Water Cooler Blog May 2015: What do you look for in an employer?



by Melany Hallam


Water Cooler Question: What is most important in your decision to apply for a job?

  • Job title
  • Qualifications
  • Location
  • Pay rate
  • Employer reputation
  • Other

Take the survey now.


All kinds of information is available to you on how to show a potential employer that you are the best person for the job. But hiring is a two-way street. So try asking yourself this question right now: “What does my ideal employer look like?”

After all, you’re an awesome employee and companies should be competing with each other to show you why they can provide the best work environment, opportunities for advancement, benefits, and other perks.

Sound crazy?

In fact, there are certain sectors and job types that do compete for employees. Some rival companies within an industry have even signed non-poaching agreements where they promise not to head-hunt employees from each other. Employees are that valuable to them.

Why shouldn’t that valuable employee be you? And how do you evaluate a potential employer anyway?

First, determine which companies or organizations you should apply to—look at their websites, review their literature and read any available news items. How stable is the company? Is it part of a dying industry with an uncertain future? Has it ever been reported to the Better Business Bureau for shady dealings? Is it financially sound or is it on the brink of closing its doors? For example, I was once offered a job at a bookstore (at the time, this was my dream job!) but I turned it down because I found out the owner only wanted someone to keep it running while they sold it. Once it sold, I would likely be out looking for work again. Not cool.

Second, when you get to the interview stage, prepare questions of your own to ask a potential employer. It’s essential to do your research on a company before going for an interview. Find out whatever you can about a company`s reputation, potential for career development, work-life balance, and any other factors that are important to you. Then write down three to five questions to ask at your interview. Here are some sample questions: http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2014/06/18/10-job-interview-questions-you-should-ask/.

When a potential employer is answering your questions, pay attention to how they answer, not just their words. Do they have difficulty coming up with something positive to say about their work environment? That could be a real warning sign.

Third, talk to current employees, if possible. In my experience, a significant number of employers pay lip service to the idea of supporting employees in balancing work and home lives, as well as fostering an easygoing work environment. But when it comes down to the crunch, they`re all talk and no action. So you need to find out how a company actually operates. Ask current employees, what it`s like working there day-to-day, how are their relationships with co-workers and supervisors, how does the employer respond to problems? Does this employer expect you to put in long hours, sacrificing your home life with little respect for your time and priorities?


While you`re at it, ask yourself this question: Do you think you’ll get along with the other employees and supervisors at the company? You don`t have to be best friends with them, but if you feel like you`re always the odd person out, it can be exhausting, leaving you with less energy and enthusiasm for your job. But if you get along well with your co-workers, going to work every day can be a joy (really!).


Stay the course and keep your standards high—your ideal employer is out there.



Further reading:


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