You have what looks like a great new job offer, but before you embark on the venture, it's essential to mug up on your prospective employer and its corporate culture. Sarah Dowding tells you what questions you should be asking and where to find the answers The great leap from the student world to one of gainful employment encompasses exciting and changing times. Any regrets over relinquishing long holidays and long lie-ins should soon evaporate in the face of a rewarding salary, new challenges and the prospect of not having to sit another exam paper. However, there is still one piece of vital research to complete before taking that big step, and that is into your prospective employer. Whether you already work in this industry and are about to start a new job, or you are entering your final year and therefore actively seeking a career, you cannot be over-prepared. After all, before companies complete a merger or acquisition, there is a lengthy due-diligence process where the accuracy of information on finances, state of the order book and any skeletons in cupboards are rooted out. Very wise. But according to a survey, Leadership in New Roles, by Hay Management Consultants, such precautions are rarely taken by those jobhunting. Around 45% of senior managers questioned "repeatedly said they should have invested more time and effort before starting a new role". So what personal due-diligence checks should you undertake? One is to draw your own conclusions from appearances. Grubby chairs in a run-down reception area is a bad start, as is a poor web site. Look at the company reports and other financial statements. You will also get a realistic view if you talk to the company's suppliers or someone who recently left. You should also find out what sort of corporate culture you are stepping into. Charles Handy, the management guru, classifies cultures as power' (do as the boss says), role' (do it by the book), task' (do whatever the job calls for) and democracy' (let's take a vote on what to do). The last is often found in the most professional companies, whereas role cultures dominate in large established organisations. The job advert often has hidden messages about what to expect. If there is a lot of jargon, it suggests role culture. If it lists desirable attributes such as drive', leadership', determination', it is probably a power culture. Before deciding to accept an offer, make a list of all the relevant factors and measure it against them: the package, the position, the location, the working environment, the boss, future colleagues, travel demands and training & development. Also ask yourself how a career with that company will look on your CV. Could it be worth waiting for the right opportunity? An unhappy atmosphere may not deter graduates from joining a prestigious company but they will stay only to notch up some CV points' and then leave. Employers need to keep a good reputation. People are becoming more determined to maintain a good work/life balance. They also want to increase their skills and develop their careers. You can get a head start in your quest for the perfect career by looking at Career Choices ­ an interactive website that promotes the exciting and varied career opportunities available in the UK food and grocery industry. Joanne Denney, IGD chief executive, said: "The food and grocery industry employs more than 16% of the UK workforce. "Many young people are not aware of the vast array of its career opportunities. Career Choices tries to enhance the image and create greater understanding of a career in food and grocery." There is advice on completing application forms, what to expect at interview and a chance to practise psychometric tests, as well as the low down on jobs from the people who do them, and profiles of top companies. David Webster, IGD president and Safeway chairman, said: "It is crucial students have access to information on opportunities in our industry. We want them to make well-informed career choices. "Ultimately, we want to encourage more people to join this dynamic sector." - Don't forget­this year's Leading Edge convention is on September 6. The day focuses on personal development and management skills. For more information check out or email {{LEADING EDGE }}