3 Ways to Gather Intel for Your New Civilian Job

Just like in the military, gathering intelligence for a prospective new job is essential.
Just like in the military, gathering intelligence for a prospective new job is essential. (Capt. Jessica Tait/U.S. Air Force photo)

You are preparing to enter the civilian world, are thinking about applying for a job or just got a job offer. Congratulations, you are in for an exciting journey. But before jumping in all gung-ho, you would do yourself a great disservice if you didn't do your research.

Gather Intel on the Companies You Are Considering

When looking for information on your prospective employer, consider the following methods and resources:

  • Glassdoor. Look at Glassdoor.com for reviews of the company, the CEO, the interview process, benefits and even salary. But remember that sometimes people are just bitter. A company sometimes really is that horrible. Companies sometimes try to pad their reviews by pressuring their employees to leave nice reviews.
  • Social Networks. Reach out and ask current and past employees about their experience at the company. Try to meet for coffee, if they are willing, or speak over the phone. People are more honest in person or even over the phone, because there's less worry about their words accidentally (or not) being forwarded to the wrong person.
  • Recruiters. Yes, you can actually reach out to the recruiter and ask questions. Some companies or individual recruiters are more open to this, but if you feel comfortable with the idea, send them an email and ask away. Be careful here, though, as you could lose that interview if you say the wrong thing or make them feel like you aren't serious about the job.
  • The Job Interview. You will learn a lot by actually going to the job interview. Remember that there are other job interviews out there, and this is as much you interviewing them to see whether it's a right fit as them interviewing you. Ask the questions you have to ask to know whether it's where you really want to work.

Questions You Might Want to Ask About the Following

  • The Day to Day. What's the day to day of the job actually like? What will you be doing and for how many hours usually? Who will you be interacting with and in what capacity?
  • Office Politics. How much do politics play into the job? How about for the performance review?
  • Performance Reviews. How are performance reviews conducted? How often? You might not think this matters, but you will if you're completely caught off guard and your pay raise or promotion suffers because of it. For example, some companies do performance reviews with a checklist of items; others do it based on gossip (an email to the whole company asking whether anyone has anything to say about each other). If it's the latter, you'll want to be careful who you anger.
  • Turnover. What is the turnover rate? How often do people leave, whether by being fired or quitting? This can be a good indication of the quality of the work environment at the company.

Factors that Could Affect Your Decision

  • You Need a Job. None of the above will matter, because if you don't find a job, you can't pay rent. While this may be the case, you should still find out as much as you can, so you at least know what you are getting into and can prepare yourself one way or the other. Morale can drop fast if you meet unwanted surprises.
  • You're Building Up Your Resume. Sometimes you want to work at a company for reasons such as building your resume or making connections, so you can put up with poor working conditions for a year or two. That's great. Do it, get that experience and move on.
  • Nothing Bothers You. The hope is that you will rise above the politics and not let it get to you. You are a professional, and that is great. Still, as stated above, it's always best to know what you're getting into.
  • Your Best Friend Owns the Company. If you're buddy-buddy with the owner, you might rise above any potential problems normal employees face. However, if that is the case, the others will appreciate you that much more if you know the pros and cons of the business and can help address any potential problems.

What other ways have you researched prospective employers? What factors determine whether you'll accept a job or not? Sound off.

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