Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Is this position right or just “right now?”
The first question you must ask yourself before accepting a new position is whether it’s truly what you want to dedicate 40+ hours of your life to every week. Imagine what your average day will look like if you accept this position and, if you aren’t excited about the proposition, perhaps you should reconsider accepting the position and think twice about continuing your job search until you find your dream job.
2. Will I be able to succeed in this position or have I bitten off more than I can chew?
Does the position match your personal strengths as a professional? Are you comfortable performing the day-to-day duties that will make up your primary responsibilities? It’s great to challenge yourself, but no one wants to be set up for failure. It’s important to consider your ability to meet/exceed your new employer’s goals. If you stretch yourself too thin, you may end up underperforming and could be terminated which would put you in the same position of having to find a new position, so don’t bite off more than you can chew.
3. Will accepting this position help further my career or stifle my development?
Is this new position a step forward in your career or are you downgrading just to pay the bills? Depending upon your level of necessity, it may make more sense to tighten your belt for another couple months rather than accepting a position that will not further your career path. It may be more beneficial in the long run to wait for a position more in line with your personal goals instead of accepting a stopgap position that could put your career in neutral (or worse, in reverse) for one or two years.
Questions to Ask a Potential Employer
1. How will my success be judged? What criteria will be critical to my annual evaluation?
Without knowing your new company’s definition of success, it’s difficult to meet or exceed your potential boss’ expectations, so before you accept that new position you must find out how you will be assessed. What are the goals you are expected to achieve within the next year? What types of people are already successful within the company? Who should you emulate as you go about your daily responsibilities? Who should you potentially reach out to as a mentor? If you are not clear on your personal objectives from the very beginning, you may find out later that you have been underperforming and it could be too late to make an appropriate course correction.
2. What is the company culture?
If you are the type of person who thrives on order and organization, needs direction and a clear objective, or requires specific parameters to operate within then you are probably best suited for working in a corporate environment. Conversely, if you flourish in an easy-going setting with little guidance, dislike management interference, or jump at the chance to create your own objectives and responsibilities then the best place for you is most likely a young startup. Either way, it’s imperative to know what type of company you will be working for so that you can judge whether or not it matches your professional needs.
3. What is the team dynamic within my future department? What type of manager will I be working under?
Team dynamic is a key component of a well-run organization, so it’s essential to find out if you’ll be walking into a freewheeling group or one filled with tension and in-fighting. Getting an answer to this question is a lot more difficult than simply asking the employer because you may not get an entirely honest answer. Rather, you should ask your potential co-workers how they feel about their place on the team and their thoughts about its leader. It’s equally critical that you get details about your new supervisor’s management style. Are they hands-off? Are they completely detached and “out to lunch?” Are they an “over the shoulder” type who needs to control every situation and micromanages even the most competent employees?
4. How does this position and department fit into the company as a whole?
It’s important to know how the work you will be doing affects the other facets of the business and also find out the level of collaboration within the company. By inquiring about how your potential position and department are tied to the rest of the company you will have a better idea of what your day-to-day activities will be.
5. What is the full extent of the compensation package including salary, insurance, PTO, and additional perks?
Most people only look at the salary when making crucial career decisions like accepting a promotion or job offer, but it’s just as important to look at the entire compensation package. A position with a $55K starting salary, 45-minute commute, and $300 monthly insurance premium would not be as attractive as the role making $48K per year that is 20 minutes from home and comes with insurance that is 100% paid for by the company.
Additionally, you should find out how PTO is accrued. Do you begin earning it right away? Do you have to wait until the first of the year? Is there a 3-month probation period before time-off hours begin accumulating? Does the company differentiate between sick time and vacation days? What other perks are offered? Profit sharing? Health club membership? Relocation expenses? A company car? All of these things can add up and should factor into your decision when considering a new position. Don’t just look at the bottom line (salary); review the fine print (benefits and other perks) as well.
6. What commitment does the company have to its employees’ success and development? Is there a focus on professional training and the expansion of skills/expertise? Is there a concerted effort to promote from within?
The best companies understand that their greatest asset is their workforce, so find out if the potential employer is investing in its personnel by offering tuition reimbursement, instructional seminars, leadership development programs, and/or skill-based workshops. Find out what percentage of top managers were promoted from within rather than hired from other companies. If the company makes little to no effort to cultivate its employees, you may wonder if this is an employer that you can work with for an extended period of time and progress to the next level in your career.