It’s one thing to get a job offer, but another to decide if the job is right for you. You wouldn’t be the first person to accept a job without thinking only to realize, once the honeymoon was over, that you had made a terrible mistake.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could ask questions that would raise red flags about a potential bad fit, perhaps averting a catastrophe? Asking the right questions now can increase the chances that your next strategic career move will be smart professionally and a fulfilling experience personally. You will want to evaluate:
- How the skills developed on this job will impact your next job search.
- How the size and culture of this company will impact your goals.
- How your manager’s performance expectations and evaluations will be communicated.
- The professional development path for this job and how others moved along it.
- Who succeeds, who fails…and why.
- How the company and this manager are known to treat employees.
What’s in it for you over the long haul?
The first and most important consideration is how will accepting this job affect your ability to get the next job? The odds are that this won’t be your last job change, so it’s important to determine if you are going to learn anything new that adds to your marketability next time you look for a job.
Constant technological advances means that the skills you need to stay marketable—no matter what you do for a living—need to be in a state of on-going development. If the opportunity you are considering does not afford you the ability to develop new, in-demand skills every year, it could be a dead-end job that will become increasingly difficult to leave as your skills become less and less marketable to other employers.
Is bigger always better?
Consider the impact of company size. There are advantages and disadvantages to both big and small companies.
With bigger companies, the benefits can be better, and you may get the opportunity to specialize, sometimes developing deep expertise in one specific area. Of course, deep expertise in one specific area will only help your career if those skills are in demand and likely to stay that way. There’s greater likelihood of on-going professional education, which accelerates your skill development, and the very size of the company provides opportunity for growth.
On the downside, there is more likelihood that you’ll be spending the majority of your time working with peers, so that the tools of your growth will stem largely from training unless you make it a priority to build mentor relationships with more experienced colleagues.
With smaller companies, everyone tends to wear more than one hat, so you’re more likely to develop a wider range of skills than deep expertise in one specific area. You’ll find greater opportunity for working with more experienced people on a daily basis, but you’ll still need to seek out and nurture those relationships.
On the downside, it’s quite possible that benefits will be less comprehensive, and there will very likely be less formal training available. However, you can probably still get the training you need by asking for it. And while you do have the opportunity to stand out and become more rapidly credible and visible, you won’t have the same opportunity for steady upward progress.
Once a job offer is on the table, you will need to ask the questions that can help you evaluate the above issues. When these have been addressed, there are also questions about responsibilities and performance that you’ll want answered before making a decision.
- What are the projects/responsibilities that will take up the majority of your time every day? How does management prefer these responsibilities/projects to be executed? How will success/failure be judged? What feedback/direction/coaching can you expect to insure that your efforts are on track?
- How is your performance judged on a daily and weekly basis? How can you get feedback? How will it be delivered?
- What would this manager like you to have achieved at end of thirty days? Sixty days? Ninety days?
You’ll also want to ask about professional growth and potential career paths for someone joining the company at this level, and how others have moved along such paths.
Be a discreet skeptic
It's critical to uncover how the company and your new manager treats employees. You can do this by finding connections on LinkedIn who work or have worked at this company. Talk to them about the job, department and the manager. A few questions and some intelligent research today can save you from the living hell of having made a bad choice.
You can find over one hundred questions to ask during final negotiations in Knock 'em Dead Secrets & Strategies for Success, advice on how to start on the right foot, make the job secure and win promotions.