It’s important to know the what and why about the company you’re interviewing with, but for your sanity, dig deeper. The more you can learn about an organization’s “personality,” the better. See what Orson* and Peggy * did.
Orson* interviewed for a sales rep position which would cover a several county area. He was pleased with the salary he had negotiated, and learned that he would also be getting a company car to cover his territory. This was in an area that was new to him, and moving expenses were included. All in all, he was excited for his new challenge.
When his offer letter came, however, his excitement soon faded. A provision had been inserted which said that he would be starting at 80% of his negotiated salary, on a 3 month probationary period! This had never been discussed – not during any of his interviews, nor over the phone.
He called his manager for clarification, asking why this had been put in the offer letter. Her only response was that it was “standard,” and she wouldn’t budge.
Orson had also met with his manager’s supervisor during the interview phase, so he then felt he had no recourse but to call the district manager. It wasn’t the best way to start out a new job, he felt, but he had been offered his full salary, and told the district sales manager so.
The district manager agreed, and a new offer letter was sent to Orson, stating that he would start with the originally negotiated full starting salary! Orson was proud that he had Fixed It! and signed the offer letter and returned it to his manager, hoping that there wouldn’t be repercussions.
Shortly after he began his new position, he asked his manager, “How do I take care of my moving expenses? Does the company get billed, or do I get reimbursed?”
She responded, “Oh, you don’t get moving expenses. Didn’t you read your offer letter?”
“I was so burned up!” Orson said. “I actually called her boss again.”
This time, though, the district manager was less inclined to be supportive. He asked, “Does this prevent you from taking the job?”
I said, “No,” Orson recalled, “But looking back, I wish I’d played hardball.”
Orson later learned that his territory had two reps before him in the past year, and his company’s sales reps for the entire state saw more than 100% turnover in one year!
“I, too, ended up leaving the position within the year,” Orson recounted. “That organization was terribly unhealthy, and I wish I’d noticed the many, many warning bells that were going off around me!”
Peggy* had made it as a finalist for a job she felt would be a good step up in her career, and was interviewing with the woman who would be her supervisor, should she get the position.
Things had been going well, and Peggy began to ask some more direct questions about the history of the organization and specifically, the position itself, such as, “How long has this position been vacant?” and “Why did the last person leave?”
Typically, these answers are not only revealing about the position, but also about the person answering them, and whether or not they are forthcoming. This is true especially if the previous staff person departed under difficult circumstances, such as getting fired. Seeing how delicately (or not) a manger handles describing such a situation is very revealing.
On the other hand, if the organization promotes from within, it can be a good sign – and also a bonus to know that the staff member will be available to answer questions while learning a new job.
Peggy was relieved to learn that the answer was somewhat benign: The former staff member left a month ago because she had a baby and decided to become a full time mother.
The director continued by saying what a loss it was to the organization when the staff member left, then added, “And it’s really so foolish of her, sabotaging her career like that! I even offered to let her work part time, too! What can she be thinking?”
Peggy was so startled, she didn’t know what to say. It certainly seemed as though she was being given a directive that if she had children (or was planning to have them), she’d better not be considering staying home full time and leaving her job!
Before Peggy could think of what question to ask next, the director continued the conversation and changed the subject back to the job and organization, much to her relief. Peggy finished the interview, all the while searching her memory, wondering if she had dropped any references to her family situation during the interview.
A couple of weeks later, Peggy got the job offer, but politely declined, saying she had accepted another offer (she hadn’t). She decided to Forget It! and not work for someone who so obviously declared that she knew what was right for everyone else’s situation.
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
— Rita Mae Brown