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I have been made an offer at a company. How do I research it to find if its somewhere I would like to work, besides asking them questions? Google search gives little results.

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closed as off topic by GrandmasterB, Walter, Yusubov, Dynamic, gnat Dec 21 '12 at 18:34

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Why not ask them questions? It's the best way. –  Rein Henrichs May 31 '11 at 22:44
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Google current employees and then poke them on Facebook. –  Jonathan Khoo May 31 '11 at 23:38
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I did ask them questions... but there are some types of things you can't ask or get good answers from the guy interviewing you. Like, are employees miserable? etc –  Ben B. Jun 1 '11 at 0:56
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This should probably get migrated to The Workplace –  Telastyn Dec 21 '12 at 15:13
    
Andy Lester's book Land the Tech Job you Love has a lot of useful material for this. –  AakashM Dec 21 '12 at 16:01
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6 Answers

As mentioned in another answer, LinkedIn is a great resource, as is Google. In the past I have done more than just see who works there. These things may be helpful to you.

On LinkedIn:

  • Do employees work there for a long time or do they tend to leave after 6-24 months? (My experience is that if a company isn't interesting to work at, people tend to figure out it's an intrinsic problem after about 12 months and then start to focus on something else).
  • Are employees typically well-connected to other (former) employees? This may tell you something about whether the group is close.
  • Are a large amount of employees on LinkedIn? This tends to tell you something about the average age of employees and whether they use stuff like LinkedIn.
  • Are there examples of employees that left and then later returned to the company? This tends to be a big plus: they left for something and then realized their former employer was a much better deal.

On Google:

  • Check for pictures of company outings, such as a barbecue or team-building day. Look at the pictures, based on the size of the company: did most people show up?
  • Can you find newsgroups or discussion forums where employees are talking about their company's products? Look at the timestamps on the posts, are they doing this in their free time?
  • Do some of the employees blog? Do they have a Twitter account? If so, are they talking about technical stuff that is probably related to internal product development? It's often easy to read from these things whether the internal process favours experimentation, etc. (For example, posts about trying out agile approaches or libraries.)
  • Do employees proudly display their affiliation with the company?

Remember, none of these things may be indicative of anything, but it does help you to form an opinion upfront. I have once decided not to work on a company based on the fact that I could find heaps of people that worked there less than a year.

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The first point (people staying at a company for longer time) only signals a great company when there is competition in the area. If the only tech company in town is the one you are researching, people staying for a longer period of time might mean they live in the area and are not willing to move for family reasons. –  c_maker Dec 21 '12 at 15:25
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If you're on LinkedIn, it might be worth searching for existing and former employees of the company.

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I was recently on the job market. I got offered an interview through a recruiter. Company name was left out. So I googled pieces of the ad and found the company (it was a copy and paste from their website).

glassdoor.com

This is where employers discuss things about the company. It is almost all negative. So if you see a big company, you need to take it with a grain of salt. Since you will always have disgruntled employees and alot of complaints are silly.

The company that contacted me was a small company and had a ton of complaints. First thing that stood out is that you are required to sign a document that says if you leave for any reason (even if fired) you owe them $10,000 because they trained you on their applications.

really long hours.

lots of people get fired (lots of people owe $10,000). people who got fired say they had their wages garnished and got letters from lawyers forcing them to pay.

Fraud Report Sites This one was interesting. Found vast numbers of complaints from customers about how they are being sued. Apparently they use high pressure sales to sell some event management software. They sell to small businesses and non-profits. People got locked into expensive multi-year contracts that they did not understand. Also the software did not work the way they thought it did. So they wanted out and the company sued them.

How companies treat their customers is also a sign of how they treat their employees.

The job paid something like $170-180k. It was for a very senior and specialized position that I fit. I passed and I am glad I didn't waste my time.

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+1 for concrete examples, although as with anything the reviews have to be taken with a grain of salt, but something to keep in the back of your mind. But wow, that company sounds like it's run by total scumbag crooks. Suing ex-employees? Suing customers? Wow. Whoever runs that place should be in jail. –  Wayne M Sep 6 '11 at 17:36
    
agreed, for example if you search IBM on glassdoor.com your going to get alot of disgruntled people since a large part of IBM is now body shop work. I have met people who don't like working for IBM, but you could easily meet someone in a different group who does. However, this company had so many responses it was obvious. Small companies with this many negative posts is ridiculous. Another thing you can do is ask on technical messageboards (where its allowed) if anyone has worked for X company and that you would like some info. Don't use your real name. I have gotten info that way also. –  Bob Sep 6 '11 at 18:11
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Glassdoor as others have mentioned, also LinkedIn, although I'm not fond of using LinkedIn because it tends to be a marketing tool so you'll only get the "good side" of the company; the same side they present to you during an interview with lavish conference rooms adorned with awards and newspaper articles and other such BS that can easily be gotten if one has the connections/money. Be sure to take everything with a grain of salt. Usually you'll find two kinds of comments/information, neither of which is helpful:

  1. Disgruntled ex-employee looking to slander the company and make it sound worse than it really is.
  2. "Company Line" marketing/PR BS that hypes the company as the second coming of Christ, how they can do no wrong, and how the owner is a certified genius who deserves to be king of the known universe for his/her brilliance.

Typically if there's a lot of comments on glassdoor that say the same thing, it's probably true. For instance there's a few companies near me that hire regularly that have negative comments saying how they have very long hours and discriminate against American workers; this is probably the truth. A random one-off comment slaying everything about the company can be chalked to up disgruntled person, several not so much.

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Ad-Hoc Quantitative Heuristic Approach

Systematically collect, sort, and analyze available data. When the sample is large enough, draw a conclusion.

Data Sources

Company Website :: About us

  • Customers
  • Partners
  • Certifications
  • Names of staff (managers, or other)

Google

  • Find customers' websites (are there any influential customers?)
  • Find partners (see the industry weight of partners)
  • Certification details of the company (helps to understand the maturity)
  • Find staff profiles on LinkedIn, facebook, elsewhere. (see the achievements & qualifications of people from that company, incl. ex-employees)

Other Sources

Sometimes you will find different materials with the company staff names on it. Providing you consider only those materials where you are sure it comes from the staff, you may asses how capable the staff in the company are, eventually how capable the company is as a whole just by investigating individual achievements of people they hire(d). Among other achievements can be participation in presentations, contributions to OpenSource SW (for those who are happy with a lack of quality), participation in trainings and other events.

Add these custom experimental data sources on top.

Data Sorting

Create categories, for example scales from 1 to 10 and fields to classify the data. Each collected artifact can be one new entry into the matrix table for this company.

Data Analysis

Run different filters on the analyzed data (i.e. in MS Excel or MS Access) to quantify how many staff are perhaps educated to your level, have worked in big companies before, have more than N years of experience, and other. When you are finished with these filters, you may see how many records about the company have been filtered out vs. the total you had initially. Convert that to percent. That final number is your estimated level of satisfaction with the company.

Future Use

Finally, use your experimental technique as an assessment framework for all companies, continuously refine it, and one day make sure you write a paper on this topic, or else I will. :)

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Also note it would be easier if all companies just had a mandatory participation in the CMMI. We could then access a certain registry and lookup this information. Because they don't do that, we explore / collect / analyze data manually. –  user42242 Dec 21 '12 at 15:05
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Having had (a not so great) experience of starting to work for a company which was hard to google, I would strongly suggest that if company website isn't very helpful, and you can't seem to find much info in any other way (social networks, etc.), just pass the opportunity and move forward to some place less secretive.

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