4 Unsuspected Ways Potential Employees Research Companies

A job candidate sits at a desk and researches potential companies to apply at.

Are you looking to attract top-tier talent for your small business? Finding the right fit is more important than ever, and prospective employees are likely just as interested in finding out about your company as you are in learning about them. And they have plenty of outlets to do so.

Shrewd applicants are conducting extensive research online to discover what a small business is really like, and the results can influence their decision-making. In fact, nearly 70% say that they consider a company’s “brand,” particularly factors such as a strong, employee-focused culture, when mulling a job offer.

Here's what you need to know about how job candidates are researching your business and ways you can put your best foot forward.

1. Reference Review Sites

From Indeed to Glassdoor company reviews, potential employees will scrutinize your small business the same way they might research socks or dentists online.

What They're Looking For:

  • Overview of working conditions
  • Whether companies listen to and value employees
  • Average salaries

What Companies Can Do:

  • Make sure you practice what you preach with attractive working conditions. You may tout your company as inclusive or flexible, but job-seekers peruse review sites to get the real scoop on working hours, culture and more. In fact, reading your reviews is a great place to start to see how current employees rate your performance—and address issues as needed.
  • Encourage employees to post positive reviews. Many probably won’t even think of it unless prompted, especially if they are happy. Make sure your request couldn’t be construed as “coercive”—meaning, don’t imply that you will reward employees for a positive review. Also, try to avoid having multiple employees post at once to flood the site and appear disingenuous.
  • Read and respond to reviews to address misinformation or legitimate criticism. For one, you want to make sure your employees know you care enough to respond. And responding publicly also positions you well to job-seekers.

2. Checking Out Social Media

An overwhelming 90% of millennials said that it was either “somewhat” or “very” important that their work has a positive impact on the world. What’s more, 43% of candidates say they are attracted to a new job because of meaningful work.

Your social media can help tell that story, and you can count on the fact that prospective employees are watching.

What They're Looking For:

  • The quality of interactions with your followers
  • Whether employees are posting and tagging
  • Insights into what the workplace is like

What Companies Can Do:

  • Encourage employees to post selfies at work or non-confidential details of interesting projects. While in a perfect world, a company would control all messages on social media, it’s important to remember that many employees will post anyway, so it’s wise to establish parameters. Create and circulate a social media policy that clarifies what employees can post, and that they should identify themselves as an employee to promote authenticity.
  • Document employee events and volunteer efforts. While you want employees to be brand ambassadors on their own accounts, make sure that your “official” company account also showcases your company culture for a candidate who might be taking a quick scroll.
  • Use a variety of mediums to capture your workplace, such as “behind-the-scenes” photos or a “day in the life.” Think about the employees you are trying to attract and make sure you are active on the channels that appeal to them, such as Snapchat or Instagram, if you’re looking to hire a younger demographic.

3. Visit Company Websites

Of course, potential applicants are also reviewing your website to learn more about what you do and how you present yourself. It’s important to have up-to-date information on available jobs and the hiring process, as well as an overview of your company’s mission and services.

What They're Looking For:

  • An understanding of the brand persona you use when talking about yourself (Engaging? Friendly? Smart?)
  • FAQs and “About” pages to learn more about your company, its leaders and its history, along with your value proposition, perks, and more
  • News articles to see how active and successful you are in your space

What Companies Can Do:

  • Scan all your web copy as though you were a prospective employee. What should you add that helps convey your “story?” You might also invite valued clients and employees to take a look and share their impressions.
  • Focus on spotlighting your team through video or blog posts to showcase personalities and diversity. Employees today value a workplace that lets them bring their whole selves to work, so you want your website to capture that vibe. Let a new employee write about the first week on the job, or invite team members to talk about an exciting project they’ve completed.
  • Ditch stock photography and use lots of visuals to help candidates “picture” themselves working there. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take compelling photos. Let your employees try their hand at capturing their “day in the life,” personal workspace, or candid shots that highlight your teams’ personalities.

4. Evaluate the Applicant Experience

Candidates are putting their best foot forward when applying for a job, and companies do the same. That’s because 64% of applicants say that the interview process gives them important insight into the culture.

What They're Looking For:

  • Do you treat everyone with respect?
  • Does your process keep them informed?
  • Are you connecting them with team members who are knowledgeable and promote diversity?

What Companies Can Do:

  • Make sure your job postings don’t contain themes that inadvertently quell diversity. Some words like “aggressive” or “hard-charging” could speak more to men than women, while talking only about family events could exclude singles or those with same-sex partners.
  • Be thoughtful about who should be involved in the hiring process. For example, if you are showcasing your company’s commitment to diversity, make sure that is reflected in the interviewers. Many applicants would also appreciate meeting their future supervisor or team members.
  • Treat all candidates with respect, and communicate with them transparently about the timeline and their prospects, even if it’s to say they aren’t the right fit. Put yourself in their shoes—no one wants to feel ignored. Also, remember that every job seeker can become an ambassador for your company, and you want them to speak positively of you to their circle. They’re also potential customers and even future hires.

Of course, all the window dressing in the world won’t make a difference if what you’re promoting doesn’t live up to the hype. The best way to improve your image to candidates is to make real improvements to your workplace. Walking the talk will shine through and result in happier employees and a brand that will attract and retain top talent.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Fifth Third Bank, National Association, and are solely the opinions of the author. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services by Fifth Third Bank, National Association or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, and are provided without any warranty whatsoever. Deposit and credit products provided by Fifth Third Bank, Member FDIC.