All Articles Leadership Careers 6 questions for assessing a prospective employer

6 questions for assessing a prospective employer

5 min read


For the majority of people, time spent at work far outweighs time spent with friends and family. Deciding whether to accept a job offer is an important decision that will ultimately have a significant impact on your happiness and well-being.

Most job-seekers confine their evaluation of a company to factors such as salary, job title, and benefits, but research suggests that other, more intangible factors better predict your likelihood to thrive in a job.

As you go through the interview process and research the prospective employer, pay attention to whether the company meets these six universal human needs:

Do employees feel respected?

A company where employees are respected as human beings and not treated as human machines will have a happy, engaged workforce. A company where employees are not respected will have low morale and high turnover. Look at what employees who have left the company say on websites such as Ask about the average tenure of the workforce, and pay attention to details such as the company’s emphasis on healthy and safe work environments. If you have a contact in the company who is not involved in the hiring process, you might also ask him or her questions about work-life balance, such as how often employees are expected to put in overtime.

Is recognition a key component of the culture?

As humans, we need recognition for our contributions in order to feel energized. Without it, we feel emotionally and physically drained. Take note of elements of the company’s culture that focus on recognition. What types of things does the company celebrate? Are they all purely performance-based (e.g. sales contests)? Or do they include things such as living out company values, loyalty to the company and team successes? Also, look at who is celebrated. Companies that talk only about the accomplishments of senior leaders without highlighting the contributions of “everyday heroes” may be less likely to recognize contributions from all levels of the company.

Can I belong here?

Feeling that you belong is essential to being happy at work long-term. How do people at the company describe their teams? Do they seem to get along? Do they enjoy being with each other and perhaps even do things together outside the office? If the teams like each other and seem to be happy working together, take your analysis a step further. Would you fit in with the group? Don’t look for a company where everyone is exactly like you, but look for work styles and personalities that are complementary to your own.

Are employees given autonomy?

Being micromanaged or slowed down by red tape, bureaucracy or control-obsessed personalities is guaranteed to cause frustration and unhappiness at work. Pay attention to how teams are structured; the presence of too many layers may indicate excessive bureaucracy. Similarly, a complex hiring process with multiple rounds of paperwork, tests and interviews may sometimes (but not always) indicate a fondness for red tape. Finally, pay attention to how the hiring manager talks about his or her role on the team. Look for someone who focuses more on providing support and less on overseeing tasks.

Can I grow here?

The best job for you is one that is a good fit with your strengths and provides the right degree of challenge. Make sure you thoroughly understand the position, and be honest with yourself about whether it suits your strengths. Don’t be afraid of accepting a challenge, but at the same time don’t accept a position that you know you aren’t ready for yet. Ask about the type of training programs that the company provides and how much emphasis the company places on promoting from within. A great company is one where you can continue to grow even after you’ve mastered your current role.

Is this work important to me?

Inherent in all of us is a need to do work that we find meaningful. Does the company have a clear mission that all employees understand and strive to achieve? Is the company’s mission something that you can support and feel good about doing? Throughout the interview process, ask those you meet with to define what they believe the company’s mission means. Noting the level of consistency in the responses can help you determine whether the company has a clear direction, which can help you decide if the mission is something you want to support.

Carefully evaluating job opportunities based on these six human needs will help you identify opportunities with potential for a long and happy work experience.

Michael Lee Stallard, president of E Pluribus Partners, speaks, teaches workshops and coaches leaders. He is the author of “Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity” (Thomas Nelson). Follow Stallard on his blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or on LinkedIn.

Katie Russell is a digital marketing specialist at E Pluribus Partners.

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader.