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CHICAGO So you snagged a job offer from one of the employers youve been tangoing with for the last three months. This is a big step. Think of it as getting an interview but squared. It means they really like you.
However, the gratification we all feel when we are wanted (not to mention the prospect of getting a real paycheck if were currently unemployed) can at times overwhelm our good judgment.
Taking a job is not like going on a first date. Its like agreeing to live with someone after only two or three conversations. If it doesnt make sense for the long term, you dont want to do it.
Now that youre in the drivers seat with an offer in hand, here are 10 warning signs that the job youve just been offered may be far from the ideal situation. As much as youre itching to call your hiring manager and accept the job, check your offer against this list before you dive in.
1. No offer letter
When I said offer in hand, I meant it literally.
If the company wont give you a written offer letter, you simply cant take the job. While they can include language about at-will employment and not to be construed as a contract, no offer letter means no dice. Without the paper, you dont play. Thats that.
2. Offer letter varies from discussions
When you receive your offer letter and go over it carefully, all the details should match the verbal description of the job that you received during your interviews. Heres a checklist of items that should be covered:
- Job title
- Who you report to
- Salaried exempt or non-exempt status
- Vacation time
- Bonus (if any)
- Equity (if any)
- Special requirements (like 25 percent of travel)
If any of these vary from your understanding, get it cleared up right away and get a new offer letter. If they agreed verbally to a six-month salary review, for instance, it needs to be in the offer letter as well.
3. Key elements invented
This one is common and highly annoying. If theres anything in the offer letter that wasnt discussed with you at all, it means the hiring manager or HR person made it up (such as the salary youve been offered or your job title).
I dont care what kind of salary history you gave them. Who makes a salary offer without discussing it with the candidate first? Thats the height of presumption, and its incredibly rude.
If a company is willing to dump an offer on you with a salary that youve never heard of or suggested to them, think carefully about whether or not you want to work there at all. The same goes for your job title or any other element that wasnt discussed in an interview.
4. Big changes from beginning to end
If major changes have taken place during the interview process about the job (e.g. the reporting manager changed from one person to another, major job duties changed or the compensation structure changed more than a little), thats a huge red flag.
Sure, companies make changes on the fly and have to react to market conditions, but companies should know what they want and communicate it early in the hiring process. If your offer is for the mysterious slippery job that jumps around from group to group and cant quite be pinned down, run.
5. Unexpected offer letter
Though you may not believe me, this actually happens all the time. You interview with a company and hear nothing or you know theyre deliberating and will get back to you. All of a sudden, an offer letter arrives in the mail (or by FedEx or e-mail) that takes you completely by surprise.
This signals not only confusion in the company but disregard for basic courtesy as well.
Its like theyre telling you: We didnt bother sharing the news with you that we had decided to hire you. Because we knew youd be there waiting like a good boy if we stooped to offer you the job, we just put the offer in the mail.
Have some evil fun with this one and dont reply at all.
6. Interview process too fast
These days, job seekers know that interview processes are paaaaaaiiiiinfully slow.
If you interview on Thursday afternoon for half an hour with one guy and get an offer on Monday, beware. The position may be a revolving door or theyre just desperate because the company is hard to work for (or something else equally scary).
Respond calmly and politely to say that you werent finished with your due diligence process.
Ask to interview a few more people and see how they respond. Dont jump in and accept the offer or youll be agreeing with their demonstrated position that your data collection and decision-making process doesnt really matter.
7. You dont get to meet co-workers
If the company really wants you, you should have the opportunity to meet at least some of your prospective peers (and not just bosses).
In fact, you should have the opportunity to meet customers (if its a customer-facing gig) or talk to them by phone. These are perfectly reasonable requests. If the company is squirrelly about who can interview you, thats a danger sign. What are they afraid of?
8. Lack of access to your boss
Once you interview with the boss and he or she likes you, your boss may believe that his or her job is done. An HR person will extend the offer, youll accept it and life goes on. But wait! You are part of this negotiation, too.
If you have questions after the interview (and you should if youre serious about the opportunity), you may need access to the boss again by phone or in person. If its hard to get that access, think twice about going to this company.
Theyre supposed to be in sales mode right now. How much of your this persons time will you be likely to get once he or she is no longer trying to sell you?
9. References arent checked or bad predecessor stories
These two red flags share ninth place because theyre not absolute deal-breakers.
Even though I know better, the truth is that I myself have made offers before without checking references. The reason its bad is because when you ask the candidate to provide references, he or she is bound to prep the reference givers for your call.
Dont ask if you dont intend to check references. This is a semi-warning sign. At a similar red-flag danger level is any unpleasant folklore about predecessors in the job. Youll have to listen to the gossip and gauge for yourself.
If there is more than one recent predecessor and more than one bad story (someone got fired, cursed out the boss, left in a huff or left in tears), I wouldnt take the job.
10. Oliver Twist reaction
Here is the advice that I hope you take to heart more than anything in this list: When you get the offer, ask for something.
Ask the company to improve some part of the offer (even if its just to allow you to take one of your vacation days a month before its earned). You could try asking for $1,000 more in salary if the offer is a little low, too. It doesnt matter what it is.
Basically, youre testing how flexible they are to negotiations initiated by you (a candidate). Im not saying you have to hold out for your additional sweetening. If you dont get it, you can still take the job. Still, I am interested in how the company reacts to your counter-proposal.
If they freak out (like Mr. Bumble at the workhouse when little Oliver Twist asks for more gruel) and start talking about the other candidates in line for the job, get out of Dodge.
The key thing is not getting your way but having a friendly and gracious conversation about negotiating points. If they cant do it, consider it a valuable learning experience and make a new plan, Stan.
Run into one of these red flags? Write to us at email@example.com
with your story.
Liz Ryan is the founder of ChicWIT (Chicago Women in Technology) and founder of WorldWIT
(World Women in Technology). She can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Her column Nine2Five, which appears on ePrairie
every Friday, is designed to keep you up to date with career trends and advice related to working and managing organizations in the post-bubble technology world. This article has been syndicated on the Wisconsin Technology Network courtesy of ePrairie
, a user-driven business and technology news community distributed via the Web, the wireless Web and free daily e-mail newsletters.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.