Sometimes, when we are either just starting off in our professional life or when we've been between jobs for way longer than we anticipated, we get to the point where we feel like we will take just about any job that's offered to us. We've all been there. I made this mistake in the first job I ever had. I didn't really know what the "right" job was for me, so I accepted an offer to recruit for a business that was an authorized dealer of AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile out of kiosks in malls.
When I applied for the job, I had no idea what this company did, how well it was performing, how it paid and treated its employees, and so forth. I was basically applying the spaghetti method to my job search. I was throwing my resume at everything and seeing what stuck. This was the first company, after a couple of months on the search, that called me in for an interview. When the hiring manager called me, I could barely hear what he was saying. He was at one of the mall locations. He asked me to meet him for an interview the next day. I gladly wrote down his name and the location at which I was to interview him.
Let me describe the interview for you. It was in one of St. Louis' malls. The hiring manager told me where to go, but finding a kiosk in a mall you're unfamiliar with is easier said than done. When I finally found the location, I announced who I was looking for and the hiring manager came out of the kiosk to shake my hand and then lead me to the food court. Yes, I was in a suit and tie, resume in hand, and was about to talk about my qualifications for the job in a food court. This was probably my first indication I was not going to be a good fit.
I don't recall all the questions I was asked except for the last one. He said, "At XYZ Company, we like to hang out and have a good time after work. What do you do for fun?" I was thinking to myself, "What kind of question is that?" The simple fact that I had thought should have been my second clue that this was not going to be a good fit. But being naive and desperate for a job, I didn't give it much consideration. A few days later I was offered the job. I accepted, relieved to actually have something. He told me that he'd put my application through a background check and in a few days, would call to set up a start date.
A week went by. I called and left a message to see when I could start. No answer. Another week and another message. Finally, someone else called me back, telling me the background check was fine and to come in the next day to the office. When I arrived the next day, I was told the person who hired me, quit abruptly and that my new manager was someone I'd never met. That would explain not getting a response to my phone calls.
As you guessed, this company was not a great fit for me. The management didn't put much care into developing its employees. They would hire people and the new hire would either sink or swim. As a Recruiter, I was hiring for a very high turnover position, I was perpetually replacing someone who had had enough and quit over the weekend or had been fired. I was working about 60 hours per week and had to work on Saturdays. I was woefully underpaid for the amount of effort I put into the job. Over the course of the next few months, they'd closed several locations. I was getting burned out and stressed out. I managed to get through about 8 months and one day was told it was going to be my last day. They were merging two markets. A few months later, they closed the St. Louis operations altogether.
That morning I got the news, I was pretty upset, but then I started to feel relief. That job stunk anyway!
I doubt my experience is all that unusual. We generally don't do a very good job of vetting the employer, the manager, or the culture and end up really disliking the job we were so excited about when we were offered. Don't let this happen to you!
We should be more like an investment manager when it comes to employers. Investment managers spend a lot of their time simply doing their due diligence in researching a company before they invest their clients' money. So, before you invest your time, labor, and psychological well-being into an employer, you want to make sure that you're doing it for the right job and company.
Today we'll talk about what you should want to know about an employer and how to find your answers.
Your Burning Questions
What is the company culture like? Does the company have similar values as mine?
You don't want to work somewhere in which the culture is not in sync with the environment in which you want to work. For example, if you're someone who likes to collaborate and be around others most of your day, being forced to work on a computer in a cubicle will be intolerable. If you value time at home with your family, working for an organization that demands a lot of your time or requires that you always being on-call, is probably not the way to go.
I remember a job I had many years ago, when I was still in college. I was working in a call center. We had to raise our hand in order get off-line to use the bathroom. One day, I got a verbal warning because I was needing to do this almost every morning (I'm a heavy coffee drinker). I couldn't believe that I, a grown man, was being told I needed to plan my potty time in the morning better. I left shortly after. It was not a good fit.
