How to Know What It’s Really Like to Work at a Company

January 31, 2019

By Kathryn Vasel

Everyone puts their best foot forward during the job interview process.

Employers are looking to woo potential hires, while candidates are looking to highlight how their skills and experience will benefit the company.

But before taking a job with a new employer, you want to make sure the position will be a good fit for your career track, the companys culture matches your values and work-life balance needs, and the managers leadership style jibes with how you best perform.

But thats not always easy to figure out. An interviewer might not be forthcoming if the hours are long and the leadership is lacking.

Do some online sleuthing

Start out by doing some research on websites like Glassdoor, Vault, Fairygodboss and CareerBliss to get a sense of what others are saying about life at the company.

While that can be a great starting point, online employee reviews arent always reliable, and should make up just a part of your research.

Some couldve been written by employees with an ax to grind, or those whose experiences were not common.

Another issue is that some companies are simply too big to get a good sense of the culture of a specific division or team. Be sure to review the population of the respondents and whether a bad review is more of an outlier or a common theme, warned Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half.

Reviewing the companys social media platforms can help gauge the culture, too. Are there pictures of staff outings? Employee recognition?

Recent news articles and press releases touting new products can hint a company is continuing to innovate and grow.

Figure out where the company is in its life cycle

Companies go in four life phases: launch, rapid growth, scaling and sustaining, according to Lou Adler, CEO and founder of training and search firm The Adler Group.

Each phase has a different set of challenges and hiring needs, which can provide a sense of what life will be like at the office. The rapid growth phase might mean long hours with lots project juggling, while the sustaining phase could mean days focused on quality assurance and process.

Set up the interview

Getting an interview on the calendar can provide insight into the organization and communication of a company: What was the tone of the person scheduling the interview? How responsive and helpful was the coordinator? Were you canceled on a bunch of times? Was the interviewer surprised and not prepared for the interview when you showed up?

Companies that go out of the way to foster a smooth and positive interview process? that is a good indicator they take those steps to retain you in the long run, said Sarah Stoddard, community expert at Glassdoor.

Schedule the interview early in the morning or later in the day to see how many people are still in the office, suggested Mary Pharris, director of business development & partnerships at Fairygodboss.

Look around as you wait

The waiting area can be full of clues, if you look closely.

How is the person at reception or the front desk treated by others? How is the office decorated? How are the workplaces arranged? Do you see family photos? asked Amanda Augustine, career advice expert from TopResume.

Look for any postings about social events, and how employees are interacting with each other.

Is the space inviting or is it cold? Is there a sense of community and can you hear conversations and people interacting or is it more siloed? said Corey Berkey, human resources director at JazzHR.

Ask the right questions

You should always ask questions during the interview process, which is as much an audition for the company as it is for you.

But dont ask mundane questions that you can easily find answers to online.

Ask about what an average day would look like, project schedules and deadlines and what the interviewer likes about working at the company.

Inquire about the frequency of interactions and updates from the executive leadership team, suggested Stoddard. Open communication helps establish company objectives.

…If leaders have little to no communication with their workforce, theres a high chance that employees wont understand the why behind the work they are doing every day, she said.

Asking why the position is open can also be illuminating.

Did the person get promoted or did they leave? said McDonald.

To find out if theres room for growth at the company, ask interviewers how long theyve been working there and how their role has changed.

Inquire about mentor and other training programs and what the career momentum looks like for this position, advised Stoddard.

Its also helpful to ask different people the same questions about the company and job, said Augustine. If they have conflicting answers to questions like the expected duties, career trajectory, or management style, that could signal they havent nailed down the role yet.

Meet with the rest of the team

Ask to meet with current employees who youd be working with. If a company isnt open to you meeting with potential colleagues, they could be trying to hide something.

Meeting with potential team members allows you to ask them about projects, deadlines and schedule expectations.

Dont be afraid to ask the peers what they find challenging about the role and determine Is this something everyone finds challenging or just this person? said Berkey.

