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Companies vet you. Do you vet them?

September 4, 2008

A job offer is like a dream come true. You worked hard for the interview. You toast and celebrate the acceptance with your friends. You show up at the new office with bated breath and new anticipation. New desk, new computer, new view out the window. Sweet.

Fast forward 2 years later. There you are, cursing and swearing. You hate the boss. You hate your colleagues. You wish you never joined these bunch of wackos.

What happened?

You fell out of love. Along the way you might have turned to self-help books to cope. How to deal with difficult people. How to avoid the 10 mistakes. How to think positively. Well, none of them worked did they.

Think back to the day when you accepted the offer. See how you broke out into cheer, jumped into the river and then panicked when you saw the alligators coming. In fact, you didn’t even know they were there until one bit you. Did it ever occur to anyone to scan the area first before you jumped? Did you know that prevention is better than cure works on jobs too?

And that’s exactly what I’m going to recommend. When you get a job offer, please reserve the celebrations till after you’ve done your homework.

Here’s the homework. You look at 3 things. First, the position they offer. Why did the previous guy leave? Second, the ceo. What sort of leader is he? The company culture (i.e. how people behave) is often a direct reflection of his personality. Third and most important, your new immediate boss. What sort of leader is he or she?

If you can’t find answers to the ceo or the guy you’re replacing, just vet your imediate boss. That’s good enough. The reason is simple. If the company is full of crocodiles and if you are protected by the biggest crocodile of all (your immediate boss), then life is still bearable. But just so you know, even big crocodiles migrate to bigger rivers and leave you stranded. That’s a risk you’ll have to take.

Having managed talent before, I know that companies will vet you before they give you an offer. That’s why we ask for references in your CV. Well, you have every right to vet them too. And I say you should. Your advantage is companies leave bigger tracks for you to find. Blogs and forums should make vetting a little easier.

One last point. Some of you might think beggars cant be choosers. You might even think you could go in and change the system to your liking. Or who knows, there might be a change in management. Yes it may happen. Or it may not. But here’s the thing. No matter how the pieces move, you can’t escape one fact. The number of unhappy employees out there far outnumber happy employees. If I was a betting man, I would bet on choosing the right battlefield to fight rather than go in hoping the enemy would somehow change his mind.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 4, 2008 11:04 am

    Damien, I find your posts really useful. hahaha.
    Hmm, below are my comments.

    1- people tend to find reasons to celebrate, to be happy. so getting a new job with a better pay…and MAYBE a better prospect..that’s a good enough reason to celebrate. The “cursing” will come later ๐Ÿ˜‰

    2- people are NEVER satisfied. you can ask 10 juniors with RM 10k pay a month, and 9 of them would tell u they are underpaid. And maybe that’s why there are more unhappy folks out there. ๐Ÿ˜€

    3- if one is going to attend interview…look at the office, the people inside, their facial expression, etc. Also, be yourself in front of the interviewer. Be honest, so that he will hire u for who u r, and u’ll agree to work under him for who he is. If he’s an idiot, or looks SUPER DUPER STRESSED UP (like the guy who interviewed me before….cigar smokes n caffeine smell all over…messy hair…untidy shirt….i think he din sleep for few days already)….then maybe it’s better not to join the company.

    4- ask if anyone has left the company u r planning to join…and find out why are they leaving. Ask, if possible, more than one person.

  2. September 4, 2008 1:05 pm

    You are right in a lot of ways, Damien. But then again, remember there are also new companies doing new hirings so it’ll be a little bit difficult to vet both company and owner/boss/ceo/director. Referring to my post yesterday, I didn’t vet my boss because it was a new company and the boss have been in Penang for over 10 years. So really nothing to vet. Lucky for me the boss turned out great and I’ve been with the company ever since…looong time. I’m happy, just not content in some ways. Like you said, I’ve somewhat fallen out of love for this job. In short, I need change! ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. Damien permalink*
    September 4, 2008 1:49 pm

    @alvin, thanks. You wrote some great pointers yourself. Yes everyone likes hope so whenever we get new hope we celebrate. Whether it translates into real happiness is another story but that’s humans. We would choose an uncertain future with hope any day than a certain future without hope, even if its out of the frying pan and into the fire… ๐Ÿ™‚

    @dee, the company may be new but the ceo and directors are not. 10 years in Penang will leave enough of a track record to check up on, if you know where to look. You brought up a good point – startups. They have no track record and no ex-employees. Even if the crew is experienced and top notch, venturing pioneers can be ‘killed’ by all sorts of things not related to the staff, like poor funding. So its a risk you take. Still, the captains of the new boat must come from somewhere and if you can find where, you can vet.

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