If you are currently job hunting or even considering a career change, finding a good employer to work for is important. Not only is the employer investing in you, but you will be spending a great deal of your time with your new chosen employer. This is time away from your family, hobbies, and interests.
The problem with how to find a good employer today is they are becoming smaller in numbers. Employers are increasingly seeing their employees as being an expendable resource. Employer loyalty is at an all-time low and according to a Gallup poll, 70% of workers dislike their job.
Employers are Not the Same
It has been decades since a person could expect a loyal employer to provide them with a lifelong career. The result is an employment environment where workers will likely have 10 or more places of employment in their lifetime with a few career changes also being possible.
The saying many companies previously used was “Employees are our greatest asset.” This does no longer seem to be the case even though many companies like the public to perceive them as a culture of caring for the people that work for them. They will even many times use terms such as, “we are a family here at XYZ company.”
The truth is there is no longer much loyalty left in the corporate world. Loyalty lies in the bottom line and often shareholder profits. It is important to remember when searching for an employer that they are looking for the right person. Someone that can increase their profits and productivity. You also need to remember you have a right to ensure the company you decide to work for is right for you.
A paycheck is something you should receive in return for your service, but you also need to make certain you can grow and be happy.
What are some things workers look for in a good employer?
Compensation and Benefits
Money isn’t everything, but we certainly don’t typically work for free. An employer that offers competitive pay and benefits packages is usually a good sign. It is important to compare a potential employer’s compensation and benefits to other companies in the same category.
Don’t discount a slightly lower salary with a high-end medical insurance package. With the cost of high deductible health plans these days, a fantastic one could save you thousands of dollars every year.
Retirement benefits can also be priceless. If a potential employer has something like a 401k plan with a high matching amount, it could also be a sign of good things. However, it is important to be cautious and look at the entire picture. Some employers will sell their compensation and benefits packages as being the greatest thing, but they contain clauses on long vesting schedules to get rewarded.
The problem with benefits taking several years to realize is just this. Time is not generally on your side. The average worker these days is changing employers every three to five years. This is why it is important to look closely at compensation and benefit schedules.
Good employers will have opportunities for their employees to grow in their organization. This can be important for advancing your career at the company you decide to work for or a future employer. If you plan on having a career and not just a job, you want to have opportunities to grow. This will often not only lead to more responsibility, but also an increase down the road in compensation. If you can’t grow, the employer might not be a good one.
The problem with identifying opportunities to grow with an organization is many employers will tell you there are great openings for advancement when it is truly not the case. It can be difficult to identify if growth is really possible, but there are ways to identify employers that are being honest from the ones that might be stretching the truth.
In addition to retirement plan benefits, a potential good employer might have a profit-sharing plan or bonus they offer. These can be attractive and many employers will offer them to potential employees claiming how great they are. Again, it is important to look further into the details of the extras. It could be years before you qualify to get them or their bonus claims might be exaggerated. With sales jobs, recruiters will often use the dreams of high bonus money. Don’t believe everything they tell you and have them show you examples.
The term work-life balance is used quite a lot by hiring managers. It sounds nice, but it is not as common as many employer’s claims. The truth is many businesses are going to a lean model. The idea is having fewer employees do more work with even more responsibilities. This isn’t always a necessity and is many times only done to increase profits and the bottom line.
Being there for your employer will be important. However, if they want you to be available 7 days a week at all hours of the day, this doesn’t leave much time to balance your life. Make certain the employer offers vacation time, sick and personal days. Furthermore, ensure they just don’t offer them, but people actually take the time they need to recharge.
I have worked for companies that are so eager to tell people about their balance with work and life, yet there is an expectation that no one really takes much vacation or time away. You want an employer that actually might even encourage people to take time off.
The Working Environment Should Be Safe
Although there are laws about safety standards in the workplace, laws are bent or broken. It might depend on the career you work in, but it is important to work in a place that is physically safe.
Healthy Work Environment
In addition to a safe workplace, it also needs to be healthy. The two could be the same from a physical standpoint, but you also want to make certain the environment is mentally healthy. This can actually be a bigger issue than many people realize.
I would not recommend working for an employer that is going to be verbally abusive or consistently put you down. This is toxic and you do not want to work for someone like this. Here is a previous article I wrote on identifying a toxic work environment – 10 Toxic Workplace Signs. Don’t put yourself in a mentally unstable working environment. If you are in one now, plan an exit as soon as you can.
Leadership is Important
Try to research the leadership on an employer you are thinking about working for. It can open your eyes to good things or a possible nightmare. The people in charge are navigating the ship. If they are no good, the ship will eventually hit an iceberg.
There are many people, believe it or not, that run companies and they are terrible at doing it. Because they know people in high places, they move from one company to another killing everything in their path. Use sites like https://www.glassdoor.com to read reviews from past employees, but don’t believe everything you read. Reviews are sometimes not created by real past employees. If you know someone that worked for an employer you are considering, try to get their honest opinion.
