Relief Now Could Mean Remorse Later
Seven Things to Know Before Accepting a Job Offer in the Age of Covid-19...
Since the Pandemic began, over 44 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in the US. The unemployment rate has soared to 15% and is expected to hit 25% by year’s end. Our country has not seen an unemployment crisis of this magnitude since the Great Depression. If you’re suddenly unemployed or considering a career change, this might feel like the worst time to search for a job. You might think that if you’re offered a position, you should take it, regardless of the circumstances. Who can be picky at a time like this, right?
You can. And you should.
Before you respond to a job offer, take a deep breath, and examine the whole picture. It’s perfectly acceptable to request time to consider an offer. You might realize that the bird in the hand is not actually better than the two in the bush.
1. THE POSITION: KNOW PERFORMANCE EXPECTATIONS AND OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW IN THE ROLE
It’s not uncommon for hiring managers and potential employees to “fall in love” with each other without having a conversation about the exact job duties, deliverables, and opportunities for promotion within the company. This can lead to employees being stuck in a dead-end job or shocked to discover they’re not performing up to standards a few months down the road.
ACTION ITEMS: Make sure you see a detailed job description and understand how you’ll spend your time. Inquire about professional development opportunities within the company. The more clarity you have on what is expected of you and how you might grow in the role, the greater your chance of success.
QUESTIONS TO ASK: What are your expectations of my performance after 30, 60, and 90 days? At the one-year mark? On what basis is my performance evaluated? What does success look like in this role? Are there opportunities for promotion? Tell me about a typical day in this job. Will I be expected to travel? If so, what percentage of my working time will be on the road?
2. THE TEAM: KNOW THOSE REPORTING TO YOU AND THOSE TO WHOM YOU REPORT
You’ll be spending many hours with your teammates, so try to meet them before you accept
the position. You want to make sure that you not only like the people on your team, but that you can imagine yourself sitting through long meetings together while completing complex tasks.
ACTION ITEMS: Ask to spend 15 minutes or so chatting privately with everyone who will be on your team. If Covid-19 precludes in-person interaction, request a private Zoom meeting or phone call. If given the opportunity to dine or walk with teammates from a social distance, go for it. This can illuminate behaviors you might not see while interviewing or touring the office.
QUESTIONS TO ASK: What types of projects are done as a team? What would my role be on the team? With whom will I work most closely? What are the deliverables of this team? What are some of the challenges faced by the team?
3. MANAGEMENT: KNOW YOUR FUTURE MANAGER
Surprisingly often, job seekers accept offers without getting to know their manager. This is a big mistake, as your manager can make or break your work life. A great manager will motivate you, listen to you, and care about you. They’ll make decisions that propel your career growth forward. On the other hand, a bad manager can make your life miserable by micromanaging you or not providing ample training. They might appear rushed and unavailable, making you feel like they don’t have time to answer your questions.
Before you accept an offer, get to know your manager through a professional lens. Hitting it off socially doesn’t make you a match professionally. Just because you’d enjoy having a drink with someone doesn’t mean you’ll work well together.
ACTION ITEMS: Before interviewing, do a little intel on your manager. Research their background on LinkedIn and Glassdoor to learn as much as possible before the interview. If you can, ask current and former company employees about your future boss. Find out if they are supportive and willing to teach their direct reports. Ask if people are promoted within the company.
When interviewing, pay attention to how much talking and how much listening your future boss does. Listen for clues about their management style. If they spend most of the conversation selling you on the position and don’t pay attention to your responses to questions, this could be a hint that they like to micromanage their direct reports.
QUESTIONS TO ASK: What is your management style? How often do you like to meet with members of your team? How do you like to receive information? Do you like informal office visits or would you like to receive everything in writing? How hands-on is your leadership style? How do you feel about performance reviews? How do you measure and track success?
4. SALARY AND BENEFITS: KNOW HOW AND WHEN TO NEGOTIATE
Searching for a job can be a long and difficult process. Many job seekers are so delighted to receive an offer that they accept the position without trying to negotiate for a better deal. As a result, they start with a chip on their shoulder due to a package that doesn’t reflect their worth.
