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How to do your due diligence before accepting a job offer

Article originally published by the Philadelphia Business Journal on October 25, 2021.

When searching for a new position, what are the factors you should consider when evaluating a potential employer? 

A recent Inc. magazine article identifies five questions that you should ask about any company that you are considering for employment:

  • Does the company suffer high CEO turnover?
  • Is the company’s financial position getting shakier?
  • Is the company growing more slowly than its markets?
  • Does the company struggle to get and keep customers?
  • Is the company unable to attract and retain top talent?

I would add five additional areas that you should explore:

 

What are the company’s growth plans?

How will the company grow? Growth, whether driven organically or through acquisition, creates future promotional opportunities so employees can take on new challenges and develop additional skills. 

Without growth, high-performing employees will leave, depriving the company of talent. Employees will have less opportunities to get out of their comfort zones and personally develop.

What is the tone at the top set by the CEO?

Tone at the top is the ethical compass of the company. If the CEO’s tone is not right, some employees will think it’s acceptable to take unethical actions to achieve financial or other goals. 

Consider the legal and reputational damage at Wells Fargo and Volkswagen as examples of companies where the CEO and the senior leadership teams set the wrong tone at the top. Wells Fargo committed fraud by opening unapproved customer accounts to meet bonus targets, and Volkswagen committed fraud to permit their diesel cars to meet emission standards. 

What is the tone at the top regarding customers? Does the company strive to provide a great customer experience? As CEO, my tone at the top included assisting our customers to be successful in their respective businesses. This helped us become the preferred provider to our markets and gain market share.

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What is the company’s culture?

Culture reflects how employees within the organization deal with each other. Do employees trust the senior management team and one another, or does the company operate a cutthroat culture with little collaboration among employees? Trust is built on honesty, ethics and integrity. Without trust, you can’t build a high-performance team. 

An important element of the culture at many companies is to create a sense of ownership in employees by empowering them to make decisions within a scope of authority that is as broad as possible. Leading companies encourage employees at every level to pursue continuous improvement initiatives that enrich their job and enhance the company’s competitiveness. Is the culture focused on employee empowerment and continuous improvement?

What is the reputation of the hiring manager?

Does the manager you would report to view mistakes and failure as learning experiences? Albert Einstein once said, “If you have never failed, you have never tried anything new.” Does the manager micromanage, or do they communicate expectations and cut their direct reports loose to do their thing?

Are toxic employees tolerated?

Toxic employees, whether they are managers or individual contributors, are destructive to any organization. I used to work for a toxic senior executive who created a terrible working environment that stifled the growth of his division. I was promoted to be his peer and three years later promoted again to be his boss. I then fired him. His replacement turned the division around and it started to grow again. I always wondered why he wasn’t replaced earlier. 

So, how do you go about doing due diligence on a company? In addition to asking questions at your interview, speak with current and former employees from your network and read about what is said about the company in the press and on social media. Read what their competitors and customers say about them. Read the company’s publications. You can never do enough due diligence on a company you may consider joining.

 

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.

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