As previously discussed, the first step to a phenomenal interview is setting the standard for what defines success for you. Ideally, you have engaged the interviewer on a human level, you are exceedingly prepared, and you conclude the role is a great fit for your skillset and desired career trajectory. However, even when everything in the interview is going excellently, you should always be looking to expand your understanding of the opportunity. If you going to commit to a company professionally, it is always best to fully understand exactly what kind of situation you are choosing to enter. Companies have an automatic interest in selling themselves, so to speak, to the best candidates and saying what they need to say to attract to talent. This can sometimes mean that for a clear picture of what goes on at the organization, you will need to read between the lines. Here are three big things that might mean you need to dig deeper before signing on any dotted lines.
In almost all interview structures, you will be given the chance to speak to company leadership and your potential managers. If at the end of those meetings you walk away believing (or even just suspecting) that you could do their job better than them for whatever reason, definitely reconsider the role. Maybe you were deeply unimpressed by the person who would be overseeing your – or perhaps they were fine but your qualifications and experience are just obviously more impressive. Regardless, signing up to work under someone you do not fully respect is a surefire way to create some uncomfortable situations moving forward. Instead of that, lay the discomfort out flat during pre-hiring chats. Press these individuals on the story of their own upward mobility and ability to execute, while you evaluate if this is someone who actually is qualified to oversee your professional development. Harp on advancement opportunities, making it clear that you need to know they will be able to get you to where you want to go.
Be very wary of ownership compensation. Equity compensation has recently skyrocketed in popularity, surely buoyed by over-sensationalized media coverage of tech billionaires and starry-eyed optimism of start-up culture. The company posits that rather than pay you what the market says your input is woth, they will make up the difference in equity. This is a very different situation than offering market-competitive wages and relying on equity to put the offer over the top as compared to other players in the industry. This could be indicative of financial distress, so when you hear those words, be sure you have personally evaluated their financial projections closely. Then, you will have two options. You can either politely walk away or become more aggressive, holding their feet to the fire. When they offer you compensation packages that pay below what the market would suggest is appropriate, what you hear as a potential hire is that they are choosing to give something which has no guaranteed value over actual money. Basically, they are underpaying you and crossing their fingers…at least, that is what you are hearing. Put the onus on them to tell you more about the financial power of the company, as well as how they are going to do more than just say you and the position you would hold are valuable. How will they show you it is valuable?
Watch That Workload
Always be careful when you hear a company casually extricate itself from the way in which employees handle workloads. Organizations love hiding this kind of structural issue as a sort of cultural characteristic, and it is particularly common in government, nonprofits, and education. These places adopt an entitled philosophy, in which it is such a privilege to work there. As such, they fall victim to “hero syndrome.” This means that when you ask shining examples of excellence, everyone points to the individual who is always staying late and going way above and beyond the call of duty.
This might seem counterintuitive but, more often than not, this is a bad sign. When a company extols the virtues of an employee who “just gets it done,” even when that mean he or she is donating dozens of extra hours per week, it means they are way to comfortable avoiding the real issue at hand. That would be, “why does this person need to work so hard just to excel here in the first place?” Poor planning, disorganization, inefficiency, terrible communication, or uninvested leadership can all play a role in how so much comes to be asked of employees just to get the job done. To avoid finding yourself in that kind of scenario, take the control back in the interview and stop them in their tracks. Be authoritative. Question why it is they value employees who give up their free time and throw off their work/life balance to accomplish something that could, should, and would have been finished on time if there had been a contingency plan in place. What actions is the company taking now to avoid having to ask the same overextension from their employees on such projects in the future? Really drill them directly – you want to commit to a company who is able to actually follow through on their commitment to supporting you.