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Customer Satisfaction Drops Across Federal Government


January 31, 2019

By Frank Konkel

The federal governments 11-year high in customer satisfactionachieved last year following two years of progresswas short-lived.

Federal agencies collectively dropped 1.1% to 68.9 in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which rates government and businesses performance on a 0 to 100 scale.

Overall, government agencies declined in all four major metrics measuredprocess, information, customer service and websitewith several major agencies scoring among the lowest of all 380-plus companies measured by ASCI.

The Housing and Urban Development Department earned a 57, lowest among all agencies, below the departments of Veterans Affairs (63), Treasury (63) and Agriculture (68). Most IRS programs also scored in the low-to-mid 60s.

The governmentwide average was 68.9, and while lower than last years peak, it is still the second-highest customer satisfaction mark since 2008.

Unfortunately, the downswing in momentum came at a terrible time, according to ASCI officials.

The organization, which based its federal rankings on interviews with approximately 2,800 government customers, said the prolonged government shutdown is sure to increase Americans dissatisfaction with government services. HUD, for example, furloughed more than 90% of its employees during the shutdown, including those who engage with customers.

While this data was collected prior to the start of the government shutdown, this overall decline couldnt have come at a worse time, said Forrest Morgeson, director of research and global CSI manager at the ACSI, in a statement. In all likelihood, the shutdown will exacerbate Americans declining satisfaction with the federal government in 2019.

There were bright spots. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation tied for the top score of 89 from retirees, while the Bureau of Consular Affairs, which processes passports, also earned an 89.

The Defense and Interior departments both scored 78. The Commerce Department earned a 74, one point ahead of the Justice and State departments.

ASCIs report indicates politics plays a role in shaping public perception of government performance.

Citizen satisfaction increased among Republicans, up 2.9% to 71, and among Independents, up 1.5% to 68. However, satisfaction among Democrats dropped 5.5% to 69 and individuals who labeled themselves Other Party declined 9.2% to 59.

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Tyson Foods Recalls More Than 36,000 Pounds of Chicken Nuggets After Possible Rubber Contamination

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Storm Clouds on the Horizon: Restructuring Risks Facing the Auto Industry in 2019

Mondaq Business Briefing

January 30, 2019

By Ann Uetz, John A. Simon and Tamar N. Dolcourt

While the economy overall is strong and vehicle sales are still robust, though lower than the record pace of the past few years, there are risks in the industry which may affect the supply chain and cause disruptions in the coming year. Chief among these are the ongoing concern regarding tariffs on products such as steel and aluminum, and the on-again, off-again trade disputes with China. In addition to the upheaval in global markets, the shift in the automotive industry away from passenger cars and toward trucks and sport utility vehicles has caused automakers to realign their product offerings and even end the production of a number of car models. For suppliers who have been dependent on contracts to provide parts for these vehicles, this realignment could be very problematic. In addition, higher interest rates may complicate financing for those businesses that need additional capital to address these changed circumstances.

Global trade uncertainties

The Trump administrations policies, which are designed, among other things, to correct perceived trade imbalances with Americas largest trading partners, are having a significant impact on the automotive industry. Commodity costs are rising dramatically due to the increased tariffs and the retaliatory tariffs other countries have imposed. Ford and General Motors executives have each reported their expectation that their steel and aluminum costs are estimated to be $1 billion higher next year than this year. Suppliers profitability will suffer from these increasing commodity costs. Smaller suppliers are already dealing with pressure from higher raw materials costs, which they cannot pass on to their customers under their fixed-price contracts.

There is little doubt that these higher tariffs are already causing stress in the industry. But perhaps even more alarming is the constant uncertainty of what the future holds. For example, the United States and China recently agreed to a 90-day cease fire in the escalating trade war.

