One of the best pieces of advice I received about interviewing was to treat it like any other business deal. Difficult to do? You bet. In our excitement over a new opportunity, it can be easy to overlook certain red flags.
Pay attention to these seven things during the interview process to keep your emotions in check and make the best decision for you.
1. Industry choice
I asked a high-profile CEO why he chose to work at his company. He told me when he realized he was ready to be a CEO, he had a consultancy do a study on what makes CEOs successful. The No. 1 factor was choosing the right industry. Be sure to ask a lot of questions about industry and competitive dynamics, because growth and opportunity covers a lot of strategy missteps and mistakes.
2. Cohesive growth plan
Businesses that are transparent tend to have defined strategies and goals, which makes it easier for employees to thrive. If the people, at any level in the company, you are interviewing with don’t know the growth strategy, consider it a red flag and accept the likelihood that teams will be pulling in different, usually self-interested, directions.
3. Follow the money
Companies talk a good game, but they vote with their resources. Make sure you understand the company’s investment priorities. A good friend of mine works in a multi-brand company. While his brand is recognized as having potential, it’s only 10 percent of the company’s revenue. His plans and resources are often sidelined to serve the larger brand creating endless frustration.
4. Turnover, turnover, turnover
Professionals vote with their resources too. Turnover at all levels is a critical culture gauge — a measure that can be calculated from financial data, LinkedIn data and other sources. The implied turnover range we’ve seen at tech companies — 4 to 23 percent. Can you imagine what it’s like to work for a company when one-quarter of their employees walk out every year?
Senior management stability is important to all employees too. Every time a new executive arrives, they have to make their mark, which can entail strategy shifts, reorganization, turnover and reallocation of spending. Map out who reports to the CEO and how long their predecessors were at the company.
5. Assess your role’s potential (& your boss’s too)
Jason Brevard, senior engineering recruiter at Professional Outlook, recommends research that creates a roadmap of where a position could take you.
“If you’re considering a job change, I recommend utilizing LinkedIn to search in keywords for the specific job title and company you’re applying to. The search results can be filtered to show if they hold that title currently or have in the past,” said Brevard. “By selecting ‘past,’ it will show you how others have progressed in their careers who’ve held that position. You can further dissect if they’re still with the company, how long they held that role before being promoted or moving on, did they move on internally or externally, did they have to relocate to be promoted, has it proven to be a worthy stepping stone for those who’ve held that role? That exercise takes less than 15 minutes and is free to basic users while providing a plethora of decision-making data.”
While you are at it, check out your potential boss’ standing too. Are they on the fast track, or have they been in their position too long?
6. What are they not saying
Message discipline is an art that most companies’ practice, which means it’s more illustrative to look at what they are not saying or where there are inconsistencies. We recently investigated a company that only mentioned marketing sparingly while heaping praise on the product team. When the reference checks came through, marketing was indeed an afterthought and fighting for relevance within the company.
7. Preparation & respect
How many times have companies said people are our most valuable asset? You should assess if they lived up to it in the interview process. Did the interviewers show up prepared? Did they know enough about you to ask thoughtful questions? Were they respectful of your time? If you are treated poorly when the company is putting their best foot forward, how will you be treated when you are just another team member? As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”