Ask The Work Buzz! Finding a reputable employer

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FindanewjobA reader submitted this question to The Work Buzz, and I’m sure plenty of other job seekers and employees can relate.  

Amon Stone asks: How do you find a decent, honest company to work for? Any suggestions on what to look for?

It seems that a lot of companies in my area only hire through temp-agencies, and the last couple of jobs I’ve gotten that way have gone bust. In one case, I was told that the company I was working for would hire me after 3 months, 10 months later I was still considered a temp. They had me training new people that were making the same money as I was. It’s like I said to my boss “Aren’t I worth more money now than someone who just walked in the door? Aren’t I worth hiring?” I was told that there had been a hiring freeze in effect for over a year. So the temp agency blatantly lied to me when they told me that I’d be hired after 3 months, they knew that the company had a hiring freeze in effect. As a matter of fact, the girl that I dealt with in the office at the temp agency? Her husband was a manager at the company that I was sent to. I cant believe that she didn’t know about the hiring freeze. When I asked her about it, I was basically told that if I wasn’t happy I could leave the temp agency.

How do you find an honest company? Employees are made to jump through hoops to get a job, while the employers seem to be able to get away with anything. They know that there’s a whole lot of people looking for work, so they really don’t care about retaining employees. My only argument with that is, is it possible to run a successful business with a revolving door policy when it comes to employment.

Amon’s question is probably something we’ve all dealt with. Even if we didn’t encounter an experience quite like this, we always wonder if we’re agreeing to join a company that’s hiding a sinister side. We’ve all seen The Firm, right?

The bottom line is that there is no single way to know an employer is as good as it sounds when you’re interviewing. And there’s no guarantee that, even if the company starts off great, it will continue to be a great place to work. But there are some things you can do to increase your chances of landing a job at a good company.

  • Do a news search.
    It probably sounds, well, lazy. And you can’t believe every little thing you read online, as we’ve all learned by now. But an online search can often reveal some interesting information about a company. What charities do they give to? What awards have they won? Do they have a history of employee lawsuits for the same offense over and over again? You can find out both the good and the bad on a company by reading some news articles on them.
  • Talk to friends.
    Think of person-to-person conversations as the precursor to the online search. When you’re going to apply for a job or you’re mulling over an offer, ask friends, family and former colleagues if they’re familiar with the company. Chances are you’re only a few degrees separated from the company through a friend of a friend of a brother of a friend. Most people are willing to say, “Yeah, he likes his job a lot! He really loves the team he works with.” or “She’s been telling me about how bad office politics are at the place.” I’m not suggesting you base any decision on hearsay. Try to see if you can get that person’s e-mail or phone number for a brief conversation. Firsthand accounts are better than he said/she said. And it’s a good peek into the company.
  • Ask the right questions.
    When you’re interviewing, the company is trying to impress you as much as you’re trying to impress it. Or it should be. If the hiring manager or your potential boss couldn’t care less about showing the company off at least a little bit, take that as a sign. Once you’re employed there and they’ve already “won you over,” don’t expect things to get any better.Even if they seem to be doing all the right things, you still have the question portion of the interview to find out what you want. Ask about promotion possibilities, how long the interviewer’s been with the interviewer, how long the average employee stays with the company (if it’s relevant to your position), why previous employees have left the position — and anything else you can think of. This is your time to investigate the company. You don’t have to be pushy or rude. Just find out what you want, because you don’t want to leave feeling uneasy because you didn’t get a clear answer on something you wanted to know about.
  • Trust your gut.
    Sorry to sound New Age-y, but it’s true. If you never feel comfortable with the company during the interview process or based on what you see when you go in for a meeting, then maybe it’s not for you. It could just be the company culture doesn’t click or you don’t gel with your future boss’s communication style. Or you saw an employee crying in the breakroom because the boss yelled at him. Whatever it is, you should have first-day jitters because you want to do well, not because you think you made a huge mistake accepting the offer.

In his question, Amon makes a good point — well, several good points. Yes, job seekers greatly outnumber jobs, so employers are definitely in the driver’s seat. But you know what? A good employer will always want to woo the best candidates. If a company seems too willing to hire someone desperate for a position and they seem less concerned with quality job seekers, that’s a big sign.

In Amon’s case, the temp agency and others might have been dishonest , and sometimes that’s out of your control. It stinks, but it’s true. If you follow the above steps and are as confident as you can be in your preparation for joining a new company, then you’ve done your best. There are going to be a few bad eggs in the bunch, but for the most part employers are good people (or companies) looking for good workers. Even if one temp worker wasn’t forthcoming, it doesn’t mean every other employee at the agency is the same. Don’t let a bad experience ruin your job hunt. The process can be frustrating as it is; no need to make yourself dread it even more.

As always, let us know if you have any other suggestions for Amon or if you have any questions of your own.

11 Comments
  1. This is a big topic of discussion and not necessarily answered in a comment. The best advice for an employee is to stay away from staffing or temp agencies. The moment you see a “foreign” name appear on your payroll check, find out why. Employers are selling your soul to the devil if they sign up with them. Typically, after an employee is hired on by an employer, the employer is approached by a staffing company who has the “deal of the century”. The staffing agency proposes, sign up with us and we will be responsible for your unemployment taxes, worker’s compensation and take care of your employees payroll checks. In exchange for our services, instead of paying “Allison” $10.00 per hour, pay us $14.00 per hour. The employer says great, sign me up and in a split second, unbeknownst to “Allison” she is fired by her employer and acquired by the staffing company and then leased back to the employer. The staffing company becomes “Allison’s” employer and the old employer becomes the client employer that Allison works for and eventually the employer’s witness at a future unemployment hearing against “Allison”. Read and understand the paperwork a new employer provides to you when you are hired and ask questions. Find out if you are working for a staffing company, a leasing company or the employer you intend to work. If you see some new names on your paycheck, find out why.

  2. I wish I COULD stay away from temp agencies Spencer, but in my experience, a good 90% of the companies in my area only hire thru temp agencies. Thing is too, in my experience again, its hard to research a company when the temp agency doesn’t tell you who their sending you to until pretty much the day before. My last job was like that. I specifically asked where they were sending me, and I was told that it was against the rules for them to do so. I got a call on a Tuesday morning, and was told where to go and at what time.
    Not to sound like a whiner here, but these damn temp agencies just dont operate in a fair manner. The last one I dealt with I went in to answer an add for welding jobs. They sent me to a totally different company and when I asked about the welding position they said they dont hire for welding jobs, even though the add they put in the paper was FOR a welding job.
    See what I’m dealing with?
    And this isn’t my only experience either. My Last 3 jobs came thru temp agencies, and I’ve dealt with similar things with all of them.

  3. I also despise temp agencies. My question is on a different topic. I read lots of advice to applicants that they should show how they added to the company’s bottom line, increased sales or cutting costs. Most of my jobs have been for non-profit employers and the actual poitions I held simply didn’t involve sales or cost-cutting. For example I worked as a clerk at a college library for several years, a couple years as the switchboard operator at the same college and am now volunteering at yet another college while job hunting. So how do I address this obsession with how I improved the bottom line at previous employers?

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