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In the current economic climate it is tempting to accept the first job that comes along but you do so at your peril. You may find that you have jumped from the frying pan into t he fire; that you find yourself back on the dole queue faster than you could imagine or worse still a captive of circumstances in a job you hate.  So before you accept any role that is offered think carefully about whether the organisation really chimes with your values and whether the role really meets your needs and fits your career plans.

So in researching a company what do you need to know? By the time the offer comes through you will already have amassed a wealth of knowledge about the organisation but here are some key issues that you should know by the time you make that big decision.

  1. Outlook; what are  the  future prospects for this industry? Is it growth or decline? Is it going to be in the UK in five years time or overseas?
  2. Health; what is the financial health of the organisation? Is it going to survive this recession? You might think that recruiting staff is an indicator of health but it may not be, especially if they are recruiting sales staff on commission only.. that could be a sign that they desperately need sales but don’t have cash.
  3. Business strategy; ties into the first two, what is the business planning to do in the next few years? Are the owners thinking of selling, merging or expanding overseas? How might this affect the role you are thinking about? What opportunities might it bring you?
  4. Size and geography; again related to strategy, if you are being offered a job by a multi national what opportunities might that present, if their second plant is in a remote corner of Scotland, would you want to go? You can travel now to the office, what happens if they moved your function form one side of London to another?
  5. Learning paths; what sort of support does this organisation give to people who want to learn, to do qualifications, go on course, on conferences. Do they have a robust appraisal scheme and does it include learning?
  6. Career path: what are the policies around internal transfers, promotions and secondments? Will you be able to move around an get help to do so?
  7. Rewards; what are the policies about pay rises, benefits and bonus. Will you be on a fixed point salary with no way of increasing it unless you change jobs? How will your success be measured?
  8. Work life balance; is this company family friendly? Will they allow time off for critical family events? Can you manage your working day so that you can do pick-up sometimes, take mum to the hospital or catch the four o’clock to the county of a weekend.
  9. Culture; ask some test questions to see how much autonomy you will have in deciding how to do your work, how  many forms you might need to fill in to access some resources. Is this culture one of empowerment or rigid bureaucracy. Do they value creativity and off the wall or praise conformity and consistency?
  10. Management style; is there an open n door policy for managers, can you approach people with ideas or not? Does the company support social interaction with in teams or between teams?
  11. Workloads: what will you be spending most of your day doing? What determines when you have finished the day’s work? What happens if you have too much to do? How often do people in this team have to stay late?

Not everything on that list will matter to you very much, some of it may not matter at all. But if you know all the answers you can see a full picture of your potential future employer and decide if they are really are someone you want to work for… oh and don’t  just believe the company handbook.. get evidence from people who work there.. taking care not to believe just one person. It’s hard work to do this work but then making a mistake could be much more costly.

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