When you’re on the hunt for a new job, you may feel compelled to jump at the first opportunity that comes your way.
But as Ryan Kahn, a career coach, founder of The Hired Group, and author of “Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad,” points out,by accepting the very first opportunity that presents itself, you may be leaving others — perhaps better ones — behind.
“Many candidates jump in feet first largely out of fear — especially fear that another opportunity may not come their way again,” explains Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work.”
Kerr says he’s also seen people take jobs simply because of the effort they invested in the application and interviewing process.
“But a job is a serious, multi-year commitment,” Kahn says. “Before you say ‘yes,’ make sure you’ve done your homework and can feel confident in your decision.”
Are the problems I have with my current company long-term or short-term?
If the problems are only short term, then so is the solution of hopping jobs. And Lou Adler, CEO of recruiter training and consulting firm The Adler Group, writes on Inc. that changing jobs every few years can be a real career killer in the end:
“Overall, too many candidates leave jobs for short-term problems and take new ones to obtain instant relief. This job-hopping mentality leads to the vicious cycle of underperformance, dissatisfaction, and excessive turnover shown in the graphic. Even career-motivated people can fall into this trap, being seduced by short-term promises, big bucks, and a nice title.”
Is this the kind of workplace culture in which I would thrive and be happy?
“Employers tend to stress the financial and obvious overt benefits of a job when they are hiring (think: salary, pension, and medical benefits), and it’s all too easy as a candidate to only focus on that — forgetting that survey after survey shows that other workplace factors have a far bigger impact on employees’ happiness levels,” Kerr explains.
Intangible cultural factors like trust and respect are enormous, and although they can be hard to assess from the outside, it’s critical you try and get a clear picture of the type of culture you’ll be working in and whether it’s an environment that will support you and make you feel good about coming in to work each day.
Employee review sites like Glassdoor are a good place to start figuring that out.
Does this employer or job align with my personal values?
It’s easy, sometimes even necessary, to take a job anywhere in the short term for economic reasons. But if this is a position you hope to stay in for some time, you need to ensure there’s an alignment with your personal values, because a mismatch will eventually eat away at your personal integrity (and no amount of money will compensate for that), Kerr says.
To determine values, Wharton professor and “Originals” author Adam Grant suggests asking someone at the company to tell a story about something that happened at their organization that wouldn’t elsewhere.
While listening, zero in on the principles the speakers show are important through their actions, like justice and fairness, safety and security, and control over destiny and influence in the organization.
What are others saying about this company?
It’s important to evaluate what others inside and outside of the company are saying about it, Kahn says. By joining this company you’ll become a representative of its brand, and its actions will reflect on you.
Will I like my new boss?
No one ever said you have to become friends with your new boss, but given the enormous impact a direct supervisor has on anyone’s happiness at work, it’s worth considering if the person you will be directly reporting to is someone you can respect, trust, and like.
“Having good chemistry with your future team is important for having a positive work environment,” Kahn says. “No one wants to spend 40-plus hours per week working for a boss they hate.”
Will this job allow me to make use of my strongest talents for a substantial enough portion of each workday?
Being able to make use of your talents is one of the biggest motivational factors when it comes to workplace happiness, so getting a sense of this is critical, says Kerr.
Does this company support my long-term career goals?
If you are looking at this as a long-term move, then it’s important to get a sense as to what the future possibilities are for personal and professional growth and development.
“Opportunities that help you become better and more skilled in your areas of interest will lead to further career success,” Kahn says. “By being in a position that pushes you, you’ll be more likely to achieve more.”
How will accepting this new role affect my family?
“If you’re married, live with a partner, or have children, it’s key to consider how the job will impact your family members, as they are part of your support team and conversely every aspect of the job will affect them as well,” Kerr says.
Getting a feel for the amount of travel involved with the position, the amount of overtime you may need to put in, the leave policies, and the employer’s philosophy around work-life balance is especially critical.
Will I be compensated fairly?
No one wants to feel like they’re underpaid and undervalued, especially from the start.
To protect yourself against accepting too little compensation, sites like Glassdoor and Salary.com can help you determine the average compensation range for someone with your level of experience and skills and in your industry or company (or a comparable one, in terms of number of employees, revenue size, and location).
What do they expect from me?
As Business Insider previously reported, when you’re unsure of what’s expected of you at work and you have no direction from your boss, it can be difficult (even impossible) to succeed — and above all, extremely frustrating.
It’s important to be on the same page about your responsibilities and expectations before you commit yourself to them.
What is the day-to-day physical environment like where I’ll be working?
This may seem rather minor compared to other factors, but it’s a huge consideration given the amount of time you spend at your job, says Kerr. “Some people thrive and enjoy working in a noisy, busy, open office environment — and other’s loathe it.”
How will I receive feedback?
Does the company rely on an annual review to give feedback, or will your boss check in with you frequently so that there are no surprises come review time?
According to San Francisco-based HR firm Achievers, the former is one of the most common ways managers alienate their employees. As the firm notes, 79% of the modern workforce expects feedback immediately. Will your future employer give it to you?
What level of autonomy will I have in my position?
“This is a key question to understand about yourself and your own strengths and to assess in any new position because this has a huge impact on your day-to-day well being,” Kerr explains. “Some people like and require a fair degree of support and feedback in their work; others want to know they can be trusted to work on their own with a large degree of freedom and autonomy.”
Understanding where you fit on that spectrum and how close a match it is to the job is important.
Can I live with the commute?
“According to numerous happiness studies, a person’s commute time has an enormous impact on their level of happiness and well being — so much so that it takes a substantially higher salary to compensate for a long commute,” Kerr says. If you can’t relocate, then you need to be realistic about the commute time and decide if that’s something you can live with day in and day out.
“Having a manageable commute will help to ensure you don’t burn yourself out of the job before you even arrive,” Kahn adds.
Will this new job address the issues I had with my former job?
“This is something you must ask yourself if you are leaving your current position because you are unhappy,” Kerr says. “It’s important to get clarity on exactly what those issues were, and to make sure you are focused on the source of your discontent with your previous job, and not merely a symptom.”
Have I asked (and have they answered) all of my questions?
Hopefully you asked your interviewer a bunch of smart and impressive questions throughout your interview process. If there’s anything you didn’t have a chance to ask, or didn’t think of until after you left the interview, there’s still time. Make sure they answer each and every question you have — and that none of their responses (or lack thereof) raise red flags.
What is my gut feeling about this?
As much as you can try to weigh the pros and cons in a detached, analytical way, you need to also trust your intuition. “If everything looks great on paper but there’s still a nagging voice of doubt somewhere deep inside you, it’s worth listening to what that gut check is saying,” says Kerr.