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How to investigate your future employer

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. This just in: After steadily eating away at Adobe's user base since its inception in 2012, Figma has now been acquired by the design giant. Plus, there’s a serious war brewing online over the “fun fact,” those intro icebreakers where workers are forced to say something interesting about themselves in a Zoom call or a meeting. Are you pro- or or anti-fun fact? Email me if you want your opinion known in a future Workplace newsletter. Also, my harmless go-to fun fact before COVID was always “I sneeze very loudly.” But I recently changed it to “I am only 5’4, but in my heart I’m 5’10.”

Today, how employees judge companies during the interview process, why HR tech startup Gusto is acquiring so many other companies and the FTC is voting on "unfair, deceptive, and anticompetitive practices related to gig work."

Meg Morrone, senior editor (email | twitter)

Employer background check

If you truly want to gauge a company’s culture before accepting a job offer, you have to become a bit of a sleuth. A journalist, even. Troll Blind and Glassdoor. Browse LinkedIn for current employees who seem trustworthy, or former employees who seem not to have an agenda.

But not everyone has the time to investigate companies in this way. Instead, they may rely on company-sponsored chats with current employees.

  • Ian Royer, a public relations specialist with Amazon Canada, took Amazon up on its “Candid Chats” program that connects candidates with members of employee resource groups.
  • He was on a mission to determine whether he fit with Amazon’s culture. “I am at a point in my career where when I do interviews, I interview for my fit, not the company,” Royer said.
  • Royer spoke with representatives from Amazon’s Black Employee Network and LGBTQ group Glamazon after encouragement from his recruiter. Those conversations ultimately won him over.

Steve McElfresh, founder of HR Futures, said it’s worth it for employers to offer to connect candidates with current employees. The more information, the more helpful to candidates. Still, it’s impossible for company-sponsored candidate-employee chats to be completely candid. Those chats are not entirely trustworthy.

  • “In most cases you’ve got to assume they’re using a stable of people who are prepped and primed to be positive about the company,” McElfresh said. “There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that, but I think you've got to take it with a grain of salt.”

For those who want to connect with employees on their own, scouring LinkedIn and similar sites might be the best option. Professional platform Candor, a new startup trying to be the “more authentic LinkedIn,” was built with job sleuthing in mind.

  • “Especially in a remote world, it's so hard to figure out and so hard to get to know people and know if that culture fit is going to be there at your next opportunity,” said Candor founder Kelsey Bishop.
  • Candor profiles look kind of like corporate mood boards, with descriptors like “my core values,” “teammates that really inspire me” and “things that motivate me.” Bishop said the service is meant for casual networking, and to help people suss out the working styles of their potential future co-workers.

Bishop added that anonymous platforms can quickly turn toxic, hence Candor’s model with private profiles. But without anonymity, how candid will someone really be?

  • “As a candidate, you have to dig beyond what’s publicly available,” McElfresh said. “I would certainly be looking for more of the anonymous material.”
  • On the other hand, you can’t verify the identity, and therefore validity, of anonymous reviews. “The problem with anonymous material is you get the extremes,” McElfresh said. “You get people who are clearly unhappy, resentful and are almost assuredly overrepresented.”

The most prepared candidates will do all of the above. Just perusing Glassdoor or talking to one company-sponsored employee won’t give you the full picture. You’ve got to really do your research to figure out the fit.

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email| twitter)

Making deals

HR tech startup Gusto built its payroll management, employee onboarding and insurance offerings internally, growing into a company worth almost $10 billion over the course of a decade.

After years of avoiding acquisitions, last year, Gusto bought Ardius, which helps SMBs manage R&D tax credits, Symmetry, which makes tax software, and RemoteTeam, whose technology helps companies hire and pay workers around the world.

Protocol’s Ryan Deffenbaugh spoke with Gusto co-founder Edward Kim about why the company became so acquisitive all of a sudden.

Read the full story on

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The FTC is 👀 gig work again

The FTC looks like it’ll dig deeper into Uber, DoorDash and others with a vote later today “on a policy statement on enforcement against unfair, deceptive, and anticompetitive practices related to gig work.” Given the Democratic majority on the commission, the statement — which would act as a sort of warning to companies about the agency’s focus and its view of what practices probably violate the law — is likely to pass. The FTC hasn’t said exactly what the statement would include, but last year, it warned more than 1,000 companies about false claims of gig earnings opportunities — an issue over which Uber also settled with the commission back in 2017.

— Ben Brody (email | twitter)

Some personnel news

Anyone else having a bad case of Great Resignation whiplash? It’s hard to keep up with which tech companies are growing, shrinking, floating or sinking. We’re here to help.

⬇️ Twilio is cutting 11% of its staff after growing too quickly, Bloomberg reports.

⬇️ Google has told employees at its incubator Area 120 to find new jobs elsewhere in the company, according to Bloomberg.

For more news on hiring, firing and rewiring, see our tech company tracker.

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Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

A look at the growing labor movement at companies like Amazon, Trader Joe’s and Chipotle. (The Guardian)

Considering a move to Miami? Median home values in Florida are up 33% as remote workers move in, which could hurt retirees. (Insider)

Benivo, a “global mobility” SaaS startup for HR teams that has already counted Google among its clients, just raised $12 million. (TechCrunch)

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