suggests LinkedIn as a good start. "Unless there is overwhelming evidence that the company is a bad fit, do not sell the company short and still interview, but now you can interview with open eyes."
Check its problem-solving record
The way a company approaches problems can be a good indicator of whether you'd want to work there and how the company treats its workforce. Before taking a job, find out "what has been the company's greatest challenge over the past year and how have they approached and solved the problem," says Jayne Mattson, senior vice president of Keystone Associates, a career management company with offices in New England. In a weak economy, it can be especially telling to see how a company has dealt with tough times. For example, if it's been able to grow an area of its business -- and you're being hired for a new position -- it can be a sign of good leadership.
Track layoffs and career progression
For most people, the biggest fear once they take on a new job is a layoff. And while that risk can't be entirely prevented, it's good to understand a company's track record. If the company has had multiple rounds of layoffs, it pays to be more careful when taking the role.
Additionally, try to find out who had your job previously, why she left and where she went. Knowing your career options after you're ready to move jobs can be a good way to gauge fit.
If you have any lingering questions, don't be afraid to speak up when talking with the recruiter or during an interview with the company. Not only will it help calm your anxiety, but it'll show hiring managers that you've done your homework and understand the company. A background search "will help you and the company make sure the role is going to be a good fit for both of you," Mattson says. "Ask questions that will get to the heart of what you are trying to understand, so you will make the right career decision."
Alina Dizik researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder. Follow @CareerBuilder on Twitter.
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