If you are going to have a direct report or manager, it is important to know what they are like. You will want to meet with them before taking a job. It can be hard to really get a feel for what a person will be like before working for them but plan a set of questions to ask. This will be your best defense against a future issue.
It’s nice to be recognized for a job well done sometimes. This can keep a person motivated to do more and improve. Thus, making a company better and helping them earn a bigger profit. Some companies will use recognition way too much and for the same people over and over. This can sometimes be their way of rewarding a worker that does not include a reward like a pay raise. Make sure the employer you work for does not abuse their way of recognizing employees. You also want the reward of earning more money along the way.
Generally, a company that rewards its employees and recognizes the contributions they make will have lower turnover. A company that has a challenging time keeping employees is not a good sign and its always a good question to ask in an interview. Get a feeling of how long employees stay with the employer. People often don’t even leave due to money issues; it could also be a sign of bad leadership and management.
What are some warning signs of a bad employer?
Job Position Details are Vague
If you interview with a potential employer and they are not clear on what the position will be doing, this can be a warning sign of bad things to come. Also, an employer that might have a job description seems to include everything the company does, might not be a good sign. If they are not sure what they are hiring for, how are you going to be sure you will know what you would be doing and if you will like it?
An employer that can clearly communicate the position they are looking to fill can be a good sign. If not, it might be best to avoid them.
Organization and Professionalism Problems
If the person interviewing you does not show up without notice or shows up late for a 2nd and 3rd interview, this can be a red flag of issues. Not being respectful of your time as a potential employee is a problem.
If the place of business seems to be unorganized and run by people that appear to have no professionalism, this is also a problem. A place of business that looks unkept can be a sign of no one caring what the results are for success.
An example I once had that gave me bad vibes of an employer is when they sent me a job offer. It had another person’s name on the offer. When I questioned this, they withdrew the offer and acted offended. Turns out it was a blessing in disguise. Sometimes warning signs of a bad employer take care of themselves.
Is there a rush to get you hired?
It is possible an employer could need help right away. But if there does seem like an urgency to get the hiring done that day it can be a bad sign. This could be an issue of high employee turnover and a revolving door of workers. Employees that are either constantly fired or quit.
How fast can you start might not be a good thing to hear always. An employer that fills positions with warm bodies is never a good one. If an employer takes time to find a quality job candidate, this can show they might care more about their decision.
Unresponsive follow-up from an HR department or hiring manager
Many companies in today’s environment can take weeks or months to finalize the hiring of a new employee. Yet, this does not give an employer the right to ignore your phone calls or emails. If the people you are working with to get hired are not responsive or respectful, it’s generally not a good sign.
Your questions are not entirely answered in an interview
If you are being interviewed and the person conducting it seems to dodge a lot of your questions, there is typically a reason why they are doing this. A company that only talks about themselves and does not have any concern for your questions is probably not one you want to work for.
Can’t meet at the place of business or talk to the people you will be working with?
A hiring manager that wants to meet outside the office or doesn’t want you to meet the people you would be working with or working for is not a good indication of a great employer. Again, if they seem to be hiding or avoiding something, they probably are for a reason.
How can you increase the chances of choosing the right employer?
When you decide to work for an employer you want to choose one that will treat you with respect and reward you for performance. To do this it is important to thoroughly research a potential place you are considering working.
With the internet, there can be a lot of information available to get a feeling of how an employer might be to work with. However, it is important to be cautious and not believe everything you find. There are people that might have been terminated for an actual cause that write terrible reviews for an employer. But there might also be positive reviews written for an employer by someone with the employer. Fake reviews are not as uncommon as you might believe. Using sites like the TheLayOff.com and Glassdoor.com can be helpful to identify possible issues at a company.
In addition to doing research on a potential employer, it is important to ask the right questions in an interview to get an idea of what the environment might be like.
What are some good questions to ask in an interview?
1. What length of time have the people I will be working with been with the company?
Get a feel for how long people stay with the employer you are interviewing with. If there seems to be a revolving door with most employees only being there a year or two, there is a reason why. Most people would think people leave a company due to money, but this is simply not the case. Terrible management and leadership are usually the top reason. If everyone is a new employee, ask why.
2. What is your idea of the ideal employee?
Asking what the interviewer believes the companies ideal employee is like can be a very good question to ask. You can quickly find out if their idea is reasonable or unreasonable.
3. How are employees reviewed and evaluated?
You will want to know how working performance is evaluated. Often this is the basis for a promotion or pay raise. If they conduct yearly performance reviews, it is important to know how they do this. Here is a previous article I wrote – The Truth About Performance Reviews. Annual performance reviews should be a thing of the past and there are a number of reasons they are outdated.
If the interviewer says the company does do annual reviews, ask more questions. Who does the review? What is the process that goes into the review? I have worked for two companies now where my direct report did an annual review even though they were never in the office. Things like this can be a sign of issues.
