How to conduct an informal background check on new employer or manager… for free!
I received a call today from a candidate that is looking for a new job after being in his present position for just 3 months. After 18 years of experience in the staffing business I initially suggested that he give it more time as he was just barely out of his new hire orientation period and if it doesn’t get better to give me a call in 3 more months to discuss options. This is a candidate I did not place in his current role so he felt comfortable sharing some information with me. What he proceeded to tell me made it very clear the company he joined did not offer a constructive environment and in fact the manager he was reporting to was destructive in 75% of his comments/actions. I ultimately suggested he had better move quickly to a new company as he had a few offers on the table before accepting this one and those other companies may still be interested in him as only 3 months have passed. Before hanging up I asked him several questions about his courtship by the employer during the interview process and he said he was painted a completely different picture than the reality. He said he also discovered (after he started) that the position he took had been vacated twice before just in the last year and those individuals had left the company. I asked him (as I do all my candidates) did he really research the company and its employees before accepting the position, his answer while surprising is not uncommon as he said his only research was what he asked during the interview process.
Today the candidate has so many resources (free and pay) available to help avoid the above situation. 70% of companies conduct a background check on any new employees so why can’t you the candidate do the same? I am not saying during the interview you pull out a background release form and ask your future manager to fill it out and sign it but do it informally using websites we have available to us to do a little digging into the company’s reputation, stability, etc.
One of the resources I use in my job and suggest to candidates is a county court search of the name of the manager you will work for and also the company. This is typically a free search and can be found by googling the keywords “court” and “search cases” and adding the county name that the company is located in which should bring you to a link of the county court records search site. If the candidate above would have done that he would have discovered in a matter of minutes that his manager was a defendant in two separate cases, one being a divorce (which was not relevant) and the other which may have been relevant but I couldn’t tell with the court abbreviations that were shown on the record. So while this did not prove he was a bad manager there was a red flag as the manager in question was a defendant in a civil case and it was recent. In most cases, you can take it a step further and for a fee order the official court documents about the case if you really want to dig further.
Social Media is another research tool, have you ever looked up a company name to check out their company Instagram, Facebook or Twitter pages? How about the manager that you will be working for? Not only will this give you a snapshot of their personal life but it can show you if you have similar tastes or hobbies or nothing in common at all. If you have a family and see no family photos or mentions of a family perhaps your new manager is a work first, family second kind of person… does this fall in line with your work philosophy or could it pose a problem in the future when you want to leave work early to go see your child perform in the school spelling bee?There is also a very popular employment website, glassdoor.com, that has internal (and previous) employees reviews of a company. Now obviously we all know there are two sides to every story and not everything we read is 100% accurate but it is a good way to conduct further investigation into one of the most important decisions you will make and usually where there is smoke there is fire.
What about LinkedIn? Most candidates do a little digging on the company/manager they are interviewing with but doing a quick advanced search on current and former employees under a company name will tell you a lot about the employee’s stability and advancement. This could also indicate if this is a manager you want to hitch your wagon to… has he/she repeatedly risen through the ranks of the companies they have worked for, are they new to the company, what kind of job history do they have… all good information to know. If he/she has just joined the company and it doesn’t work out what happens to the employees that they hired or conversely have they been with the company a long time and have been promoted will this lead to advancement opportunities with the employees that work for them? One suggestion, before diving into this search go ahead and change your privacy settings so the employees of the company don’t see that you are looking at all of their profiles.
Do you have a recruiter contact with access to many of the resume boards? If so use this to your advantage, ask them to run a search on a company name that you are interviewing with and see how many current employee’s resumes are listed, this may indicate ongoing issues with the company or management and may not be a place you will be happy with. While in life we can never be 100% sure of a choice we make and how it will work out we can do our own research to help eliminate some of those mistakes.