How To Decide if a Company is a Good Match for Your First Job

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Getting one's career off to a positive start with a good employer is a priority for most college graduates. Finding the right employer for their situation will take a careful appraisal and this article will present some considerations to help with that process.

Training Programs

Organizations which have a soundtrack record for training new employees will enable grads to acquire knowledge and skills fundamental to career growth. Company employment literature for college hires will often describe how new employees will be trained in their first job. Questions about training mechanisms are perfect for the first interview.

You will also notice some surveys online which identify the supposed best companies for college grads.

While all the above information is worth considering, the safest approach is to question recent hires at your target firm about the nature and quality of training opportunities before accepting an offer.

Employers will ordinarily provide this opportunity as part of a ​second interview or site visit. If not, you can request an audience with staff hired during the past three years and also ask your college's alumni or career office for alumni contacts from that employer.

Make sure that you ask open-ended questions which might elicit negative as well as positive information. For example, you might ask them to describe the nature of the training which they have received or what skills they have developed and how they acquired those skills. Sometimes questions like "What would you do differently to train new staff if you were in charge?" can be very illuminating.

Career Paths for College Hires

Most grads will want an employer who provides a clear career path for advancement for college hires. This information might be covered in company literature or through inquiry at an interview but is best confirmed through dialogue with grads hired in recent years. You will want to know what the next level of jobs after entry-level positions look like and how and when one might advance to those positions.

Salary and Benefits

How compensation and benefits compare to those provided by other employers in the industry will be another consideration. Both initial salary and the opportunity for growth will be of interest for most grads. Consult your college's career office and online salary sites for salary survey information. The timing, basis, and magnitude of salary increases for successful employees are also fair questions to ask employers after an offer has been made.

New Hire Retention

Even though a grad may only stay at a first job for 1 - 3 years on average, you may want to know if your employer typically has a positive record for retaining new hires. You can ask recruiters questions like "What percentage of new hires have stayed with the employer for 2 years, 3 years, etc.?" You can also probe this issue informally when meeting with recently hired employees of the firm.

Research the Company

Of course, graduates should conduct thorough company research to assess the employer's standing in the industry, financial health, growth prospects and competitive challenges. This information will help with interview preparation as well as decision making about any offer.

Many graduates now want to work for organizations that are socially responsible. You will find many online ratings for socially responsible companies. You can also ask interviewers and staff about initiatives which impact the public good.

Meet Your Manager

The effectiveness of a grad's first manager will be a very important variable with job satisfaction and professional growth. Not all new hires will have the opportunity to meet their prospective manager as part of the interview process. If grads have this opportunity, it will be critical to assess whether the supervisor's style and approach are a good match. If possible after receiving an offer, grads should ask to speak with staff who report to their proposed manager. Asking questions like, "how would you describe her management style?", "What mechanisms does she have for providing feedback?" and "In what ways were you mentored?" can be quite revealing.

Finally, of course, it will be vitally important for the company to be offering an appropriate entry-level job (or at least one that could be accessed within two years) which matches the grad's skills, interests, and values. An unsatisfying role for more than a year or so with even the best employer is rarely a great way to launch a career.