You also want to make sure that whatever the company you choose to work for is doing things that align with your philosophy. For instance, as an absurd example, if you are concerned about the environment, you probably won't be happy working for a company like Exxon-Mobil. You may be fine with their culture and get along great with your co-workers, but you'll feel the strain of being inconsistent with your personal beliefs and professional life.
What will my manager and team be like? Will I get along with them?
You want to work with a group that you enjoy being around. After all, you spend a majority of your time at work. Who wants to work with people they can't stand for eight hours a day?
I know way too many people who have "horrible bosses." They yell, they micromanage, they manipulate, they lie, they discourage, they don't recognize good employees, etc. It's painful to hear people talk about the stress they are under because of who is in charge. In fact, studies have been done regarding turnover. One of the leading reasons why people quit is because they had a bad boss.
What exactly will I be doing?
Sometimes what you think the job will consist of, based on the job description, ends up being different than what you end up doing. I talked to a woman recently who was hired as a business analyst one time. She found out, after she started, that one of her duties was to maintain a spreadsheet of people the company would layoff each month. People eventually discovered that she was the one person in the company that had this information and she would get asked daily by someone if he or she was on the list. Of course, this was confidential and she couldn't tell them. It was a ton of stress for her to have to do this. Eventually, she was one of the persons on the list. Ironically, she was relieved to have this burden removed from her life.
What kind of stability does a job like this have?
You probably want to avoid taking a job that will be automated sometime in the near future. Factory workers in Detroit and elsewhere in the country learned this the hard way. One day they were making $25/hour with good benefits and the next day they were collecting unemployment. If you do take a job that you think will be obsolete within the next 5 to 10 years, make sure you acquire skills and learn things that will get you ready for the next opportunity while working there. Preferably though, you're better off avoiding these types of jobs altogether.
Can I build my career there?
You want to make sure you have an opportunity to develop, build skills, and potentially be promoted to something better. For instance, I used to work for a public school district as a Research Analyst. There were very few other jobs available to me because I didn't have a degree in Education or any teaching certifications. I knew this when I accepted the job, but I didn't have career aspirations to stay in public education. I took the job to acquire database skills and experience. If I had wanted to stay in public education, however, this would have been very frustrating.
How well does the business treat and compensate its employees?
Obviously, you want to work for a organization that doesn't just see you as another number or an expense. You want to work somewhere in which you feel as though you are a part of the team. Likewise, you don't want to be underpaid for the knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience that you bring to the table.
Is the company growing? How is it doing compared to others in the industry?
This is somewhat linked to having an opportunity to build your career. Ideally, you would work for a business that is in a growing phase because promotional opportunities and a variety of assignments are more plentiful. This gives you better future opportunities as you learn and develop. If the company doesn't seem to be doing particularly well as compared to its competitors, your opportunities diminish. Additionally, to be set up for success, you want to work in an industry that is doing well, too.
One of the examples people like to give is the information technology sector. There was a time when people with ambition and ability could move up the ranks rapidly. But as the industry matures, the stories of a quick rising star become farther and fewer in between. Why is this? Because the industry or job sector is impacted by the supply and demand of the job market. When people realized the opportunities in IT, everyone was getting their degrees in computer science and pursuing jobs in the field. However, eventually the supply catches up with demand. Granted, the industry still has a lot of room to grow, but it's much more competitive now compared to 20 years ago.
What are the chances of the company being acquired or merged with someone else? Any chance that it might end operations?
Mergers and acquisitions are a prevalent part of the modern economy. When it happens, it often leads to redundancies. Whole departments will be eliminated for cost savings. Because of this, as a general rule, you want to avoid starting a new job with a company who is being sought for take-over. Being the last person on a team makes it an easy justification of being the first person to receive his or her walking papers.
How to Find Your Answers
That was a lot of stuff to consider, wasn't it? So now you're probably wondering, "How the heck can I find all this out?"
