Being on the candidate side of any interview process means that you are on the wrong side of a lot of information asymmetry. Whereas a company has your resume, feels comfortable asking you about your weaknesses, and will eventually call on references, there are very few ways for you to peek inside a company for non-obvious information
What is the priority for the next calendar year? Your hiring manager might have her team’s priority in mind, but what about the organization at large? They might say one thing, but is that where budget is really being directed?
Who has influence within the organization? If you’re a PM, can you trust that this is truly a product-led business? If you’re a salesperson, how can you be sure that their growth is consistent?
These questions, and so many more, can be answered in the unlikeliest of places: the company’s careers or jobs page.
Why the careers page?
It’s all about priorities. When a company is beginning to shift direction, double down, catch up to growth, or even slow down, the prioritization of its budgets is the first thing to change. Let’s use a simple example: perhaps, in 2019, a video conferencing tool was achieving moderate success, and they were hiring 5 new salespeople every quarter. In 2020, as the demand for virtual conferencing skyrockets, they’re going to need more people, fast. Suddenly, they’re hiring 25 new salespeople a quarter, in addition to two directors and an area VP.
By digesting the careers page, you’re going to be able to understand a variety of trends going on inside any business. It’s highly advisable to take a look before an interview or while considering an offer. Use that information to understand whether your division is a true priority. Ask yourself if the careers page models after what the company told you was their long-term plan. Investigate the particulars (we’ll get to this in a moment) to understand their culture, skills gaps, and decision-making process.
The recruiting team at a company is actually its biggest public tell. Video game companies accidentally leak news on upcoming games before their PR teams intend. When blockchain was on the rise, Twitter groups would spot different financial services firms hiring for blockchain expertise before they developed products to service the vertical.
What you should look for
Are they slowing down or speeding up? Look at the size of the company (LinkedIn employee counts can be helpful for this) and the number of jobs they’re hiring for. Are they looking to add 10% to their workforce? 50%? Are they looking to triple?
You can assume that a company isn’t meeting its goals when it’s relatively mid-size (40+) and not making any new hires. At some point, a company should always be expanding.
What divisions are getting attention? This can be complicated, but a great indicator of organizational priorities (and organizational structure, generally) is where hires are being made. If the engineering team is getting serious attention, you know that the company is serious about their product development.
However, know that sometimes companies are just playing catch up. Again, combing through employee rosters on LinkedIn can be helpful here. If a company is hiring for a lot of product people, they might’ve relied on others in the business up until this point and are now fixing a weakness.
How is the job description different? 80% of job descriptions with the same title say mostly the same thing — boilerplate language about the things about our roles that are mostly the same, company to company. However, the 20% that’s different can reveal a lot about a potential role.
For example, does a product management job sound like it involves a lot of project management duties? This company may know what it needs to do, but not have enough hands to do it. Is there an engineering job that refers to familiarity with React Native, but the company has no mobile apps? Maybe there’s a move to mobile happening internally.
What are some non-public roadmap details? The specific job you’re interested in might not feature any revealing information. However, more technical or specialized positions within companies can often have easter eggs of information within.
If you’re a marketer or ops person, check out the software engineering job descriptions. The tech stack can reveal to you a bit about what a company is building next. There might be hints as to a new initiative in a PM’s job description since they’re usually hired to lead new projects. Is the company hiring for the same department, but several levels up? Check out what your skip-level manager might look like — their priorities might be your priorities.
What keeps popping up, or never goes away? If you’re tracking a company over a long enough time horizon, the cadence of listings can be a great signal for what’s going on inside the company. Is there a Head of Customer Success position that they seem to get off the page? Does a VP-level position pop in and out every 6 months?
You can’t know exactly what’s happening in these instances. Is the company having problems retaining these roles? Are they too picky in the hiring process? Were those listings opportunistic in the first place? However, with enough signals in any of these areas, you’ll at least know what questions to ask.
Beyond all of the above, there are likely to be a lot of small but interesting pieces of information scattered throughout the job descriptions for any particular company. So, don’t just click into the one you’re into — use the rest to bolster what you know.