Use LinkedIn to vet potential Food & Drink Employers

So, you have attended an interview with a Food business, they seem okay, you have met your potential boss and the team you would be working with. They make you a job offer and all seems well. However, you are understandably nervous about accepting the job offer as your next move is important to your career.

The new job may even involve relocating, it’s a major life decision and you need to feel committed and confident to make the decision. So, before you accept the job, do something unconventional but effective…

Go onto LinkedIn and reach out to the company's former employees to find out why they left. Somebody who left a job, either got sacked, quit or were made redundant. If you approach a former employee in the right way, they will give you their story and opinion of the business, warts and all.

In your LinkedIn research of former employees, be especially interested in contacting a mix of people, those who worked there a number of years and those who were employed for less than a year. This will help ensure the feedback you receive is balanced, as those who were employed for less than a year may have an axe to grind in comparison to a long-standing employee.

As you comb through former employees, look for common reasons that people left. If a few people leave at the same time, try and find out what happened. There may be a legitimate reason and you need to know.

As a rule of thumb, 50%-60% of people you will reach out to on LinkedIn will take the time to give you some form of reply, so if you want to hear back from 6 people, approach 12. Some will be happy to chat on email, whilst others will suggest you give them a call. When contacting the former employees you could prioritise people you have mutual connections with and mention this in your message.

Pretty much all companies will have a Profile page on LinkedIn and you can use this to glean additional information about the company, such as, headcount over the past 5 years. Is this increasing (positive) or decreasing (could be negative). You can also find out average employee tenure. If employees only stay at the company for an average of 1 year, you might want to think twice about joining them.

You can also look into recent senior management hires and judge the calibre, background, and experience of senior managers joining the business. You can also investigate the calibre of people who have recently left the business and if they are haemorrhaging good people this may be an alarm bell.

It’s possible that your LinkedIn research and contact to former employees will not go unnoticed by the employer, but do not let this put you off. Employers who have seen new hires adopt this tactic have been impressed by the ingenuity and thoroughness shown by the new employee.

The insights you will gain from former employees — both positive and negative — will give you the confidence to decide whether to take the job and give you more accurate expectations of business and people you would be working with.

Food Careers have worked with several hundred Food & Drink businesses in the UK and we would also be happy to share our knowledge and opinions of companies we know.