Unfortunately, not everything is as simple as doing a Google search, although that's an excellent place to start your investigation about a company. Any time there is major news about the company (such as a merger/acquisition coming up, expansions, market closures, etc.) they will pop up in your search. We recommend actually creating an Google alert for any time the company comes up in the news. You'll get an email letting you know anything new about the company. This way you stay up-to-date.
But there are other resources you can use that will help you make sure you'll be a good fit. The following are but a few:
While the company tends to portray itself in rosy terms on their own website, you'll be able to get a few clues on what kind of culture they trying to create and what it is they are trying to do to stay competitive in the industry. This is also where you can figure out what the business does or sells and if it's going to align with your values.
Networking and Informational Interviews
It would be beneficial to meet with people who work for the company, or are in the same industry, or are in the same job field. The best part of these types of meetings is that you'll hopefully find out the good and bad of working for a particular company or in a particular industry and job field. This will help you make up your mind on whether or not is something you'd like to continue pursuing. Additionally, if you happen to meet someone who works for the company and knows the manager and/or team you'd be working in, you can get a little bit of the inside scoop on what the hiring manager is really looking for beyond what it says in the job description. You'll not only have a leg up on the competition come interview time, but you also are going into a job interview and starting the job with eyes wide open about the job, the team, and the manager.
Stock Market and Investment Disclosures
You can learn a lot about a publicly traded company's performance based on their stock performance. Compare numbers between the company you might be working for and others in the same industry, this way you are making an apples to apples comparison. If you see nothing but down arrows for the company and/or the industry, this may not be a good job to take on. Additionally, publicly traded companies are required, by the SEC, to give quarterly and annual reports to shareholders, such as a 10-K Report. These are open to anyone to view. What will be of most interest to you are the financials (are they making a profit?) and their analysis of the company's future.
Company Review Sites
When you think about review sites for employers, most people think of Glassdoor.com. But there are several other sites to look at as well. Indeed.com has an employee review feature. Salary.com gives some basic salary information about the job field based on location, position, and experience. We also suggest you look at Yelp.com and other customer-oriented sites as well to see how the customer experience is and how the company responds to complaints.
Asking Questions at the Interview
Finally, use the last 5 - 10 minutes of the interview to ask questions about the company. First of all, it shows your interest to the interviewer, but it also will make you more confident in your decision of whether or not to work for that company. If you're looking for suggestions, we did a blog on this not long ago.
For instance, after I was laid off from my first job, I had an interview with a new staffing agency. The interview went really well. Then I asked the hiring manager what his management philosophy was like. The way he answered that question sounded so much like my previous boss - who I didn't really like all that much - that I ended up declining the offer. It was a good thing that I did that, too. It was only a week later that I got interviewed by a great company that I was really excited about. Had I accepted the offer with the staffing agency, I more than likely would have honored the commitment I'd made and my whole career would have been entirely different.
I had learned my lesson from being burned in my first "grown-up job," I wasn't going to make that mistake again.
Weigh Your Options
It's clear that you're not to get an answer to every question you have, but if you do as much research as you can, you can at least make a more informed decision than I did with my first job.
This is where you have to decide what factors are the most important to you. Do the good things about the offer and about the company outweigh anything negative you discovered? Or is it the other way around?
Just remember, no matter how desperate you feel in the moment, you don't have to accept an offer to a job you know you aren't going to like or aren't going to succeed in the long run. It's often better for your career to make a decision based on facts you know than emotions you feel. So make sure you get as many facts as possible.
About RockIt Career Consultation Services
At RockIt Career Consultation Services, our mission is to help you discover your true strengths and use these strengths to set your course to something more rewarding and exciting in your career.
We will guide you on what job or career best suits you and then help you market yourself through your resume, your networking strategies, your interview skills, and your negotiation to ensure that you are doing something you love and are maximizing your earning potential. Throughout, we will be there to keep you motivated and determined.
We'd love to help you launch your career and encourage you to learn more about the services we can provide you on your path to a more prosperous future. With our help, you will become the applicant every company wants to hire!