Read This Before Accepting a Job Offer

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By Arnie Fertig

"These jobs just weren't the right fit," a job candidate tells an interviewer, who asked why two positions listed on her résumé lasted less than a year.

"Oh, I see," the the interviewer replies, without pressing further. But this interaction initiates a cascade of other questions in the interviewer's mind:

Why did these employers err in offering jobs to you, or why where you mistakenly accept them? Did employers repeatedly misjudge your capacities? Did you talk yourself into situations that are above your ability to master? What really went wrong?

Think carefully before accepting any given role, no matter how desperate you might be for a paycheck. Otherwise, you may set yourself up for a disadvantage a few years from now, when you have to explain why this job you take now went wrong. Will you or your employer wake up in a few months and wish for a do-over?Ask yourself:
  • How well does the employer understand his or her own needs?
  • Has the employer followed an intelligent hiring strategy?
  • Do you represent a quick but not-thoughtful answer to a desperate hiring imperative?
  • What are your realistic chances for success in the position being offered to you?
In "The Hiring and Firing Question and Answer Book," aimed at teaching employers how to make better hires, Paul Falcone warns:

"No matter how refined your interviewing skills, no matter how accurate your testing or how thorough your reference check and background investigation information, the best you can hope for when hiring strangers is that you make high-potential hires. After all, any new hire represents little more than a gamble you're willing to wage that your initial costs and training will pay off for you down the road."

He goes on to identify three errors hiring authorities are prone to make: failing to spend enough time with candidates to understand their personalities and problem-solving approaches; failing to carefully assess their levels of business maturity; and failing to confirm that the positions at hand would represent the next logical steps from the candidates' own career development perspectives.

Falcone's diagnosis of faulty hiring processes can bring a new level of sophistication to job hunters as well. As you think about your next step in your career, you want to make sure you're being hired for the right reasons and that it will be a "no regrets" decision both for your next employer and yourself.

Consider the following when evaluating your opportunities:

1. Respect the process, even when it is lengthy and exhaustive. There is a natural tendency to want to rush things. And sometimes employers feel the same sense of urgency. But rushed searches can lead to disaster. Know that it is important for you to really understand the nuances inherent in any potential job, and for the employer to take the time to carefully vet you for the role. A careful hiring process will benefit both employer and employee over the long term.

2. Understand where this job will lead. You can't likely know what specific position you'll find yourself in over the course of the next five to seven years. And if you are asked that kind of question, there is no right answer.

Nonetheless, it is important to gain an understanding of what skills you'll likely be able to (and be expected to) acquire and what kinds of accomplishments you can rack up in the job at hand. Knowing this, it is reasonable to conjecture what kind role you will become well-groomed to handle. Is this appropriate for the career trajectory you see for yourself?

Does the employer make a point of demonstrating that it promotes from within? How long have other people at the company been in their current roles? Does the employer seem to care about developing you as a valued employee, or does it want you to be a cog in a wheel, going around and around and around?

3. Explore the corporate culture as well as the role. Behavioral interview questions are commonly used to assess a candidate's business and emotional intelligence levels. They begin with: "Tell me about a time when you ..." Or: "How would you handle a situation like ..."

Typically, there are no absolute right or wrong answers, but these lines of inquiry enable an employer to see how a candidate thinks and deals with problems.

When it's your turn to ask questions, ask your own kinds of behavioral questions, like: "Tell me about how [a job-related thing] gets done in your environment?" Ask about things that will help you determine if the culture is one in which you will feel comfortable.

The old carpenter's advice "measure twice, cut once" is particularly apt when it comes to both evaluating candidates and job opportunities. When you take the time to determine that the fit is strong to begin with, you'll dramatically increase your chances of not having to go through the whole process again anytime soon.

Happy hunting!

Arnie Fertig, MPA, is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic "I'll apply to anything" searches into focused hunts for "great fit" opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.
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