If extended a job offer, you are in the driver’s seat. The company making the offer wants to hire you, so this is not the time to be shy. That said, you must approach the negotiation with care to ensure a positive outcome. Don’t negotiate unless you have clear and thoughtful reasons to do so. A haphazard negotiation can make you appear less likeable and decrease the company’s willingness to work with you.
ACTION ITEMS: First, know your worth. While you are interviewing, use online resources such as salary.com, Glassdoor, and payscale.com to get a sense of the salary range for comparable positions. Be ready to answer the question, “What are your salary requirements?” with a wide range based on your research of comparable salaries. Next, help your interviewer understand why you deserve what you are requesting, and prepare to justify your request with examples of past accomplishments. Finally, understand that there are internal constraints that can’t be negotiated. Let those be.
Request the benefits package for the company and review it thoroughly before accepting an offer. Reach out to LinkedIn contacts and other friends to learn what type of benefits packages are the norm in your industry. Make sure the healthcare and PTO offered will work for you and your family.
QUESTIONS TO ASK: Do you offer annual bonuses? Do you offer flexible hours? Do you offer tuition reimbursement for continuing education courses? If the position is commission based, ask if the bonus targets are realistic. Follow that up by asking how many team members reach their targets.
5. LOCATION: KNOW YOUR COMMUTE
With nearly all but those deemed essential working from home, you might underestimate the importance of considering your commute. Eventually, most workers will be required to physically report, so location must be factored into your decision. If the job requires that you spend more than two hours per day in transit, you should think seriously about the impact this will have on your personal life and mental health.
On the other hand, don’t accept a job just because it’s close to home. Convenience has caused many candidates to convince themselves the wrong job is the right one, but location is only one part of the equation.
ACTION ITEMS: Before accepting the job, do a test run of the commute during rush hour. Decide if this expenditure of your time and energy will work for you if you need to do it five days per week. If the job will require you to work from home, evaluate if you’re well positioned for this type of work. You’ll need to make sure you have a quiet workspace, dependable Internet service, and a schedule you can consistently adhere to.
QUESTIONS TO ASK: What is your policy on teleworking? What hours will I be expected to be in the office? Is there any flexibility in hours?
6. WORK ENVIRONMENT: KNOW THE OFFICE VIBE
Assuming your new position is not one in which you consistently work from home, you’ll want to see the space where you’ll be working. Most people spend between 40 and 60 hours per week at work. You want this to be a place you enjoy spending time.
ACTION ITEMS: Take a good look around the workspace and try to imagine yourself in the space. Determine if the environment is one of collaboration or individual contribution. Know which environment you prefer.
QUESTIONS TO ASK: Will I have an office, or will I be in a cubicle? Is there a place to have meetings? Is there anywhere to have a sensitive conversation should the need arise? Do people spend breaks socializing or disconnecting? Is there a space to collaborate? How conducive is this space to productivity?
7. REPUTATION AND VIABILITY: KNOW IF THE COMPANY SHARES YOUR VALUES AND ASSESS IF IT’S FINANCIALLY VIABLE
Everyone wants to feel good about their workplace. If your company espouses values that are counter to yours, you are not likely to be happy in the long term. Sooner than later, this conflict will make it uncomfortable for you to continue working there.
If you’re against animal testing, be sure the company doesn’t engage in this practice. If you’re an environmentalist, research the company’s perspective on green business practices. As for the company’s financial viability, if future layoffs are likely you’ll want to consider whether your position would withstand such cuts.
ACTION ITEMS: Do your research. Visit the company’s website and social media sites to determine if the corporate values match yours. Look at their recent press releases and annual reports. Try to assess if they’re forward thinking and if they’re financially viable. Look for revenue and profitability reports to determine the likelihood of future layoffs. Check out Glassdoor or Comparably reviews by company employees.
QUESTIONS TO ASK: What are your company’s values? What characteristics do you look for in employees to reflect those values? Tell me about your company’s plans for growth.
Job seekers are often so relieved to receive an offer that they commit without reflection or research. This desire for immediate relief can lead to remorse later. Before signing an offer letter, consider your ability to excel and grow in the role. Get to know your teammates and manager. Ensure that your salary and benefits reflect your worth. Consider your commute. And investigate your company’s work environment, reputation, and financial viability. By asking the right questions now, you’ll have more success finding a job that’s a long-term fit.