Is any job better than none?

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Will they put it in writing?

"If it looks too good to be true, it probably is." That phrase is never more true than when describing a job search. As often as we might stretch our experience and abilities to match a job description, recruiters and hiring managers often do everything in their power to enhance the attractiveness of a given opportunity for qualified candidates.

If the company representatives you're negotiating with are reluctant to provide documentation on specific information such as pay, benefits and employment contract information, it might be a sign that you should investigate further.

Outside of nondisclosure policies related to confidentiality issues, there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to get a full job description, compensation plan and benefits summary in writing to look over prior to making an acceptance decision.

Why are they looking?

Interviewers always ask job candidates why they're looking for a new position. As candidates, we seldom ask the company why it is looking to fill the position. This can be a very important piece of information.

Is this a new role it has not had before (i.e., will the company remain committed to it)? Is this a backfill for a former employee who left? (Is there a reason he left? Does the company have a retention problem?) Is it looking to improve a role that currently isn't being filled well? (Is this a no-win situation?)

Any of these scenarios are possible, but the job could still be a very good opportunity for you, as long as you know what you're getting into upfront.

How is the company doing?

Few businesses in the U.S. haven't had a challenging past couple of years, so a depressed balance sheet compared to 2003's is not necessarily a red flag. That said, you need to do your homework.

Major companies with years or even decades of history are falling into bankruptcy or closing down altogether. Regardless of how attractive the position, or how badly you want the job, it is incumbent upon you to research the company and gain an understanding of its fiscal stability.

Again, some of these firms might provide exceptional opportunities for the right candidate. You just need to be prepared. You'd be doing yourself and your career a disservice by joining a firm only to have it close down within months or change the compensation and benefits you agreed to in order to resolve cash flow issues.

Standard issues apply!

When we're excited about a particular role, we often lose track of the specifics that make any job viable. Remember to ask the standard "block and tackle" questions at the outset: dress code, office environment, commute time, telecommuting options, hours, tools (laptop, cell phone), pay periods, etc. These things, while not job-specific, are vital to your satisfaction with any position.

Make a list of questions prior to your interview and simply ask. These are basic inquiries that should be easily answered. But any of them could be the linchpin in determining whether the role is right for you over the long term.

Dan Cobb is vice president of enterprise solutions at Yoh, a leading provider of high-impact talent and outsourcing services and a unit of Day & Zimmermann. For more information, please visit www.yoh.com or http://blog.yoh.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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