Careers Clinic: how do I scope out a potential employer?

THE’s Careers Clinic series brings together the great and the good of higher education to answer a burning careers question

April 7, 2021
An ingenious academic spies through a hole in a newspaper. Our experts discuss how to find out if a potential employer will be a good place to work
Source: iStock

We asked five experts how jobseekers can figure out if a potential employer is a good place to work. From meeting with faculty at all levels to checking up on financial stability, here’s what they had to say:

“Research, research and research again! Make sure that what the organisation is saying on their career site aligns to what employees are saying on career review websites. A good career site will have authentic messaging, proof points of their commitments to employees, video content and testimonials from a broad scope of employees. If you don’t find a testimonial from an employee who is similar to you (whether that’s in role type or demographic), ask the recruiter if you can be connected to an employee that is.”
Quila Cervelli is global employer branding manager at RMIT University, Australia 

“The first thing to do is to establish genuinely why you wish to join this institution. Is this a real opportunity for you or are you just bored in your current role? For example, are you looking for more research opportunities? Or are you looking to work in a more student-centric institution? Once you establish that, you can begin to ask the right questions both of the panel and the people who work at the institution. It is very much about ‘fit’ and culture, and unless you can see how you fit into where the institution is going and its overall mission, you may struggle later on. Social media is also an excellent tool to understand the activities that the institution is proud of and is promoting – are these the kinds of things you would want to be involved in or make you proud?”
Yusra Mouzughi is president of the Royal University for Women, Bahrain

“A lot of research should be done before you join a new institution. Try and ask for informal meetings with members of the division you are joining, if they haven’t arranged that already. Aside from your meetings with leadership, you should aim to meet with junior faculty, staff members and researchers if possible. Given that we can never separate our professional life from personal life, you also need to look at the city that houses the new institution to see if it meets your needs and expectations.”
Suzan Abu-Shakra is manager of faculty affairs at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia

“Look into an organisation’s social media, but not just the main corporate feeds. Dig a little deeper into Twitter and the like and follow some threads into smaller departmental accounts to get a better sense of the culture of an institution.”
Matthew Andrews is secretary and registrar at the University of Gloucestershire

“Glassdoor, ask your own network, and you can find loads of people on LinkedIn who comment on their current employer. Also, you can often find discussion boards online that raise some really interesting points to consider, but they are always with an agenda. I would do a rounded search that includes financial sustainability − have there been any redundancy programmes recently?”
Michelle Wenham is chief people officer at TEDI-London

“Talking to current and former employees is the best way to determine whether a potential employer will be a good place to work. Be sure to ask them about workplace culture, current challenges and future direction, plus financial and organisational stability. Enquire about opportunities to learn and grow, the quality of colleagues and institutional leaders, whether you would have the resources and support you would need to be successful. Be sure to ask: ‘When people leave, where do they go?’ and ‘Would you recommend this organisation to someone you care about?’”
Allison Vaillancourt is vice-president, organisational effectiveness with Segal, a North American human resources and benefits consulting firm

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