How to Choose the Right Company to Work For as a New Graduate

The Prepped Team

6 minutes

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If you’ve graduated recently, or are about to finish school, landing a job is likely top-of-mind for you. All around you, you see classmates gearing up for their job search, and some may even have received that coveted first job offer already. As the pressure builds, you may feel the urge to apply to every job posting you see to maximize your chances. But that may not be the right strategy for your job search.

Having a shortlist of prospective employers right from the start will help you focus your time and energy on jobs that are the best fit for you. This article offers tips and advice on how to choose the right company to work for as a new graduate.

In this article:

Questions to ask yourself before applying for jobs

Before you find an answer to “What am I doing next?”, it’s important to ask yourself what you want to do next. Here are some questions you should spend time thinking about before you apply for jobs:

  • What motivates you? Is it learning new skills or solving problems? Or are you driven by external motivation like recognition or rewards?
  • What is your career goal? What do you see yourself doing in 10, 15, or even 20 years? Is your career goal to be a specialist in your field or a generalist managing a variety of  things? Or maybe you aspire to have your own business.
  • What is your ideal work environment? Would you prefer working in a team or as an individual contributor? What kind of team culture would you fit in best?
  • What does your ideal workday look like? Are you a planner or do you prefer a relatively unstructured working style?
  • What leadership style resonates most with you? Is an ideal leader someone who guides you or someone who gives you space to learn from your mistakes?

Your answers to these questions will offer insight into what kind of company or role you’d thrive in. When you start networking with professionals and researching company cultures, you’ll more easily identify which ones resonate with you.

10 tips to choose the right company to work for as a new grad

Figuring out the kind of job or company you’d be happy in is just the first step. Now you need to learn more about companies that are hiring to find the best match. So, once you’ve finished introspecting, it’s time to start researching. As a new graduate, this may be the first time you evaluate employers with the objective of landing a full-time role. Here are 10 factors to consider while choosing a company to work for.

Does the company have a good reputation?

What do customers say about the company’s products or services? What do current or former employees say about the employer and team on websites like Glassdoor or even Reddit for larger companies? Has the company been in the news for the right or wrong reasons recently? Google is your friend for this research. You’ll learn how proficient the company is at what it does, how it treats its people, and whether you’d be able to take pride in the work you do there. 

How has the company’s performance been?

Is the organization growing at a steady pace? Is it doing well financially? Or has its growth slowed down? Is it expanding its team or exploring new markets? Look at the company’s financial statements, if available, or for news on how it’s been performing. It’s also a good idea to connect with people who work in specific companies to get insights on whether the business has been meeting its targets and its projections for the future.

What is the company’s USP?

What is the company’s unique selling proposition? What makes its product or service unique from the competition? Is it known for innovation or quality? Is the business better known for cost-effectiveness? Often, these factors can reflect what attributes or traits are valued in employees.

Does the company have high staff turnover? 

A high turnover can be a sign that employees don’t feel valued at the organization, or there aren’t enough growth opportunities. On the other hand, if you find that most employees choose to stay with the organization, it’s clear that the company is working hard to retain talent. You may want to check LinkedIn to see how long current and former employees worked at the company. Be sure to keep the industry average turnover in mind while comparing, so you get an accurate picture.

Are the company’s compensation and benefits in line with industry standards?

Although salary shouldn’t be the sole criterion for choosing a company or job, especially early in your career, there’s no denying that your financial security is important. You don’t want to be underpaid for the work you do, so make sure the employer’s compensation packages are competitive and in line with industry standards. Look at websites like Glassdoor or Indeed for salary estimates for similar positions in the industry or even self-disclosed pay brackets posted by the company’s current employees. However, don’t look at the salary in isolation. You should also take into account other benefits like insurance, vacation days, pension plan contributions, and RRSP matching.

Tip: Do this research beforehand so you have a ready answer when you’re asked about your salary expectations during the interview.

What is the organization’s culture like? 

You’ll spend at least half your waking hours working, so you want to make sure you get along well with your future team. Do some research into what the team culture is like. The company website and social media is a good place to start, but you may also want to connect with people who work there to get first-hand insights. Do they value teamwork or independent contribution? Innovation or process? Is the team close-knit and supportive? Are they committed to diversity and inclusion, or do all employees fit the same demographic? And do you see yourself fitting well in that culture?

Does the company prioritize employees’ work-life balance?

Your personal life is important too, and ideally, you want to work for an organization that values not just your productivity, but your work-life balance and emotional and mental well-being too. Check if the company offers flexible work arrangements and whether employees are often expected to work beyond regular working hours. Will you be expected to work in the office all week or can you work remotely? You may be able to find some of this information on the company website. For the rest, reach out to your network or ask questions during your interview.

What is the employer looking for? 

Your time with the company will only be a success if both you and the employer get what you’re looking for. For instance, you may want a well-defined job role with a manageable workload or a work environment where your skills and experience are valued. The employer, on the other hand, may want someone who learns quickly and delivers the required work on time. Or they may be looking for someone who goes beyond the job description, takes risks, and focuses on innovation. Some companies are transparent about the traits they value in employees and might even list them on their website or in the job description. Another way to know what the employer values is to ask someone who works there, whether that’s someone in your network or the interviewer

Does the company offer learning and growth opportunities? 

