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Spot a bad job before you take it

Listen to your gut when it comes to prospective employers

Oct. 15, 2013 - 04:13PM   |  
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Jenny learned the hard way whom to work for — or not.

She had an interview with a newly hatched startup that acted like a clumsy and disorganized mess. First, they flew her across country to meet but decided not to hire her because of something she said that had been misconstrued.

When she explained that that wasn’t at all what she said, they flew her back for a second interview, where she discovered she was scheduled to meet the same person.

“Somehow they didn’t know he’d interviewed me already,” she said. “I should have taken it as a sign that they weren’t the most efficient administrators.”

But she got the offer and packed up and moved herself and her family — and the company went out of business within 18 months.

Now another opportunity has come knocking. This time, she’s paying closer attention.

A few weeks after filing her application, she met with senior executives. Weeks later someone called asking about salary expectations, and she responded. This is where it gets good.

Next thing she knows she gets an email saying, “Here are the forms we’d like you to bring to work on your first day.”

“Are you offering me the job?” she wrote back. Response: “No, we got ahead of ourselves. There will be an offer.”

But none came.

A second email asking about salary did come, and she reminded them she’d already sent it. They wrote: “We’ll get back to you.” She was offered the job. When she asked to speak with someone to learn more about the job and her potential boss, she was told that was not possible. And that if she didn’t accept right then and there, the offer was off the table. She turned it down.

It goes without saying that before you make a move, you evaluate the obvious: What’s the job exactly? What are the duties and expectations? Who’s your boss? What’s the culture, financial health and reputation of the firm?

But just as important, and a notion many people dismiss, is how prospective employers treat you. And as a result, how do you feel about them?

Companies are looking at this when it comes to you. They’re noticing how you treat them and how that strikes them. They’re also concluding: If you act like this now, you’ll act like this on the job.

So if you’re careless with correspondence and follow-up, they’re likely thinking you’ll be careless on the job. Act immature and unprofessional, they’ll probably conclude you’ll act that way at work. Can’t show up on time or follow up? You won’t be reliable on the job, either.

If you get annoyed when they ask questions, they’ll figure you’ll be difficult to deal with at work. If you threaten or demand, they’ll conclude you’ll treat them and their clients or customers the same way. Come to interviews full of excuses about why something happened at past jobs, and they’ll likely decide you’ll be full of excuses about why your work isn’t done.

So turn the tables. If they’re callous and careless with you in the interview process, odds are they’ll treat you that way on the job.

If their procedures are disorganized and clunky and they aren’t reliable about following up, it’s likely that’s how they conduct business.

If they get annoyed with your questions, they’ll probably be difficult to deal with on the job, too.

Sometimes the signs aren’t there, but most of the time they are. Way too many people go off into the new job wilderness not paying attention to those signs and wishing later they had.

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