Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Is your employer legitimate?

An old saw warns, "Be careful what you wish for. You might get it!" So it is with job offers. It's not unusual for a job hunter to suddenly find himself with an offer in hand, wondering why the heck he went after the job to begin with. We sometimes pursue opportunities for no other reason than because they're there. Or because we were invited, and we were too flattered to refuse.

This is why I advise doing all the tough research before you ever talk to a company. Know why you're talking to an employer about a particular job. Ask the tough questions during the interview. Make sure the answers sit comfortably with you, or you might find yourself stuck with the wrong job.

Before the interview, cover these bases:
  • Research the industry the company is in. Is it sound? Is it growing?
  • Research the company. Is it sound financially? Does it have a healthy history? Does it have an "edge" that it takes advantage of?
In the interview, don't miss these points:
  • What problems does the company face in the next three years?
  • What does the company need to do to meet its goals? How does your job fit?
  • Get to know your future boss and meet the people you'll be living and working with. You're looking for compatibility: skills, ability, style, goals.
  • Check out the tools that will be at your disposal. If they're not part of the deal today, don't expect you'll get what you need later.
  • Who are the people in other departments who will affect your ability to do your job successfully? Meet them. Look for facilitators and debilitators.
After you have the offer, schedule a follow-up meeting before you accept:
  • Confirm your duties, responsibilities, authority, and goals.
  • Ask any other questions that will affect your ability to do the job and your well-being.
  • Make sure you get a close look at the written benefits package, company policies, and employee handbook. Some companies are funny about divulging these critical documents, but you have a right to see them before you sign an employment agreement that incorporates them by reference. It's no fun to learn after you're already on board that there's a restraint of competition for five years.
Good companies comprise good people. They should be above board, honest, and willing to open up to a new recruit. Don't be unreasonable or rude, but don't settle for less than full disclosure. If anyone is put off by your diplomatic inquiries about the company, the people, and the job, then look elsewhere because you probably won't be happy there.

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