Monday, January 19, 2009

Do I Really Want to Work Here?

When interviewing for jobs, it's easy to feel so desperate that you are blind to any red flags. A recent post at Water Cooler Wisdom outlines some aspects of a company you should look at when deciding whether or not to accept a job offer. You should be researching the financial health of the company, the employee turnover, and credibility of the company. The article cautions against working for a new business because less than half of new businesses survive the first two years. Finally, it suggests that you follow your intuition, which I agree with completely because my own intuition has saved me on several occasions.

There are also some ways to get a feel for the company when you go on an interview. A few red flags to look for when interviewing with a company:

1. Illegal or Personal Questions
Interviewers can be sneaky about getting personal information from you. Some ask questions that are outright illegal. Keep the conversation focused on career-related matters. No matter how friendly the interviewer seems, don't let your guard down. Any questions that could reveal marital status, age, or medical issues are illegal. If an interviewer continues to dig for personal information, consider if this is really a place you want to work.

2. Rude or Unhappy Employees
When interviewing, you should be introduced to employees and may be given a tour of the company/department where you would be working. As you tour the company and meet employees, look at their faces and pay attention to body language. Do they seem miserable or content? Are they friendly or rude? If you aren't allowed to see other employees or given a tour, that could be a bad sign.

3. Disorganization
Is the company organized in its recruitment process? I've gone on a couple of interviews where I had to go back and forth several times between buildings before they found out where I should be interviewing . If your interviewers don't have your information, or if they seem confused about what you should be doing or where you should be going, this could indicate they are just as disorganized in other areas.

4. Desperation
First you should look for obvious signs of desperation, such as ads plastered all over job boards and in newspapers for long periods of time. You should also pick up on more subtle signs during an interview and office tour. One company I interviewed for seemed eager to hire a clerk to come in and implement new software. I felt like it would be a great opportunity for experience, but for some reason I felt uncomfortable about the situation. I called the recruiter and said I was no longer interested. A few days later, when talking to a friend in class who had worked there before, I found out that they always hired a young worker to come in and do the work while the older workers sat around and chatted all day. Not surprisingly, they had problems keeping new hires.

5. Lack of diversity
If upper management looks the same, this could indicate something about the company's hiring and promotion practices. Of course, it could just be the way things turned out, but you should definitely take a close look at the company culture and inquire about how promotions are made.

Remember that you are interviewing and assessing your potential employers just as they are scrutinizing you. Don't feel so desperate that you agree to work for an unhealthy company.

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