This time-out may provide an opportunity to negotiate a resolution. However, it is unclear whether the negotiations will be successful. Furthermore, the Trump administrations threat to add tariffs to certain imported vehicles (particularly German cars) is a cause for concern among automakers and suppliers. Suppliers are in a difficult position because they may be subject to new tariffs or restrictions on the sale of their products, and they have little ability to anticipate these changes before they happen and react accordingly. Therefore, as the ongoing trade disputes with China and Europe, among others, continue to develop, customers will need to be aware of potential risks to their downline suppliers and anticipate future problems before they affect the supply chain. For example, Foley attorneys have been assisting clients in seeking tariff exemptions from the Department of Commerce for products which are not produced in the United States in a sufficient and reasonably available amount, or for which there is a national security consideration that would justify exempting that product from tariffs. However, automotive manufacturers have already filed over 1,000 of these exemption requests, and the majority of those requests are still awaiting a determination from the government and another 300 requests have been denied. Therefore, while it is important to seek these exemptions for products that meet the criteria discussed above, suppliers need to develop other strategies to obtain critical products.

Reduced volumes and changes in consumer taste

In addition to the global trade uncertainty, there is a significant shift in customer demand for vehicles in the United States. In the past few years, the demand for passenger cars has decreased and the demand for SUVs and light truck products has increased. However, the increase in demand for SUVs and truck products is unlikely to offset the reduced car demand. Manufacturers are already responding by changing their product lines and eliminating car models altogether. Recently, GM announced that it would stop production of several car models, idling five plants in North America, including two in Michigan, and implementing layoffs of more than 10% of its workforce. Earlier this year, Ford announced that it would not make any passenger cars, except for the Mustang, in the future.

The dramatic reduction in passenger cars, as well as softening volume overall, might push some suppliers into distress. According to Laura Marcero, the industrial practice leader at Huron Consulting Group, suppliers are likely to see softening volumes in the next 18 months due to these changes in production. These changes in demand will affect those suppliers that focus on producing products for passenger cars, and also those that may have already been experiencing some financial difficulty. This is likely to exacerbate the effect of increasing commodity costs and trade woes facing suppliers and the industry as a whole.

Increasing interest rates

While suppliers are dealing with tariffs and changes in entire product lines, other economic factors are at play. For example, the Federal Reserve has increased interest rates several times in 2018. As interest rates increase, borrowing becomes more expensive, both for businesses which rely on commercial credit, and for consumers, including those looking to finance new vehicle purchases. Furthermore, while credit has been relatively easy to obtain in the past few years, many businesses are carrying significant debt loads and may have trouble financing those obligations in the future, causing them to falter.

Identifying and protecting against troubled suppliers

The market conditions above are likely to cause some suppliers to have difficulty fulfilling their contracts, or to seek price increases from their customers, including other, higher-tier suppliers in the supply chain. In addition, the shift from passenger cars may cause individual suppliers who are dependent on those products or who are operating on thin margins to falter. A troubled supplier in the supply chain can cause significant harm to the upstream suppliers and ultimate customers. Customers should routinely evaluate the companies in their supply chain for warning signs of distress. Here, we identify some of the top warning signs for troubled suppliers, and discuss potential actions to reduce the disruption that may be caused by a troubled supplier.

A. Warning signs of supplier distress

  • Supplier requests for price increases, accelerated payment terms, or customer financing support, or use of factoring.
  • Late deliveries or changes in product quality.
  • Requests for technical support.
  • Failure to update IT systems or to appropriately use existing technology in the industry.
  • Failure to effectuate cost reductions.
  • Deteriorating accounts receivable and accounts payable.
  • Employment of consultants and financial advisors.
  • Deteriorating market position.
  • Restatement or delays in issuing audited financial statements.
  • Changes in key management positions.
  • Renegotiated debt covenants, incurrence of new debt, fully drawn lines of credit and impending maturity dates.

B. Action plans for customers of troubled suppliers

Where these signs exist, the exercise of common law and statutory remedies may allow a customer of a troubled supplier to achieve proactive changes to standard terms and conditions of new contracts (or negotiated changes to existing contracts). Through the use of these tactics, customers can prioritize, understand, and address troubled supplier situations with greater advance awareness, leverage and options.

