After many informational interviews, job applications, additional rounds of interviews and background checks, you finally land an offer. Congratulations! While it is a huge relief to receive an offer, temper your enthusiasm long enough to carefully consider your decision.
You need to exert your independence and trust your gut, especially in this situation. If you have nagging feeling that something isn’t right, it probably isn’t. Fit is absolutely critical for success in your next position. Here are some thoughts on fit and some questions to use in the interview process to help you determine if this opportunity is indeed an appropriate fit for you.
Why? Well, fit is the most critical determination in hiring for both the hiring manager and the candidate. For the hiring manager, there are typically multiple candidates with the skills to do the job. The challenge is finding the best person for the job based on how they fit with the team and the culture of the organization. For the candidate it is tempting to accept whatever job is offered, but you set yourself up for issues down the road if the fit is not good.
Fit has two components: First, the team of people you will be working with; second, the overall company culture. Here’s what to keep in mind while you’re considering that next career move:
Team Fit – Hiring managers hire people they want to work with each day. The team is more productive and work is more enjoyable for everyone if people can work together and get along. It is not necessary to be best friends (and often best if that isn’t the case), but a successful business relationship is critical for success on the job. You want to determine your level of comfort with the hiring manager and the team you would be working with if you accept the position. If the interview goes well, and you receive an offer, it is appropriate to ask for an opportunity to meet the team if that was not already part of the interview process.
Throughout the interview process, you should be asking questions to help you assess your fit with the team and the company.
Questions for the manager:
- What is your management style?
- How do you like your team to communicate with you?
- How do you define success for this position? What measurements would be critical?
- How do you assign special projects or cross-function projects?
- Why is this position available? Is it a new position or did some leave? Where did they go?
- How long have you been in this position? With this company?
- What is the tenure of your staff members?
For the team:
- What do you like most about being on this team?
- What do you like least?
- How would you describe the manager’s management style?
- Why did you choose to join this team?
- How long have you been in your current position?
- Are the measurements for success clear?
At some point you have to rely on your gut feeling as to whether or not you would be comfortable working with this team and this manager. If it doesn’t feel right in the interview it likely won’t feel better once you are on the job.
Company Culture – One of the goals of the interview is for the candidate to gain insight into the company culture. It is also extremely valuable to use your network to gather these insights, as well. The more feedback you can collect on the culture of the company, the more informed a decision you can make. There is not necessarily a right or wrong culture, but it is important to find one that fits you and your work style. Aspects of company culture to consider:
- Where do decisions get made? Are employees empowered to make decisions or at least recommend decisions to their managers or are decisions only made at the top of the organization?
- Is the organization centralized or decentralized? Do business units work autonomously? Do all product lines receive support from a central team or does each product line have its own support team?
- Does the organization have silos? Do finance people only talk to other finance people and marketing people only talk to marketing people or is there a strong cross-functional effort? Do people work together to solve problems or are they quick to assign blame?
- Is there an emphasis on learning and development? Is it just in the handbook and on the website or is it real? Have people had opportunities to grow and expand their experiences?
- Does the company truly promote from within or simply pay lip service to the concept?
- Does every employee clearly understand how their specific job contributes to the overall goals of the company?
- Do people even know what the overall goals of the company are?
- Does the CEO sit in his office or travel all the time or is he/she seen in the various departments talking to employees?
- Is the bias to action or to in depth analysis before a decision can be made?
- Does the management team expect every decision to be perfect or are they willing to risk some wrong decisions in the name of being responsive?
- Are they open to new ideas and different ways of doing things or does the “we’ve always done it that way” approach rule?
Being in an appropriate work culture can significantly enhance your personal engagement, satisfaction and happiness. If the culture is a good fit with your personal style, you can thrive and succeed in that environment. If you are constantly in conflict with the culture, you are more susceptible to becoming frustrated and discontent.
Culture varies by company and by management style; it is not necessarily a function of size. There are large companies that are very inclusive and flexible and small companies that can be very rigid and top down. This is why it is especially important to gain perspective from people who work there.
Good questions to ask during an interview or networking meeting to assess some of the culture issues include:
- What originally attracted you to this company? Why have you chosen to stay?
- What do you like most about working for this company?
- What do you like most about your job?
- How would you describe the culture of this company? What do you value most about the culture?
- What training would typically be offered for this position?
- Are there any cross-function projects currently underway involving this department?
- What improvements have you seen in the department in the last couple years?
When you do receive an offer, say ‘thank you,’ and be sure to request time to think about it. This is a major life decision, so it is reasonable that you should take at least 24 hours to consider it carefully. It may be very helpful to prepare and review a list of pros and cons, as well.
Think about what you like most about the company and the opportunity and what concerns you the most. Do you have networking contacts to discuss the concerns and provide more insight? Talk to your spouse or significant other, your parents or other mentors.
After careful consideration, exert your independence and trust your gut. After all, it’s not only the next step in your career, but where you’ll be spending a majority of your time and energy for the immediate future, so it makes sense to choose wisely!