You’re in the final stretch of a long, drawn-out interview process for what you initially thought might be your dream job. You got your hopes up. You want it–and now you’ve finally got it. But with an offer in hand, the endorphins swirling in your bloodstream, and a hiring manager waiting by the phone for you to call and accept, something still doesn’t feel quite right.
As career counselors always say, you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. And over the course of the hiring process, there have been a few subtle things that struck you as not quite right. With so much invested at this point, you might be tempted to brush them off. But should you? Keep in mind that this is the stage of the process where the ball’s in your court, and you have more leverage than you might think–don’t squander it. Here are a few things that should give you pause before saying yes.
It’s one thing for a prospective employer to detail the type of career growth they foresee being associated with a position–that’s something you’ll always want to know. But it’s another for that description to sound a little too good to be true. Beware of an employer that makes promises that sound even slightly out of range for what their organization could reasonably provide. If you’ve done your homework and researched the company, you’ll have a strong sense later on in the interview process where those limits might be.
You’ll have plenty of conversations about career potential and compensation, advancement and training opportunities. And all that can be a lot to take in. Just consider it with a measure of skepticism. Ask questions to see how many employees have reached whatever level of success an employer might be dangling in front of you.
Likewise, listen out for flattery, even of the underhanded kind. Every hiring manager has to work to woo their top-choice candidate, but if their enthusiasm for you seems to go overboard–as though bringing you on board would be the best thing that ever happened to their organization–take note. Always listen to your BS detector.
People take jobs for many wrong reasons: more money, to get away from a job they hate, or just needing to try something new. So while you’re caught up analyzing the potential opportunities of accepting this offer, it’s easy to lose sight of your own goals.
Pause for a moment after getting an offer to step back from scrutinizing its details. Reflect on your own ambitions and passions as though this job didn’t exist. Write them down. Then go back to the offer: Will it move you closer to them or further away? Or more to the point: How many of your goals will this job satisfy, and how much, and how many might it steer you away from? Like much in life, the answer is usually a mixed bag, and that’s fine.
It doesn’t have to be your dream job, but in order for you to take it, the role does need to move you closer to where you want to go. If not, you could be wasting valuable time that’ll set you back in the long run, no matter how great some of those details may sound. An amazing opportunity may not be the most amazing opportunity for you.
If you find out the company has a high staff turnover, that’s a red flag to try and learn more. Hit up LinkedIn, PayScale, Glassdoor, and other sites one more time (because surely you’ve already checked them at least once) to see if you can find out from former employees why people leave. Always ask during the interview about the last person who held the position. High staff turnover could mean a negative or even toxic company culture that you’ll want no part of. No matter how good the offer may sound, always weigh it carefully if you know that staff tend not to stay put very long.
How is the organization viewed by others in the same industry? What’s its reputation in the business community? Has the business been involved in an unusually high number of lawsuits? (Hint: Always Google a company’s legal record!)
Ask about who the company has dealt with–and not just former and current employees–what they think, and consider their opinions. Customers and suppliers are a good source of information. You should also look into trade associations in the field: Does your prospective employer belong to suspiciously few, or suspiciously dominate too many of them? What are some concrete ways the company supports its local community?
Your own reputation will be linked with your employer’s by association, so make sure you consider whether you can stand behind the brand.
Is the employer late for the interview? Are there people attending the interview that you weren’t told would be there? Does no one apologize or explain these surprises? Is the hiring manager dressed inappropriately for an interview?
Are you asked personal questions that shouldn’t be part of an interview? Do they call or text you after working hours? Have they contacted someone at your former workplace–somebody who isn’t a reference–before clearing it with you first? This could be a result of a weak organization, a lack of integrity, or a lack of respect for you. Regardless, it should raise alarm bells about the values and ethics of the organization.
Whenever you’re interviewing for a position, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask tough questions–about the last person in the role, the company’s turnover rate, how performance is judged and promotions are given out. Don’t just listen for the answers, though–listen for any hesitation on the employer’s part in answering them.
If a hiring manger or HR contact seems like they’re trying to hide something or glosses over your request for information, politely push back. Any company you want to work for is open, transparent, and has nothing to hide.
You may want to have weekends and evenings to spend with your family, but your boss expects you to put their needs first. The job offer may include some great benefits like generous parental leave, flex hours, or vacation time, but you may find that the work culture doesn’t encourage you to use them. Be very clear about your expectations from the start so you can avoid getting into a work situation you wind up regretting.
It’s never easy to look at a job offer critically, especially when you’ve been asked to make a decision in a few days. But if you’ve learned a few new things in the hiring process that you didn’t initially know, there’s always time to do more digging. Have a close look at anything you unearth before saying yes.