If you’re new to tech, thinking about your future work might be as exciting as it is terrifying. How do you know you’re applying for and, finally, accepting an offer from the right company? Without knowing the peculiarities of the tech world, you can get insecure in your decisions or say “yes” too quickly.
But don’t worry. Being open-minded and knowing exactly what you want from your future employer helps avoid unfavorable situations. How do you shortlist companies with good work conditions and exclude messy and toxic ones? What questions should you ask a recruiter, and how do you know if the company fits you? Let’s look into this step-by- step.
How to find companies
Several job-seeking methods and approaches are available to help you find organizations where you, as a candidate, will be appreciated. One of the strategies we recommend is to move from an industry to a network, where your first step will be to check the fields you have a background in.
For example, if you used to work in a bank or have a degree in economics, it will be easier for you to land a job in FinTech. If you have years of experience in teaching, EdTech would be your industry. Even if you don't have work experience in any domain, showing long-standing interest is enough to answer the question, “Why do you want to work here?”
Your next step will be to find companies in that industry and check if they’re hiring specialists for your role or similar ones. Many companies constantly seek tech specialists to anticipate rotation and support growth. Identify at least 20 such companies.
Next, create another list of networks where you can potentially find people from that company. Think about your connections: if you have ever come across someone or have a contact directly within that industry. If not, use LinkedIn to look up those who work in the relevant department of the company and try to connect with them. Professional communities are also a great source for networking, so be sure to check out their messaging boards, exhibitions, or blogs.
Finally, list the people you can contact and potentially ask for a referral.
How to shortlist a company
Now that we have a strategy, we also need to know how to get companies shortlisted. In other words, how to understand their values and work environment and distinguish a “good” company from a problematic one.
“Companies tend to highlight their best in open sources, thereby leveling the cons, which are often very bold. On the other hand, you can always read reviews of former employees on Glassdoor. I think the roadmap of forming an opinion about the company shouldn’t be limited to just one meeting and open-source materials,” advises Practicum Career Product Lead Ana Mineeva.
So how should you examine a company you’re supposed to apply to? There are various tactics to research open-source information about the company— here are some tips to get you started.
Read reviews on the company published by former and current employees on online sources like Glassdoor or Indeed. You might get a lot of insights: the values, the management, the benefits, and even the work-life balance. Of course, it’s impossible to find a perfect company, so straight 5-star reviews also look suspicious. Perceive the cons as a point of consideration: are you fine with them? Do you think your work might improve the situation?
“Glassdoor and LinkedIn are great sources to connect with former employees. I would observe the two platforms simultaneously,” says Ana. “You can’t always detect if the company has flaws, or if the employee left in an inappropriate manner, so they left a bad review. Unfortunately, we’re all people who sometimes make emotional decisions, so I wouldn’t rush to conclusions based on 2-3 reviews.”
Check their social initiatives
Many companies dedicate time and effort to show their hiring culture through marketing channels. There are internal accounts accessible from the outside, where you can learn about the everyday lives of someone working at this company. It can be a Discord or YouTube channel, an Instagram account, or a page on their website.
Companies that care about their employees and showcase activities, events, and everyday culture, normally have a better cooperative environment than organizations that focus on results only and don’t value their staff.
If you’re dealing with a small company or a startup, look up their employers on LinkedIn and check their recent posts: are they speaking about their work? Do they have things to share? Are they interacting with each other? Attention to detail isn’t only a skill for detectives.
“Once again, these questions can be asked in the interview, for instance: ‘What are your cooperative values?’ If you find the recruiter’s answer doubtful or indirect, you can think the company hasn’t formed the values yet,” encourages Ana. “However, it’s not always bad. Just check that their answer matches your expectations and values. For example, you can be direct in asking about your expected work schedule and reporting.”
Talk to someone from the company
If you still feel uncertain about a company, try contacting their employees via LinkedIn. You can ask them about their overall impression of working there or their opinion on whether a specialist of your level is needed at this stage. You can also verify reviews you have read elsewhere.
It’s ok to contact someone you don’t know for advice, just don’t forget to be polite and interested. This person can later become your referral.
Referrals are beneficial for many companies, as they create better hiring choices. And for you, as an applicant, it’s easier to land a job when being referred to HR by a current employee.
“If the company is mid-size or big, the recruiters have their inbox full of resumes of applicants. And it’s hard to get the right impression of someone just by reading their resume,” admits Ana. “But if your employee gives you a recommendation, you have a higher credit of trust.”
List the right questions to ask a recruiter
You’ve applied for the job and got an interview invitation. Congratulations! Put together all you’ve learned about the company and write 3-4 questions to the recruiter. You will definitely come to the point when your hiring manager will ask if you have any questions about the team. Asking the right things will contribute to your professional image and help you understand if the company is a good fit.
Here are some examples of such questions:
How long have you been a recruiter (manager, tech lead) for this company?
This helps understand if the company values long-term hires. If the interviewer has recently joined the company, you might think that the company is in the growth and accumulation phase and they are still shaping its team. If the recruiter (manager) has been with the company for a while, it might be a sign that its culture is established and they are looking for an ideal fit, so you won't expect a rollercoaster environment working there.
How can I help your company succeed?
This is to determine the team's major challenges at the moment that they want to cover with you joining them. For instance, they might mention long-term business goals, development of a new product or service, or, on the contrary, let you know your role will be mainly to maintain what’s there already, so there won’t be many growth perspectives.
Ana’s suggestions, “How does career development in your company look? Is it vertical or horizontal? Can I expect it in this new position?”
Who within the team has been with the company the longest? Did their role change?
Ask about the team members and find out if the company knows and values their staff and provides conditions for career growth.
Where do you see the company in five years?
Will give you an overview of the team's ambitions and help you align with their expectations of your role in it.
I’d like to keep learning to become better at what I’m doing. Do you support education and improvement? If yes, then how?
Another idea would be to describe a personal case: I want to boost my Python skills and work with big data arrays to progress to a senior role, is this possible?
Some companies cover educational expenses and encourage their staff to study. With this question, you will know if you’ve hit one.
When was the last time an employee left your company?
The tone of speech will show you how the company treats people that move on. An irritated or evasive answer will signal that the company's hiring policies are far from perfect.
Why is this position open?
Here you should try to find out if it’s to replace a former employee, and in case yes, what happened to them, did they leave, get promoted, or transferred to another department. That information may give you additional insights into the corporate culture and potential prospects.
Do any of your employees work from another time zone or change time zones as they work?
You will understand if you can work remotely and have the possibility to travel and work.
Does the team have after-hours activities they attend together?
You will look into the team-building culture and see if the team is united.
What not to ask at the interview
Sometimes, you might feel asking too many questions can damage your positive and confident image. Nevertheless, there are very few questions that are inappropriate at an interview.
“I would not aggressively ask about the salary growth, the insurance value, or other bonuses on the first interview as you may seem as someone caring only about the financial incentive. Try not to go into extreme details, too, like asking what kind of juice is provided in the common area. If you’re unsure of whether you should go into details, ask yourself, will the answer influence my decision to work for this company?” shares Ana.
Do you have any tech career-related questions? Practicum Career Team is there to help every student resolve their concerns about the challenging quest of landing a dream job in tech. Statistics show that 87% of Practicum students get hired within 180 days after graduation.