It’s no secret that employers use social media to evaluate whether a job candidate would be a good match, checking for clues about whether their character and personality would fit with the rest of team.
Similarly, job candidates can use social media when weighing a job offer. There’s much you can find out about your potential employer, the team you’d be working with, and your boss, by doing some cybersleuthing that goes beyond just looking at the company’s official Facebook and LinkedIn pages, Twitter account, website, and blog. You just need do some digging and get a little creative.
Before you start cybersnooping, the key is to figure out what you want in a new job opportunity. "You need to be clear about what is important to you and what you are after, so you are paying attention and looking for signs," says Danielle Beauparlant Moser, managing partner at Blended Learning Team LLC, and coauthor of FOCUS: Creating Career & Brand Clarity. Make a short list of what you are looking for in a new workplace, she says. Maybe you crave flexible work hours, or a collaborative office environment, or working with a close-knit team that goes to happy hour every Friday, or maybe you’re looking for coworkers who love to watch Game of Thrones as much as you do.
Moser had a client who wanted to make sure his new employer would allow him to work flexible hours so he could continue to coach youth sports in the evenings, but he was reluctant to ask about the work hours in an interview. Instead, he leveraged Facebook, looking for friends of friends who worked at that company. By reviewing their posts and photos, he was able to determine whether his potential new colleagues participated in non-work events in early evening hours. He also looked at their Pinterest and Instagram accounts, checking anything that was public, to see if he could gain any insight into their out-of-office activities and whether office hours are flexible. "You have to dig deep and read between the lines," Moser says.
Here are five ways to leverage social media to evaluate the work culture of a new employer.
Searching Instagram by location using the company’s address or its building’s name will give you insight into what other people are posting from the office, says Lauren Maiman, owner of the Midnight Oil Group, a communications agency. "Instagram is a great place to find organic information about a company," Maiman says. "Company Facebook pages are being moderated and are used as a marketing tool, just like their website and blog."
For instance, Maiman says, late-night Instagram posts could mean long work hours. If the company’s website shows foosball tables and a Slurpee machine, but you don’t see a single photo of them on Instagram, that could indicate employees are too busy to use them. Lots of selfies at after-hour outings suggest good office camaraderie.
While most employees won’t post anything blatantly negative, it’s easy to tell if a post is meant to be positive or negative. But, warns Maiman, take it all with a grain of salt. "There are two sides to every story," she says, "and employees often use social media to vent their frustration."
Although technically a Twitter analytics tool, job candidates can search for a company name in Followerwonk to find all the Twitter users who list that company in their bio, making it easy to locate other employees and read their tweets. "Job seekers can learn about the types of people who are hired, and how big a fan employees are of the organization," says Ashley Ryall, marketing and social media manager at recruiting firm WinterWyman. Employees’ Twitter feeds can give candidates insight into whether they would fit it in with the other team members and their interests.
Beyond individual Twitter posts, employees should be interacting with each other and their company on social media, following each other, sharing Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn posts, and commenting. "If employees are engaged and excited about the work they do, a company’s social media stream should be filled with employee comments and activities," says Natalie Bidnick, digital strategist for Elizabeth Christian Public Relations. For instance, she says, if a company posts photos of a big charity event but no employees liked, shared, or commented on it, that’s a signal that the employees aren’t engaged. Similarly, if a company is recognized as a top place to work, its employees should be sharing that on their social media. Be leery, she says, of companies who pay to promote their posts on Facebook and Twitter.
Pay attention to how a potential employer responds to customer complaints on social media, says Anna Tate, marketing communications manager for IPVanish, a technology firm. "If there is a lot of negative feedback, or if the company is not responding to a customer’s negative feedback on social media, that indicates a possible negative environment," Tate says. You should also look for customer reviews on Yelp, Better Business Bureau, and Reddit.
Don’t be afraid to post on your own Facebook page that you’re interviewing with a specific company and would like to speak with current and former employees. Just ask them to send you a direct message rather than comment on your post. One of Moser’s clients did this, and discovered her cousin was dating a woman was working at the company where she was interviewing. Not only did she get the inside scoop on the office culture, says Moser, but she also gained valuable insight for her interview. For instance, she learned that the last person in that position lacked follow-through, so when Moser’s client was interviewed, she emphasized her follow-through skills. Moser says her client felt that bit of information helped her get the job.
Lisa Rabasca Roepe writes about women in the workplace, parenting, and food and drink. Her articles have appeared in Daily Worth, Men's Journal, Eater, SheKnows, and Yahoo Parenting.