As you begin your career, you want to work for a company that will set you up for future success. This means opportunities to learn on the job, pick up new skills, take ownership of projects, dedicated learning and development resources, and a manager who is invested in your success. Try to find out as much as possible about the learning and growth opportunities the employer offers through secondary research and by speaking to people who know in the company or the hiring manager.

What are the company’s vision and goals? 

Many companies list their vision and objectives on their website. If it’s not posted online, you may have to rely on its employees to find out what the organization is working toward. Ask yourself if the company’s vision, mission, and goals align with your personal vision. You may also want to know about the company’s stance on giving back to the community. Does the employer invest in social causes or encourage employees to volunteer? All of this will tell you whether you’ll feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment if you choose to work there.

How to choose between two job offers as a new graduate

Of course, once you’ve narrowed your options and submitted job applications, it’s the employers’ turn to choose. The hiring process typically includes resume screening and, if your resume gets shortlisted, a series of interviews. If you’ve done everything right and impressed the employer, you may receive the job offer after clearing background checks.

As a recent graduate, you’ll likely be applying to multiple job openings in parallel and it’s possible you’ll have more than one job offer in hand. So how do you choose between two (or more) job offers? Here are some helpful tips.

Wait until you receive formal offer letters

An offer of employment is only certain once you’ve received a formal written offer. Don’t reject other offers based simply on the promise of an offer from your employer of choice. Once you have both (or all) your formal offers in hand, compare them carefully to determine which employer offers the most favourable terms. You may want to compare job titles, the job duties in each role, the starting dates, and the location of the job so you can arrive at a decision that’s best for your long-term career goals.

Compare overall compensation, including benefits

It can be tempting to just go with the employer who offers a higher salary, especially if this is the first time you’ll be employed full-time. But a holistic compensation package usually includes more than just the money deposited in your bank account each month. 

Avoid looking at the salary alone, and be sure to consider the benefits you’ll receive, such as vision and dental insurance, Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) matching, pension, vacation days, performance bonuses, employee discounts, and more. It’s also a good idea to find out if there’s a waiting period for enrollment in company benefits.

Evaluate which company is a better fit culturally

Although you likely researched the companies’ culture before applying to these jobs, you may want to do some more digging before you decide which job offer to accept. It’s a good idea to speak to current or former employees at both organizations and get their views on the culture within their teams. This will give you a better idea of the management culture, the work-life balance and workload you can expect, learning opportunities, and whether you’d be happy working there. 

When speaking to former employees, you can also ask questions about why they left, any concerns they may have about the company culture, and whether they’d recommend the organization as a place where you, a new graduate, should start your career.

Consider alignment with your long-term career goals

Your first job is a stepping stone to your future career. Although you’re entering the workforce equipped with the academic know-how needed for the job, there may be many skills you pick up on the job. As such, it’s important to know whether you’ll be working with a manager who encourages or even helps you to master new skills. 

You should also ask questions about learning and growth opportunities the company offers and whether there’s opportunity for lateral movement if you decide to do something different. LinkedIn may also provide some insights on whether people are promoted internally to senior positions and how frequent promotions are.

Learn about the company’s leadership styles

The company’s (and team’s) leadership style can tell you a lot about how well you’ll perform there. Not everyone shines under the same leadership style, so think about what qualities you’d want in your manager. Then do your research. Will your manager help you bridge weaknesses and learn new skills? Will they give you opportunities to lead projects? Will they give you direction or freedom to experiment? Do they prefer things done in a certain way or are they open to new ideas? Is the leadership style democratic and will your voice be heard? 

Don’t rush into a decision

It’s okay to ask for more time and let the employers know that you’re evaluating your options. Just make sure you’re clear about how much time you need, so they know when to expect an answer.

If an employer reacts negatively when you tell them you’re also considering another offer or threatens to revoke the offer if you don’t decide immediately, it could be a red flag. There may, however, be instances where an employer needs to fill an urgent position and decides to hire someone else if you take too long to accept.

Let both employers know once you reach a decision 

With two job offers in hand, there’s no getting around the fact that you will have to decline one. But before you do that, make sure to accept the winning offer first. You should only turn down the second offer after your employer of choice has acknowledged your acceptance.

Turning down a job offer isn’t a bad career move, if done right. Here are some tips on professionally rejecting a job offer:

  • Be gracious while declining the job offer. Thank the employer for the offer and let them know you’ve carefully considered it. 
  • Let them know you’ve decided to go a different way. If you’d already mentioned you were considering another offer, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. You don’t need to mention why you picked the other offer over theirs. Just saying it’s better for your career at this stage is enough.
  • Clarify that it was a tough decision to make. You don’t want the employer to feel you were wasting their time or stringing them along. It’s a good idea to mention a few positive things you learned about the company or why you were keen to work with them.
  • Don’t burn any bridges: Ideally, you want to leave the door open to future opportunities in the organization, so remember not to burn any bridges at the start of your career. Avoid criticizing the company or the offer. Instead, let them know that you appreciate having been considered for the role and that you’d like to stay in touch.
  • Avoid ghosting the employer: Saying no isn’t always easy but it’s better than disappearing on the employer without giving them an answer. Be considerate and keep in mind that they need to hire someone for the role. Most employers will appreciate a clear, timely response so they can continue their recruitment process.

Tip: If your sole reason for rejecting a job offer is the compensation, consider negotiating with the employer for more favourable terms before rejecting the offer.

​​Be Prepped to start your new career

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