Before You Accept That Next Job

At weddings, couples promise “till death do us part.” They have no idea what it will be like to be married ten or twenty years down the road, but hopefully, they have carefully evaluated their spouse-to-be. They’ve seen each other in good times and bad, they like many of the same things, and their partner seems reasonably sane. So, they roll the dice and hope for the best.

But too often, we job applicants don’t do our due diligence. When offered a job, we just ask, “When do I start?” The employer checks out our references, but we don’t do our due diligence to see what we’re getting into. Sometimes, it works out just fine–but often it doesn’t. Of course, you can’t know for sure what it will be like working there until you start, but you can greatly improve your chances of making a good decision. 

But how can you do due diligence before saying, “I do,” to an employer?


When doing your networking, you might find out what the competition thinks of this company. When I lose a potential client to another company, I sometimes think, “OK, that coach will take good care of him/her.” But other times, I’m thinking, “That place is just going to rip him/her off.” Find out what competitors know about your prospective employer.

You might also look up former employees and have a discussion. What was it like to work there? What do they think of the person I’ll report to? Even if the company is great, a bad boss can make your life miserable. 

Ask to Speak to Co-workers

Talk to current employees. When one of our clients was offered a job, she asked to speak to a co-worker before accepting. The boss agreed and asked a woman named Sally to speak to her. When they were alone, Sally said, “This place is horrible! Don’t even think about taking this job!” 

Research the Company Online

Besides looking at their website and seeing if the company has been in the news, you might look at the website to read reviews written by past and current employees.  

A while back, a client came to meet with me, bubbling with excitement. She told me she’d scheduled a job interview, and wondered if I’d ever heard of the company. Since I hadn’t, I looked up the company on Glassdoor. Over a dozen employees or former employees had posted extremely negative comments: 

--“Most unethical and incompetent management I’ve ever seen.” 

 --“The CEO is a crook!” 

--“Worst professional decision I ever made was taking a job at this company.” 

My client cancelled the interview. 

Ask Probing Questions During the Job Interview Process

Be sure to ask good questions during the job interview, including questions about expectations. An employer’s unrealistic expectations may set you up for failure.

Here’s how one woman got fired

This woman interviewed with a family business to take over a role formerly performed by the owners. After a short time, she came to realize the owners had badly mismanaged the function. She also learned they were expecting that she would make everything right inside of a few months—an impossible task! When the owners found that she could neither walk on water nor turn it into wine, they fired her. 

She had been set up to fail. She had done nothing wrong--EXCEPT for two things in the interview: 

  1. She didn't gather enough information about the current state of her function.
  2. She didn't get clarity about their expectations.

Had she done these things, she might have declined the job: “Thank you very much, but I’m going to keep looking.” 

Or she could have set it up to win. One strategy is to lower their expectations. She might have said, “Well, here’s what I think we could get done in the first six months.”


“I can get that done in six months, but I’m going to need an assistant and a budget of $X,000 to accomplish this to your satisfaction.”

Either way, she avoids the unpleasantness of getting fired for something that wasn’t her fault.

An Employer with a Bad Reputation

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, I wanted to work in the State Legislature. As it was just down the street from campus, I hopped on my bike and went to the Capitol building to see how to apply. I learned that all 132 legislators hired their own staff. There was no central HR office. I also learned that there was a powerful grapevine and words of openings spread quickly. I learned to make myself visible and keep in touch with staff people I had met. I soon got hired and worked there for over three years.

The point of the story is that in all that time, only one job was ever advertised. It was with a legislator who had a reputation as a screamer who mistreated staff. Since no one who knew him or his reputation would work for him, he had to find “new blood”–some poor, unsuspecting person who didn’t know what an awful boss he was. 

I should mention that we sometimes find ourselves desperately in need of work, and need to grab onto a job—any job. If that’s you, grab that first job offer, and if appropriate, keep on looking to find the job that’s right. 

Trust Your Instincts

A friend was once in a spot where she desperately needed work. She applied at one company, then called to follow up. The hiring manager was extremely unfriendly and said, “If I want to talk to you, I will call.” Then, when she got the job offer, the hiring manager said, “The salary is (very low number), and if that’s not enough for you, we can just stop talking.” Her instincts screamed that she should tell this man to take a hike, but since she was desperate, she accepted. The hiring manager’s behavior never improved and she soon left.

Before you take that job, do your due diligence. It’s not as serious a commitment as marriage, but taking the wrong job can hurt your career and greatly impact your personal life and mental health. 

Want to discuss your situation? Send a note via our contact form: or call. 

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