THE BLOG
02/04/2014 03:00 pm ET Updated Apr 06, 2014

50 Google Searches to Avoid a Layoff or Bad Employer

Use these Google searches to dig up information that can help you avoid a bad employer or to show you the signs that your current employer is struggling and that you should begin looking for a new employer.

Protect Yourself -- Become Well-Informed

What you don't know about your employer (or a potential employer) can hurt you badly! Being uninformed today is a dangerous habit. Companies go out of business or have layoffs. Best not to be the last employee hired before the layoffs begin.

If you are employed, stay informed about what is being published on the web about your employer. Use that information for career management and for financial self defense. If your employer seems to be having a tough time, start thinking about moving on to another employer while you are still collecting a paycheck.

If you are unemployed, stay informed about potential employers so you can avoid pursuing employment with an employer who may stop hiring or may provide only short-term employment. You don't want to be job hunting again very soon (right?).

Below, find 50 search queries that can be strong indicators that layoffs may be in the not-too-distant future. Companies with excellent management or very good luck can recover from setbacks, but not every company has excellent management or great luck.

Use Google Search for Career Self-Defense

Millions of business opportunities and threats happen all the time. Fortunately, it is easier to be well-informed today than ever, with technology (aka, Google).

Discover the bad news, or just speculation, about your employer so you can help address the problems, avoid moving into a group that is failing, or move out of a bad situation (the employer as a whole or a vulnerable part of it).

Most Google searches are automatically "Everything" searches, but you will find the "News" searches to be more helpful for this research. So, news.google.com is a great starting point!

Finding the Bad News

Try these Google searches. Some will work better for you than others, and some may not be appropriate for your situation. Use the search results you get to refine your search until most of the results are relevant to you.

Note: Copy the search strings below for your searches. Replace the brackets [ ] and the words enclosed inside the brackets with the term described. Put quotation marks "around phrases" << like that.

General Bad News

This simple query will flag any bad news about a company --

[insert company name here] "bad news"

5 Specific Categories of Bad News

Searching for specific kinds of bad news can be the most effective way to uncover problems that may be developing.

1. Restructuring or closure of a plant or office

Try these searches to find information about part of a company shutting down, which usually means that some jobs will be lost (and probably not filled in other parts of the company if employees are transferred) --

[insert company name here] restructuring
[insert company name here] "reduction in force"
[insert company name here] "down-sizing" OR downsizing
[insert company name here] "right-sizing" OR rightsizing
[insert company name here] "head count reduction" OR "headcount reduction"
[insert company name here] "layoff pending"
[insert company name here] "layoff planned"
[insert company name here] "reduction in head count" OR "reduction in headcount"
[insert company name here] "moving production"
[insert company name here] "halting production"
[insert company name here] "ending production"
[insert company name here] "stopping production"
[insert company name here] "plant closing"
[insert company name here] "office closing"
[insert company name here] "branch closing"
[insert company name here] "shutting down"
[insert company name here] "consolidating operations"
[insert company name here] ending
[insert company name here] closing

2. Drop in sales or revenue

Try these searches to find information about sales or revenue going down, which may lead to layoffs to reduce expenses --

[insert company name here] "sales drop"
[insert company name here] "reduction in sales"
[insert company name here] "earnings drop"
[insert company name here] "revenue dropping"
[insert company name here] "negative revenue" forecast
[insert company name here] "negative outlook"
[insert company name here] "negative sales forecast"
[insert company name here] "negative revenue forecast"

3. Product or service discontinued

Try these searches to find information about products or services being discontinued because the people responsible for producing those products or providing those services may no longer be needed --

[insert company name here] "production discontinued"
[insert company name here] "production ending"
[insert company name here] "ending production"
[insert company name here] "will cease production" [insert product name here]
[insert company name here] "production ends" [insert product name here]
[insert company name here] "line closing" [insert product name here]
[insert company name here] discontinued [insert product name here]
[insert company name here] "no longer available" [insert product name here]

4. Company being sold

When a business is purchased by another business, the company doing the purchasing may eliminate jobs in the acquired company that are already being handled by their current employees. For example, two complete financial staffs may not be needed, so some employees of the acquired company may be laid off. Occasionally, employees in the acquiring company lose their jobs.

Try these searches for news about the employer being sold --

[insert company name here] "on the market"
[insert company name here] "looking to be acquired"
[insert company name here] "hoping to be acquired"
[insert company name here] "purchase pending"
[insert company name here] "pending purchase"
[insert company name here] "pending sale"
[insert company name here] "sale pending"

5. Executive or senior manager leaving

When a senior executive leaves unexpectedly, it may be a sign of turmoil in senior management, and that turmoil may signal the beginning of a decline. Or it may just be the change of one individual's career. Pay attention if more than one executive seems to leave unexpectedly from the same employer.

Try these searches to find news about executives leaving your target employers. Use the names of the members of top management.

If you are employed, do these searches on your current employer using the names of your manager and the other managers up the management structure to the head of the organization --

[insert company name here] resigned"[insert executive name here]"
[insert company name here] "resigned unexpectedly""[insert executive name here]"
[insert company name here] departed "[insert executive name here]"
[insert company name here] "departure announced""[insert executive name here]"
[insert company name here] "departure announced"
[insert company name here] resigned
[insert company name here] "resigned unexpectedly"
[insert company name here] fired "[insert executive name here]"

Save These Queries to Use Again

Once you have refined the searches and figured out which work the best for you, copy them into a document or spreadsheet. You can also set up Google Alerts for the searches that seem the most productive for you. Then, Google will email the results to you.

Bottom Line

Often a strong or smart employer can overcome bad luck or a change in the economy and survive successfully for many more years. Both Google and Microsoft have had layoffs in the past few years, for example. But, sometimes bad luck or a bad strategy becomes a death spiral, so smart employees and job seekers pay attention.

Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and the editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org. This piece first appeared on Job-Hunt.org, where Susan is an editor and writer.