Psychiatrist Sigmund Freud once said, “all behavior has meaning.” I wish I had kept that little nugget in mind as I once flew to an interview with the CEO of a large media company.
After coordinating dates and times for our meeting, the CEO sent me this email;
“There is a non stop Southwest flight that leaves Portland at 1010am and arrives at 1215p. Grab at bite at the airport when you get in and then cab it over. I think you could make it back on a non stop at 755p.”
So what do you think it means when the CEO of a large company is personally searching flights so he can dictate my itinerary? They have people for that, right? I am not a genius, but I know my way around Kayak.com.
I took the job and discovered that that the guy was a nuclear-level control freak focused on small issues while big fires consumed the company. Duh. I should have picked up on that from one email. The interview was full of red flags like that that I ignored, much to my later dismay.
You may be going through job interviews yourself and you may have to decide on whether or not to accept an offer. Assuming that the job is in line with your chosen career path, the money is ok and you like life in that role, here are some things to noodle on before signing on the dotted line.
Dig up dirt.
They are going to check your references, credit, criminal records, college transcripts and social media, so do the same to them. For instance, Google the company name along with the word “layoffs” and if the first page of results is full of recent stories it is a sign that future layoff stories may involve you. Study their profitability, how much debt they have and if they are investing in their product with research, marketing and innovation.
Don’t stop at the company. Vet your future bosses too. Creep their personal LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Seek out people who have worked directly with them in the past and ask them to share their experience with you confidentially.
Interact with the team.
They say “if you want to know a person, look at their friends,” and the same principle applies to companies and employees. Ask to spend time with everyone that you’ll be working with, and a few people outside of your department too.
Have informal conversations and ask questions. Do you get the feeling that these are respectable players that you can learn from might enjoy being around? If you find yourself wondering “how did these meatheads get hired?” remember that the person who did the hiring is your future boss, and may also be a meathead.
Trust your gut.
For another job interview, the operations manager took me to a touristy Italian restaurant where we were the only diners at 7 PM on a Wednesday. (“We have trade here,” he chuckled.) The station manager arrived 20 minutes late, without apology. No one ordered wine but me and there were no laughs or personal details shared in a very long two hours. Like the interview, the job turned out to be zero fun and the managers were as disrespectful as they were cheap.
Compare that to my interview at Entercom in Portland, where operations manager Clark Ryan took me out for several pints at a rooftop sports bar and I met the leadership team in a waterfront restaurant that we had to be shooed out of hours later at closing time.
It was a compelling conversation. They made me laugh and I felt elevated and appreciated. Like the interview, the job was a much more positive experience.
Accepting a job offer is the first step on an important journey. Before taking that step the trick is determining whether you might be stepping onto the up escalator or stepping off the edge of a steep cliff. No decision is foolproof, but if you have given some careful thought to these three points, congratulations on accepting your new job – or not.