This week, Crain’s revealed its annual list of the Best Places to Work 2011. These top 50 employers are focused on their employees, offering such benefits as control over one’s work schedule (The North Highland Co.), an open communications policy (Hunton & Williams), unlimited vacation days (ZocDoc), time off for work completed on weekends (New York Cares), and mentorship opportunities (Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants). And let’s not forget happy hours, parties and collegial work environments.
Who wouldn’t want to work for a company that values its employees (and isn’t afraid to show it)? Determining whether your prospective employers rival those on Crain’s Best Places to Work isn’t as easy as demanding a list of perks, however; you don’t want to project the image that all you care about is what the company can do for you. In pinpointing which companies meet your personal “best companies” criteria, try these tips:
1.Determine Your Own Best Places to Work Criteria
Have a brainstorming session with yourself to figure what factors are most important to you in an employer. While you may not have the luxury of being as selective in the current job market, you can still pinpoint areas that are important to you and investigate how the prospective employer stacks up.
2.Investigate the Company Culture
You don’t want to appear perk-hungry in your interview, so asking “what are you going to do for me?” probably won’t go over well. Instead, ask your interviewers about the overall company culture. Their answers should give you a sense of what the work environment is like and may lead to a discussion of company benefits and atmosphere.
3.Find Out Insiders’ Experiences
Another great way to explore a company is to find out what people inside the company think about it. People love to talk about themselves, and an essential part of an interview is to ask follow-up questions—ask your interviewer about his or her personal experience working at the company. What does he or she like best about the company? What are the highlights of his or her role? Why did he or she decide to come to the company? Hopefully, the interviewer will give you insight into daily life at the company, as well as the factors that attracted him or her to the company.
4.Open Your Eyes
The beauty of an interview is that it gets you past the front door and into the hallways and offices of your prospective employer. Use your inside access as an opportunity to observe the work environment. Are office doors closed or open? Do people sit in individual offices or together in one large room? Are people collaborating and talking or listening to headphones? Are employees gathered in the kitchen or break room? Consider what environment nurtures your best work and whether you fit in with this particular one.
Don’t let your research and observation end after the interview stage. If the company offers you the job, and you want to learn more, ask to speak with a few more employees. Reach out to your network and find out if anyone knows insiders that would speak with you. And search the Internet for employee reviews and press write-ups of the company.
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