Here’s why you should put on your sleuthing hat and research a potential employer before you accept that job offer — and how to do it.

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Employers aren’t the only ones who can conduct background investigations and reference checks. So before you accept that job offer, do a little digging to make sure the employer will be a good fit for you.

Why organizations conduct background investigations. When a hiring manager has reached a decision, before he or she offers the job to a candidate, many companies conduct a background investigation and check the person’s references.

This is done to help ensure the candidate is qualified, has the potential to be successful in the job and will be a good fit within the organization’s culture. It’s also done to avoid negligent hiring claims and to decrease organizational risk, because hiring the wrong person can be expensive.

Why you should conduct a company background check. After you’ve already started a new job isn’t the time to figure out that you hate the large company bureaucracy or the formal, hierarchical environment and would have preferred working at a small start-up company with a flat organizational structure and casual culture (or vice versa). Conducting your own research can help you decide if this is the place where you want to spend the next several years of your career — and this shouldn’t be a decision you take lightly.

How to conduct research on a company. Use the Internet and social media to begin your detective work on the potential employer, and then you can expand your research to current or former employees.

  • Review the company’s website and read about the products, services, history, management team and recent press releases.
  • If the company is publicly held, check out the latest annual report for year-over-year financial trends, issues the company is facing, the competitive strategy, and the strategic, operational and financial goals.
  • If a potential employer has a company Instagram or Facebook account, scope them out. The photos can offer some serious intel into the day-to-day happenings of its office.
  • Check out employer review sites, such as Glassdoor.com, which can be a way to obtain “insider” information about potential employers.
  • Type the company name into Internet search engines and read any articles written about the company.
  • Conduct reference checks by speaking with current and/or former employees. Connect through LinkedIn and then contact a few people to talk to them about their experiences at the company.

Studies have shown that most people spend a majority of their day in work and work-related activities. Don’t you owe it to yourself to ensure the potential employer is where you want to spend most of your time each day for the next several years?

Lisa Quast is a certified executive coach, and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.