Years ago, a friend who was between jobs and seeking a leadership role in finance asked my opinion of a position he had been offered by an entrepreneurial firm. As the Chief Financial Officer, he would be charged with implementing new financial controls and upgrading the systems and processes. The position reported directly to the founder.
I told him it sounded like a great fit, but asked a few more questions concerning what he knew about the person who had occupied the role previously. He responded that the prior CFO was the founder’s spouse, who would move over into other parts of the business. This revelation raised red flags. It appeared he would be changing out or upgrading the systems and processes that the founder’s spouse had put in place, potentially casting negative reflection on what had been done before. As his predecessor would still be involved in the business, I cautioned, it might set up conflict. He appreciated the opinion but took the job, as he didn’t have another near-term prospect. Within a year, he was fired. Irreconcilable differences happen in the work world, too.
Today, people have more opportunity to be selective when considering a new job. With baby boomers retiring at a blistering pace and unemployment at its lowest point since 2000, many companies are having difficulty filling open jobs. The pendulum has swung from the Great Recession of 2008 to more robust employment today. Job seekers, especially those with coveted technical education and experience, are in the driver’s seat.
The interview process is a two-way street. Not only does the company get to assess if you are the right person for the job, you also get to determine if the company and the position are a good fit for you. Do your homework and prepare questions for your interview that will give you insight into important fit factors, such as the organizational culture and the management style of the hiring manager.
Examples of questions that may help you understand the organizational culture include:
- What’s it like to work here?
- What keeps you here?
- What are successful people known for here?
- How do people describe work-life balance here?
Additionally, you may want to ask if the business conducts all-employee surveys and, if so, what respondents say the organization does well and where they would like improvements. Checking to see if the business is rated on best places to work lists, Glassdoor and other sites is another way to gain valuable insight to the organization’s culture.
It’s been said that people don’t leave organizations; they leave their bosses. Therefore, getting a sense of the hiring manager’s management style should be a goal during the interview process. Consider raising the following questions:
- How do you describe your leadership style?
- Can you tell me about what employees working for you did that led you to promote them or recommend them for new opportunities in the organization?
- How does your team work together?
- What are some of the key challenges your team is facing and how are they responding to the challenges?
After your interview, evaluate the information you received regarding the organizational culture and the hiring manager’s style using the following questions as a guide:
- Can I be myself here?
- Will I fit in with my boss and this organization?
- Can I envision being successful here?
- Does this opportunity align with my values?
- Can I continue to develop and grow my career by taking this position?
- Does this new role match with other aspects of my life?
- Does the work-life balance feel right with other obligations I have?
- Does this job and organization really match my short-term and career plans?
If your answers affirm that the organization and the position are right for you, you can feel prepared to accept a job offer with confidence. However, if you have reservations about what you’ve detected during the interviews and your answers to these questions are mixed, you need to carefully consider whether to accept a job offer.
If in doubt, talk with a trusted adviser or partner with a coach before committing to the next phase of your career. It can be much more advantageous to be patient and enter the next opportunity feeling confident than to rush your decision when you have lingering concerns.
How can executive coaching help you achieve what’s next?
Lance Hazzard, CPCC, ACC, is a certified Intelligent Leadership Executive Coach helping people and organizations successfully achieve what’s next. He is Executive Coach and President at Oppnå® Executive & Achievement Coaching. Find out more about Lance and Oppnå® Coaching at oppnacoaching.com