Think about how much of our lives we spend at work. A nine-to-five job will take up about half of our time awake every week. That's without the extra hours that many of us work in the office or at home, and without the time spent in travelling to and from the office.
Enjoying our jobs is therefore surely something that we should all aim for. From an employer's viewpoint, the state of an employee's happiness is usually reflected in their performance.
For most of us enjoying our job will involve three factors – the job itself, the working environment and future prospects. How do you try to assess what a potential employer offers during a recruitment process?
Any recruiting employer should have given thought to the role it is trying to fill. The most tangible way of demonstrating this is through the role profile or job description.
The best examples of these are usually concise. They should provide a good summary of why the role exists, what the key elements of the job are, and what you have to do to succeed in the role.
Skills and attributes required are usually defined – these should help you form a view of your suitability.
The recruiting line manager is usually the person that can best explain the role in detail. The interview process can be used to ensure that you fully understand what the role entails. Prepare your questions before the interview.
It can often be worthwhile asking to speak to someone who is currently working in the position you have applied for, if possible.
Finding out about an employer's working environment is probably even more important to your future job satisfaction. Make sure you understand what it is that you are looking for – we are all different and not every culture will suit us.
One would hope that the employer will tell you about their culture. Often assessment centres form a part of the recruitment process – these usually give you a much better appreciation of the working environment than any interview.
Researching your potential employer will help with your interview, but should also tell you about its cultural values. Does it publish these in its report and accounts or on its website? What does it say about staff communications? How are achievers recognised and rewarded? What do they offer in terms of training and development?
In these days of frequent change and restructuring it can be difficult to assess the likely future for your potential employer.
Nothing is guaranteed anymore. Most of us are looking for the best job security that we can find.
Employers with a strong financial backing and a clear and well-defined business plan are most likely to offer future stability. Investments in modern technology and up-to-date distribution channels are other
key indicators in this area.
The recruitment agencies you use also have an important role to play. How do they decide whether to submit your details to a potential employer? How well do they know the employers they are working for?
The better recruitment agencies will take care to match not only your technical ability and suitability to a specific vacancy, but also your cultural suitability with the employer's existing culture. This may mean your details being submitted to relatively few employers, but with the expectation that there is then a good match.
At any stage of the recruitment process, you shouldn't be afraid to conclude that the role is not the right one for you. It's much better to find out before you join the wrong organisation.