Searching for a job is, objectively, the absolute worst. Not only is it time-consuming , stressful, and exhausting, but it’s also a difficult process: marketing yourself, scouring job boards, networking, tailoring cover letters and resumes, and interviewing for weeks — or months — with no end in sight. The longer you hunt, the more tempting it might be to snatch up one of the first offers that comes your way, but is that always the best choice?
But before jumping to say saying “yes,” to any opportunity that allows you to end your suffering, take a breath and do some research. Make a well-informed decision, or you may end up stressed, dissatisfied, and eager to quit...and then back in the search. So whatever your musts — opportunity for growth, high salary, flexibility, or company culture — make sure you feel confident you’re joining a company where you can succeed.
Here are 3 key areas to investigate, er, consider before you accept an offer.
The Manager Style and Expectations
A manager can make or break your in-office satisfaction. Before accepting an offer, make sure you speak with your prospective manager. Choosing the right manager is just as important as choosing the right company; don’t forget that.
Ask the manager very specific questions, including:
- What type of employee is the most successful within the department/team?
- What expectations do you set for your employees?
- How many people report to you?
- How often do you give performance reviews?
These questions will help you figure out what the manager is like and if there’s room for growth within the department. This is key, because one department might work differently than another.
Read online reviews for employee insights ( especially female-focused reviews ), and speak with the employees who work for your prospective manager. Ask them about the manager’s expectations, how often they check in with employees, and whether they’re more hands-on or removed.
Early in your career, you may be looking for an active manager who can act as a mentor, but once you’ve got a few solid years under your belt, you might want a manager who will give you the freedom to work on your own. Make sure the manager’s management style aligns with your needs as an employee.
The Team Dynamic
Turns out, how you feel about your colleagues is hugely important, according to data at InHerSight that shows it’s one of the top drivers of satisfaction at work. If you’ve had difficult coworkers before, you know how draining it can be. You may not have a chance to meet every member of the team or department before accepting or declining an offer, but the interviewer should be able to tell you what the dynamic and team members are like.
Here are some questions worth asking:
- How often would I collaborate with the members of the team or department?
- Whom would I work with most often?
- How would you describe the personality type of the average employee?
- What challenges do the team or department face?
The last question is telling for two reasons: it helps you understand what role you’re filling within the department, and it gives you a little insight into the team’s expectations.
Another question to consider asking:
- Where would my workspace be?
This may seem like an odd question, but depending on the role and your individual work habits, you may want to know upfront if you’ll be sitting in a cubicle beside the interns of if you’ll have your own office — or if you’ll be working in an open-floor plan surrounded by members of the same department. If it doesn’t matter to you, don’t ask.
The Company Culture
Included in a company’s culture are the company’s beliefs, behaviors, mission, and environment. Some companies practice “casual Fridays.” Some have cubicles for a more private work environment, and others have wide-open spaces to foster collaboration and socialization. Some provide benefits like unlimited coffee, free meals, in-office gyms, on-staff baristas, and/or laptops to be used remotely. I have visited offices that have bean bags, nap pods, and pool tables.
A company’s culture may or may not fit with your style. Personally, I don’t want to work at a company that celebrates Happy Hour every evening or expects me to stay late, even if the meals are free. For some, this offers a built-in social connection. For others, this might cause additional, and unnecessary, stress.
To get a better sense of the culture, ask the following:
- What is the company culture like?
- What are the typical hours? Are there office perks?
- How often do you hold after-work events?
- Are there company-specific rules set in place?
- Are promotions celebrated?
You don’t have to ask all of these questions. Ask the ones that pertain to you and will help you make your final decision.
Still Not Sure?
Every time I interview, I ask the same question of the interviewer: What’s your favorite part of the job? This may or may not answer some of my questions, but it always tells me something I didn’t know before I walked in. Sometimes, I ask how long they’ve been with the company just to see their reaction (often, I look this up before the interview). If, after eight years with the company, they seem genuinely happy, that’s an excellent sign.
Before deciding, make a list of your must-haves and see what aligns. If you can rank them, even better. My top three must-haves include a good manager, flexibility, and opportunity for growth. If you feel pressured, you can ask for more time , but be respectful of the company’s timeline, especially if they are looking to fill the role ASAP. Whatever you decide, remember: you’re not alone in the struggle of job hunting.
By Sarah Sheppard
Sarah Sheppard is a professional writer and editor. She worked as a senior manager at an independent publisher in Boston, earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, and currently resides in the Midwest. She is working on her first novel. You can find her at sarahsheppardwriter.com , @writershep on Twitter, and @sarahsheppardwriter on Instagram