4. How would you describe the management style?
You should ask questions to get a feel of the management style the company seems to use. If you are interviewing with the person that would be your direct report, ask them how they would describe their own management style. A good follow up question to ask is what role models they might use for a management style.
5. What do you like about working here?
Asking your interviewer what they like about the employer. If they are hesitant or can’t come up with some clear reasons, this can be a red flag waving to avoid working at the place you are interviewing with. There will always be people that are good at hiding their true feelings, but often with employees, you can just tell they are not happy. This is particularly true with a person that might work for the same employer for a long time.
6. How would you describe the culture?
Employers are very proud to communicate their culture. Ask the interviewer what the culture is like, but keep in mind it isn’t what it may actually always seem like it might be. Culture can be open to some interpretation. I have also worked for an employer that preached their culture was one thing and in truth, it was another. A company’s culture is often just the face they like to portray to the public to view them in a positive light.
7. Observe your interviewer’s body language.
Although a good interviewer can be trained to show positive body language regardless of what they are telling you, look for any signs that the things being told might not actually be the truth. The standard folded arms, no eye contact and answers that don’t seem to be direct can be signs of problems.
What are lies to look out for from an interview?
Surprise, some interviewers do not always tell the truth. Their job is to typically get the most qualified candidate for a position at the least expensive price. To do this they will sometimes stretch the truth or tell blatant lies to get a person hired.
If you here one of these statements, it will be important to get more information on an employer and do even further research.
Our bonus and incentive programs are the best
Money is one-way employers try to lure people into a job position. Bonuses are not generally guaranteed and they can fluctuate year to year. Just because an interviewer claims their company has the best does not mean it is or will be in the future.
If you are interviewing for a sales job, be extra cautious with claims of wealthy incentives and commissions. These claims are often what their very best salespeople accomplish and are usually a very small percentage of workers. If you are considering a job with the company, ask for a high and low end. The low end is the one you want to consider as the scenario because it is probably closer to the norm.
We have a great training program
If your interviewer claims of the companies great training program ask how it is the best. One person’s view of a great training program can be completely different from another. I once worked for an employer that claimed their training was good but come to find out it was almost none existent. It was learn as you go training. This was their great training. They claimed it was the best way to learn.
There is a lot of opportunity for advancement
An interviewer that repeatedly has to tell you about a company’s great opportunities for advancement is usually hiding something. Interviewers are trained to tell people what they want to hear. Someone that is looking to advance their career will want opportunities to climb the ladder. Be cautious or you might realize after working for the employer there never was any opportunity.
You can telecommute or work from home sometimes
Today’s workers want flexibility and employers know this. If your interviewer tells you there is flexibility to work outside the office, ask probing questions. Working from home could be 1 day a month or 1 day a year to your potential new employer or they may tell you they are going to implement a work from home schedule.
The truth is most employers do not want their employees working away from the office. Although telecommute or remote work has many benefits to both employees and employers, it is not something most companies still want to allow. Here is an article I wrote describing the details of why more employers do not offer the flexibility to work outside the office – Why More Companies Do Not Offer Remote or Telecommute Work.
It’s busy, but we will be hiring more help
When an employer claims they will be hiring more people to help do not believe this in entirety. For-profit employers will generally use the least amount of people to do the most amount of work. You might take a job and find out the 40-hour weeks are more like 60-hour weeks. Don’t believe you will be getting help anytime soon.
Most employers are moving to a leaner employee count to increase the bottom line. They might pay overtime or possibly even no overtime with a salaried worker. Without the overhead of benefits, just a warm body allows an employer to still come out ahead financially.
If an interviewer needs to keep reminding you how busy it is, but they will get you more help, this may not be the case.
We will have you work on another project once you fix the one that needs help
If you are being hired to solve a problem, don’t completely believe that you will be around once the issue is gone. This could especially be the case if an employer is paying you very well to fix a problem. Once you have made things better, they might no longer need you.
An employer is not going to tell you that you will be let go ahead of time if you are the one that can fix their issue. Unless this is agreed upon upfront. Employers will use people for what they need to make a profit. If you are no longer useful or too expensive, you will be let go.
Finding a good employer can be a challenge. The perfect one is probably non-existent. Ask most people and the company they work for usually has some type of issues. It just really depends on how big the issues are.
The problems today with many employers is they are increasingly seeing their employees as being expendable. Benefits are being cut back and employees are many times expected to do more with less. This is often done to increase the bottom line and shareholder returns.
There is nothing wrong with a company making money. We live in a capitalist world. However, even with profits in mind, employers should still be respectful of their workers and reward them for their contributions. Working for a company is a two-way street. The employer provides its employees with a monetary return for their time and work. The employee provides their time for the money and they choose to spend their life to contribute to the success of an employer. This is why it is important to find a good employer.
With the right research and questioning in an interview, it is possible to improve your chances of working for a company that does indeed care about its employees and is respectful. An employer that truly does endorse a culture of a work-life balance and not one that just says they have this to get people hired.