Customers also should routinely analyze their contracts to maximize their position in dealing with potentially troubled suppliers. A customers existing contracts with a given supplier have a substantial effect on the customers rights and remedies, both pre-bankruptcy and post-bankruptcy. For example, the terms of the contracts govern critical issues such as:

  • Each partys ability to terminate the contracts.
  • The suppliers ability to stop shipment and impose hostage demands.
  • A customers ability to resource production to another, healthier supplier.
  • A customers ability to utilize certain contract remedies, including to demand adequate assurance of future performance pursuant to section 2-609 of the UCC or consider the contracts repudiated by the supplier.
  • Whether a contract is considered an executory contract in bankruptcy, whether it is integrated with other contracts, and the corresponding impact on the duty to perform in bankruptcy.
  • The troubled suppliers ability to assume and assign, or reject, the contract in bankruptcy.
  • A customers ability to recover tooling.
  • Lien rights.
  • Setoff rights.

Through the imposition and application of statutory and common law contract rights, manufacturers can avoid troubled companies use of their own ordinarily broad bankruptcy rights to reject contracts for continued supply of goods. Where signs of financial distress are apparent, or a manufacturer otherwise has reasonable grounds to believe that a suppliers future performance under a contract for the sale of goods is in doubt, a manufacturer may be able to demand adequate assurance of future performance from the supplier under section 2-609 of the UCC. If such assurance is not provided, a manufacturer may be able to consider the contract repudiated, enabling the manufacturer to resource or suspend shipment, or negotiate or impose more protective or otherwise better terms in order to shore up contract rights before a bankruptcy filing. These strategies can drastically alter the parties rights after a bankruptcy filing and provide greater leverage in negotiations and better outcomes.

To preserve supply, manufacturers also may participate in a pre-bankruptcy workout, intended to keep a troubled supplier on the verge of bankruptcy from ceasing production of necessary parts, by restructuring the suppliers debt and capital structure. These transactions often include tripartite agreements among the troubled supplier, its significant customers, and its secured lenders to solidify the commitments of each party to keep the supplier operating while the workout (or bankruptcy) is progressing. These agreements commonly consist of access and accommodation agreements, and subordinated participation agreements. Through an accommodation agreement, the customers may provide (often as a group) accommodations that solidify the lenders collateral base through protections on inventory and receivables, commitments to continue sourcing of existing parts to the troubled supplier and limitations on setoffs, while the lender agrees to provide working capital financing and not to foreclose. Furthermore, customer accommodations may include financing support, in which case the customer should obtain a participation agreement to obtain collateral for any financing it provides. An access agreement permits the customer, under certain circumstances threatening production and only as a last resort, to access the suppliers plant to produce parts using the suppliers own equipment, and employees, pending transfer of the contract or facility to a healthier supplier.

Faced with unknown foreign trade risks, increasing commodity costs and interest rates, and the realignment of vehicle lines to account for shifting consumer demand, all suppliers and customers need to be aware of any potential disruption in the supply chain. By actively monitoring vendors and taking the proactive steps outlined above, automotive suppliers can protect the supply of critical parts and continue to fulfill their contracts with their own customers.

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Whole Foods Recalls Spinach Products Over Salmonella Concerns


January 30, 2019

By Danielle Haynes

Whole Foods voluntarily recalled a variety of prepared food products containing baby spinach due to a potential salmonella outbreak, the Food and Drug Administration announced.

The FDA on Thursday said the recall includes salads, pizza, sandwiches and wraps sold in eight statesConnecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. A full list of the affected items can be found on the FDA’s website.

Officials also encouraged people who purchased items containing spinach from Whole Foods’ salad bars through Wednesday to discard the items.

The agency said there have been no reported illnesses or deaths.

Salmonella is a bacterial infection that can cause fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In serious cases, the disease can cause arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis.

Also this week, General Mills voluntarily recalled five-pound bags of unbleached flour made by Gold Medal after detecting salmonella during routine testing.

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