You’re job hunting by the book and doing your due diligence. You explore a potential employer’s website and read every career page on it. You’re intrigued. You continue to the awards and accolades page to learn the company has received a “best places to work” award. Excellent. You decide to apply and hope to experience what all the fuss is about.
Companies recognized for being great places to work must be doing something right, and it’s up to job seekers to find out just what that is. An award has little meaning, after all, if you don’t know what it stands for. And with hundreds of different workplace awards given out each year from numerous organizations, how do you know if one in particular really matters?
There are well-known workplace awards, of course, coming from media behemoths like Forbes and Fortune. But for every prestigious workplace award there’s a dozen smaller niche awards, some of which may be far more — or less — meaningful to your job search.
For example, if you’re in the nonprofit sector, an award that focuses on charitable causes will likely pluck the best of the best so you can apply at organizations that are in line with your personal values.
Looking to move? Many workplace awards are location specific, so you can see how different companies in a particular area hold up against each other. Note parameters to ensure the award really matters, though. If you’re in L.A., do you really care if a different branch of the company received a workplace award in Houston? Not so much, because that wouldn’t directly affect you.
Be smart and explore how an award is rated and given out before putting too much stock in any one in particular. Start by visiting the award website and looking at how each company is evaluated. Some awards might focus on culture and unique benefits while others may focus on compensation and advancement opportunities. Many are driven directly by employee insight.
For example, Forbes determines its America’s Best Employers list based on employees who recommend their company to other professionals who may work there someday. The Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Best Places to Work list, on the other hand, is based on rankings employees submit via a website. The criteria include team environment, trust and workplace satisfaction.
Another important variable to consider is whether the award is based on an application process or independent analysis. Some awards may be based on an open call for submissions. Others may analyze an entire segment of businesses independently (such as by industry, size or location) and determine winners that way.
Why does any of this matter? If the award is open only to organizations that proactively apply for recognition, it means those who don’t apply — by default — can’t win. An organization that wins an award against only three other submissions doesn’t really have much to boast about, especially if the marketplace is large.
For job hunters, “best place to work” awards do matter, but how much they matter really depends on the award itself. It’s up to the applicant to dig in further to uncover the truth.