A man sits at a sad desk in a dark basement with an old computerPhoto: Stokkete (Shutterstock)

Perhaps the scariest thing about starting a new job is not knowing if you’ve made the right decision. For example, you might be lured and switched by an employer who lured you into a position with false promises, or suddenly feel pain in the buyer’s remorse when you find that your old job has a friendlier atmosphere than your new one.

Researching companies online has its shortcomings. There’s only so much you can tell from reading previous employee reviews of a company on Glassdoor. Therefore, it is best to proactively decide whether a job is ultimately the right solution. To do this, you can shop a company discreetly so that the hiring manager doesn’t know you are looking for information during the interview process.

Here’s how to educate a potential employer before making this crucial decision.

Illustration for item titled Secret Shop a Job Before Your Interview

Talk to company employees

Find current or former employees of the company and ask them questions as they have little incentive to lie about their experiences. If after a few years someone has left their job and still has bad taste in their mouth, it could be a sign that the place is home to a toxic culture or does not care about its employees.

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Ask questions that apply to your concerns. Don’t be shy about asking about money, vacation time, health plans, and basically any other vital aspect of a potential job opportunity. If someone has worked in a place and is happy to share their positive experiences, it is a good sign that you are barking the right tree.

When it comes to actually finding these people, consult LinkedIn and social media. Or just google the person’s name. Most professionals these days have websites and are generally easy to find and open to talking business.

Pretend to be a customer

Try impersonating a customer to get a feel for how people in your potential position are performing. For example, when applying for a job in insurance sales, call a representative and disguise yourself as a potential customer. This will give you a sense of the tools these sales reps are using, how they communicate, and what kind of tone and approach they can use over the phone. This may work best when you are considering a position in sales, but finding a way to make it suitable for another field gives you more power.

This can be a quick 15 minute conversation where you pretend to be considering different offers and refuse to commit to anything. But it will be an educational lesson on how to approach an interview if you take the call as a cue.

Talk to outsiders

Try to understand your potential employer’s broader reputation in your industry. If it’s a well-known gamer, people who haven’t even worked for the company need to have at least a vague idea of ​​the company’s culture. Additionally, individuals who have been removed by this prospective employer need to have an unfiltered and unbiased view. You won’t be inclined to protect friends who may have earned an unflattering reputation in the workplace, nor will you be against sharing company gossip that annoys an employee or disheveled management.

Illustration for item titled Secret Shop a Job Before Your Interview

Interview the hiring manager

Interviews are a one-way street. At the very least, you should be curious about the hiring manager’s long-term vision for your role, or how they would like someone in your position to help them get better. If the questions you are asked during an interview give you a break or suggest that you may not enjoy working for someone, it is best to use your more curious side. As John Lees, the UK-based career strategist and author of How to get a job you love, he said Harvard Business Review in 2014Ask specific questions that address your concerns and curiosity. “Ask about the sales and find out what happened to the last person who did the job,” he said.

If they don’t seem interested in having a conversation about it, consider looking elsewhere.

Trust your instincts

There are certain intangibles that go with understanding whether a job is a good fit or not. The energy of people in an interview is a very real thing. You need to measure work relationships not only on their professional benefits, but also on a human level by asking yourself, “Could I actually tolerate spending 40 hours a week or more with these people?” Of course, nobody you work with has to To be your best friend, but it helps when you get a good feel for your potential co-workers.