Do You Really Want to Work There? Evaluating a potential employer

Selena Dehne, JIST Publishing

One lesson many people have learned in recent months is that it's not unusual for an organization to be doing well one month and on the brink of crisis the next. After all, haven't we all heard from at least one person we know who was shocked to be laid off or to discover that their employer was suddenly struggling? News headlines alone are testament to the fact that thousands of people lost their jobs before having any idea they were in jeopardy.

As a result, it has become more important than ever for job seekers to ask themselves an essential question before accepting a job offer: "How secure will my future be with this employer?" Although this is an issue people should consider in good and bad economic situations, it's particularly critical for people thinking about leaving their current employer for another.

"If your new employer is on shaky ground because of poor finances or leadership, chances of your long-term success with the organization are already slim. A fast failure at a new job can kick off a series of frustrating, downward-spiral career experiences," says career coach Katy Piotrowski, author of "The Career Coward's Guide to Job Searching."

Without a crystal ball, there is no guarantee how much security you will have with a new employer. Fortunately, there are several indications that can help you assess the amount of security you'll have with an employer. Piotrowski says to be aware of the following clues that a company is or is not doing well:

Signs a Company or Organization Is Not Doing Well

It has a poor reputation in the marketplace. Conduct a quick check-in with a few people you trust in your industry, and ask what they've heard about the potential employer. If multiple accounts of poor product or service quality pop up, beware.

It has a dicey credit history. All businesses go through ups and downs, but in general, the better-run operations will maintain a healthy credit rating. A number of business credit-reporting services exist on the Internet. For less than $100, you can obtain some telling details about a company's financial status.

There is frequent turnover of team members. If there's been a revolving door of employees coming and going, find out why. Request the opportunity to speak with the person who last held the position for which you're being considered. If the hiring manager refuses your request, it's a red flag that something may be awry.

You get a gut sense that something's just not right. Most of us can recall times when we didn't trust our intuition about saying "yes" to an opportunity, and it backfired. If something about the potential employer seems off-kilter, take the time to learn more before accepting.

Signs an Employer May Offer Some Promising, Long-Lasting Rewards

There's evidence that leaders at the company are invested in the success of the business. Ask your interviewer to describe the significant managers in the company and how they're involved in the day-to-day success of the operation. If you hear, "Bob is constantly looking for new ways to improve our position in the market," or "Sarah checks in with her team nearly every day to make sure they have what they need to succeed," chances are good that the business is in capable leadership hands.

It has a solid standing in the market. Within any given industry, it's no secret which companies are most respected and successful. While you don't need to work for the "No. 1" business, your career will benefit from alignment with a company solidly positioned in the top five. If you're not sure who these companies are, ask a few movers and shakers in your industry which companies they most respect.

Its products and services are in strong demand in the market. Because the economy is in such flux right now, it can be a challenge to sort out which industries hold the most future promise. But a quick review of fast-growth and high-employment industries at a source such as can help with some career decisions.

It has sound fiscal footing. The credit report you check to determine if a company is on shaky financial ground will also help you identify the smarter money managers.

You're passionate about company's offerings and culture. As a new employee, you will be a key part of the future results of the business. Knowing this, ask yourself how committed you'll be to its success. If you're not motivated to give the company your best, keep searching.

Selena Dehne is a career writer for JIST Publishing who shares the latest occupational, career and job search information available with job seekers and career changers. She is also the author of JIST's Job Search and Career Blog (

Copyright 2009 Selena Dehne

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