It’s a good time to be an American worker — at least in a few ways.
The United States is essentially at full employment, so many workers can be picky about where they draw a paycheck. And there’s more information than ever to help job hunters make their selection.
Some of the insights can be found the same way you might look for a place to eat. You can also look up the employer with some of the same tools you’d use to check someone with whom you’re going on a date. Or you can do what journalists do when they need to research a company.
The restaurant method
It’s Friday night. You want to go out to dinner. Your friend or significant other suggests a restaurant that you don’t know. So what do you do?
You look it up on a site or phone app that has online reviews, right? You can do much the same thing in your job hunt.
Websites and apps like Indeed offer company reviews written by employees. Some sites even review the managers.
At a course for job seekers the Utah Department of Workforce Services hosted last month in Taylorsville, Amber Butler, 28, of South Salt Lake, said she uses the website Glassdoor to learn about a potential employer.
“It’s the best way to find out about the company,” said Butler, who was seeking a job in tech support.
Rebecca Ntshalintshali, a work success coach at Workforce Services, told people at the course that she likes the website Comparably for the way it ranks companies in various industries.
“It will kind of tell you where [an employer] is at,” Ntshalintshali explained, “and … where the rankings came from.”
The site FairyGodBoss offers reviews tailored to women, including topics that have greater impact on them, such as maternity-leave policies and whether companies offer work-life balance. Many review sites also include salary range information that can help you negotiate pay.
As with any online reviews, you need to consider the reviewer and the site hosting his or her review. As for the overall ratings a company receives, you will want to read how the website or app arrived at that. The employer rating site Great Places to Work explains how it uses surveys and data to rank businesses.
If you’re considering working for a company that offers a consumer product, like a restaurant or manufacturer, or something in the service industry, read the online customer reviews. How well a business treats customers might be an indicator of how well it treats employees. Besides, sometimes the employees, or former employees, themselves write reviews.
The dater method
You probably wouldn’t go out on a date without learning something about the other person first. Even if you two were matched on a dating app, you might try to augment your information with your own research.
And that research is probably going to focus on what that person does — not just for work but what hobbies or recreation he or she enjoys, or what causes the other person supports. You can research much the same for a potential employer.
Check social media and the employer’s website to see what’s been shared about workers and what happens within the company. Does the company recognize employees for outstanding contributions or when they get hired or promoted? Does it share photos from office parties or service projects? If the company does blue-collar work, does it promote a safety record?
You can research the people with whom you interviewed, or who may be your potential manager(s). What does a basic Google search tell you? What do their social media accounts show? Hey, they will probably do those same searches on you.
The investigative reporter method
Many journalists get years of training in how to dig into a company. Here’s that training in a few paragraphs:
Reporters often start by looking at whether the company has a ranking with the Better Business Bureau. After that, they will research what’s been filed in court.
Some states allow you to do this online. In Utah, the public needs to go to a state district courthouse and use a public terminal there. District courthouses are in all the county seats and a few of the state’s other populous cities.
You can also search federal court records. That will require you to visit a federal courthouse, and there’s only one of those in Utah — 351 S. West Temple in Salt Lake City.
Whether you are looking up an employer in state or federal court, you may find filings that have nothing to do with employment but are issues like seeking pay from a client that owes the company money or a dispute between two companies about whether one side lived up to a contract.
Lawsuits that could be of interest to potential employees would be discrimination claims or suits seeking unpaid wages. One issue that might also give a job seeker pause: if, in the past year, multiple vendors have filed debt collections against the potential employer. That could be an indication that the employer is having money problems or that the company doesn’t do business honestly.
If you’re concerned about whether the employer has been found to discriminate or harass, there’s good news and bad news.
In Utah, the state agency that investigates such allegations, the Antidiscrimination and Labor Division, does not publish those complaints or their outcomes. However, its parent agency, the Utah Labor Commission, does publish its appeal rulings and has a search tool.
Utah’s state government also doesn’t have an online search for employers found to have illegally withheld pay from workers. However, you can ask the agency responsible for those complaints, the Utah Labor Commission Wage Claim Unit, whether the company you’re considering working for has failed to pay employees. You can reach the unit by calling 801-530-6801 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also run a business through the U.S. Department of Labor enforcement database. This can tell you if the company has a record of safety violations, failed to properly pay workers or hasn’t lived up to government contracts.
Finally, journalists love to talk to people who used to work at a business. They know how the company operates and are usually free to speak candidly. If you find folks who left your potential employer in the past few years, reach out and ask them about their experiences. Ratings and documents are helpful, but sometimes there’s no substitute for real people.
For the fifth straight year, The Salt Lake Tribune has partnered with Energage, an employee research firm, to determine Utah’s Top Workplaces.
To see the 2018 list, click here.