April 23, 2013, 1:24 PM — Changing jobs is one of the most traumatic professional experiences of your life. Throughout the hiring process you are being evaluated. However, it shouldn't be a one-way street. To be the best at what you do and succeed you need to do some evaluating of your own before you sign that offer letter. "You need to be interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you," says Chad Lilly, director at Lextech Global Services.
Predicting whether or not you'll succeed in your new job is not a science. However, according to Roy West, CEO of the Roy West Companies and senior scientist at the Gallup Organization, recent research shows that there are key predictors of retention:
Do the senior executives in the organization make me feel optimistic about the future?
Do you believe you can meet your individual performance goals?
Do you believe that the company is financially stable?
While you may not be able to answer all of the questions above, CIO.com has consulted with industry experts to help you get the information you can to avoid the hassle of starting a job and then shortly thereafter leaving it. This list of nine factors will help you define with more clarity whether this new position or company is right for you.
1. Know What Motivates You
This sounds simple, but many people don't really know the answer to that question. The first response is normally money and while it's a great motivator, there is more to life than money. According to Simpson, many times it's not the primary factor behind what motivates people.
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This is absolutely critical for true job satisfaction, according to Colleen Hughes, vice president, human resources at CompTIA. "If it's important to you to make independent decisions and you accept a job with a controlling manager, you will not be happy. Knowing what motivates you can make all the difference in being happy in a job," Hughes says.
"Many people don't know what motivates them. They know what they don't like but they don't know what they do like. One of the questions I regularly ask while interviewing is, 'How do you like to be managed? What do you look for in a manager?' You'd be surprised that even senior executives can only tell you what they don't like. If you don't know what motivates you, then that's where a coach comes in," says West.
2. Know the Job History
"Knowing the situation that created the position can tell you a lot about what's going on in the prospective company," says Cheryl Simpson president of Executive Resume Rescue. For example, if the position you are about to fill has had four people in the last two years that should throw up a red flag.
"It is important to know why the person before left to be prepared for the role and its demands," says Rona Borre, president and CEO of IT Talent Management Firm Instant Technology. "Was it not a right match, not correct skills, too much pressure, short or unattainable deadlines, too many hours?"
3. Research the Company
Find out as much as you can about any prospective employer. What is the company culture? Track down financial information and research its social presence. Do a Google search on the company and look for news stories related to it. Are they about to launch a hot new product? Are they in constant litigation? What do their employees say in social media? There is likely a wealth of information out there for you to tap into if you take the time. Furthermore, knowing the company's products and services will help you formulate questions and shine in interviews.
When looking at the company's financials, here are few things to think about: Is the company trending down? What if the company's stock is nose-diving? Do you think you might reconsider taking the position? You can glean some information from sites like Glassdoor.com and Hoovers.com. "If the company is public you can get access to annual reports. If a person is a high enough level candidate they can request this information," says Simpson.
Another avenue to explore, says Colleen Hughes, vice president of human resources for CompTIA, is employee satisfaction surveys. "Ask if they [the company] measure employee satisfaction and how often is this done. The answer can give you a lot of information on how the organization views employees," says Hughes.
Knowing as much as you can about a prospective employer is only in your best interest. Know what they do, what their products are, what people are saying about them in social media. There are number of places you can find this information--for example, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Glassdoor, to name only a few.
"If you look at a company and they haven't they haven't had a new article or product or something new and significant in the last 12 months that would require further investigation," says Lilly.
For more information on this topic, check out the Top 8 Sites for Researching Your Next Employer.
4. Get It in Writing
"Having it in writing just nails it down makes sure everyone is on talking about the same thing. It's just good business practice," says Simpson.
Experts agree that the offer letter should include some specific information and any points that you negotiated. "Offer letters should contain salary, duties/expectations, holidays/paid time off, benefits, start date/report to location and contact info," says Borre.
If something isn't right call HR or the hiring manager and ask. "Make sure you get all questions answered before accepting the offer. If the organization does not want to take the time to answer your questions before you begin employment, they probably won't give you much positive attention after you begin," says Hughes.
5. Know the Company Culture
"You want to work for a company whose values you can buy into," says West. Information about the company culture will reveal itself throughout all aspects of the interview and research process. Do they seem serious and conservative? Maybe they have a laissez-fair attitude and joke a lot. How are the offices set up? Is it a cube farm? Is the company responsive when you try to contact them?
A good interview question for prospective candidates, says Lilly, "What am I going to learn in six months that I won't know today? You'll learn a little bit about the company in that moment."
Some other questions that will help you gain insight:
How often are performance reviews done?
What does it take to be successful here?
What is the management style?
6. Who's the Boss?
Let's face it: Your boss or supervisor will affect every day of your working life. A good boss can make bad jobs bearable, but a terrible boss can ruin the best of jobs. "It's like any relationship. You have to be comfortable with the person you're going to be spending time with. If you can't stand the person that's managing you, it's probably a good indication it's not a good fit for you," says Lilly.
"Job satisfaction is highly dependent on your relationship with your supervising manager and you need to do everything possible to make sure the person's style and personality is a fit," says Hughes.
7. Talk to Potential Peers
You want to meet your direct supervisor for sure, but you should also try to meet everyone in your chain and anyone you'll have to work closely with. This isn't always possible depending on the size of the company.
"If you have a connection with someone who works at the company you are interested in joining you should reach out to that person and try to get more information. Whether it's to help you get the position or to find out more about the position, [find out] what their experience is," says Lilly.
Something Lilly says he likes to do with his new candidates is take them out to lunch to meet the team or, depending on the situation, get together with one or two of his team leaders to have a technical discussion.
Whether it's through the HR department, social media or in the elevator leaving your interview, try to strike up conversations with peers in that company. Experts warn, however, if you reach out through social media, keep it private. Hughes also warns, "Be careful that you don't just take everything as fact. If you happen to talk to someone who is not a high performer, they may have a negative view that is not indicative of the organization."
Knowing how the current employees feel about your prospective employer could help you gain valuable insight into how the company really does business. "Talking to your direct reports and one or two peers will help give you a 360 degree view of the position," says Simpson.
8. Know the Job Details
Throughout the interview process you should do more than read the job description. You should to get a description of what a work day would include. Does the job title match the responsibilities? Will you have the tools you need to get the job done? How will success be measured? All of these questions should be brought up in the interview process and analyzed objectively.
Is the job's annual compensation on par with other similar roles out there? If you've been out of work for a long time, chances are you may not have much of a choice. Rarely do you get everything you want in a job. When you weigh no money coming in versus a steady income the choice could be simple. That said, however, if you aren't being paid what you're worth then, you'll be unhappy down the road.
9. Know Where the Company is Headed With Technology
If you're a .NET programmer and the company is planning to move to all open source software over the next few years, you may consider passing or at the very least you need to know what the plan is to get you trained on the new technology. As a developer, you need to know how, as Lilly describes, the company adjusts to new technology. Do they embrace new technology or has the industry moved versions ahead of their software?
A number of things can happen between accepting an offer and your start date. One developer tells a story of interviewing and doing very well. He had an immediate rapport with his direct supervisor and was quite excited to start with the new company. However, when his start date came 20 days later, the person he interviewed with, who was supposed to be his supervisor, was no longer with the company and the company was about to begin a major technology change with its CMS to a technology he didn't develop in. He was stunned and lasted roughly six months before he resigned.
Do Your Due Diligence
Getting the offer is only part of the equation. If you want to have a career instead of a job where you watch the clock, knowing your priorities, what motivates you and how you can succeed are what will illuminate the path to satisfaction.