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8 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Taking a Job

Greg de la Cruz works at NCR Corp's R&D center in the Philippines. He is interested in economic history and current world financial affairs.

Knowing that you got the job is an exciting time. It helps to be careful and carefully consider whether the job is worth taking.

Knowing that you got the job is an exciting time. It helps to be careful and carefully consider whether the job is worth taking.

It’s easy to get swept up by a job offer, especially when the compensation being pitched to you is beyond what you had expected. And you could add other reasons why you’d get excited the moment they say you’re in—they’re a well-known company (especially if it’s a FAANG), unlimited time off, stock options, perhaps a company car, work-from-home “forever” and more.

As great as the feeling might be and as convenient it is to say yes, I’ll take the job; try to temper your excitement once the rush wears off. There are a host of reasons why people leave their well-paid jobs at the FAANG companies or from other prominent brands. This means that as great the situation may become for a worker, no matter how good the pay is or how prestigious the job may become, there are still reasons to leave. And this means that before taking a job offer, it helps to carefully consider what it is that you are getting into. Here are eight things you should ask yourself before taking a job.

1. How Much Time Will the Job Demand?

This can be a very difficult and complex question to ask yourself, and your answer may end up becoming wrong and outdated. You may already have some idea of your work hours through the job description and from the application process, and especially after the interview—but your expectation of it may still come to betray you.

Maybe if you’re filling a position within a 24-by-7 operation—maybe then, the answer would be straightforward because you’ll simply be putting the work in and be able to clock out until your reliever clocks in. But in most of the white-collar jobs now, it’s hard to assess what the actual work hours really are unless you understand the company’s work culture better.

For instance, in a previous job of mine, the company was already implementing a hybrid model for higher-ranking employees (this was before any hint of a global pandemic), and the early sense I got was that you could just put in your eight hours a day and leave.

It turned out that the company was more forward-thinking than most—as long as you put in your 40 hours a week (it didn’t matter how you did it, as long as you delivered results and was present for meetings), you were fine—some put in 12 hours on a Wednesday and then 4 hours on a Friday. The company was cool about work hours, and I’m always thankful that I got to work there.

2. What Is the Company Hiding From Me?

This is a question that I should’ve asked myself before accepting each of all my previous job offers but never got to, and it’s an extremely important one. The answer to this question has always been a simple two words—a lot. And it’s easy to understand why potential employers will deliberately hide things from you pertaining to the job they’re offering you.

First of all, they don’t want to scare you off. Second of all, they’re not obligated to tell you everything. Basically, they’re only required to tell you that you’ll be in a safe working environment, that they will be able to pay you what they’re offering, and other information that’s statutorily required for them to disclose. But information specific to your job? They can be hesitant to reveal that much.

In a previous employer of mine, it turned out that I was filling a position for a new site, which would make the person working for the other soon-to-be-decommissioned site out of a job. That never felt great, and I felt guilty for a while even though I didn’t do anything wrong.

The bottom line is this—try to understand as much as possible what the position you are being offered to fill is really about. What are the strings attached? If there was someone before you in that job, why did they leave? You can ask these questions during the job offer, and it can come across as a bit nosy, so try to be subtle and phrase your questions carefully.

3. Where Do I Fit in With the Organization?

I’ve worked for companies of different sizes—startup, about-to-get-big, and global. And what I’ve learned is that how the company’s org structure is laid out will tell you where you fit in (if it isn’t obvious enough). In a startup, it can be very easy to reach the highest of management, and you’ll be able to see these leaders more than once in a given workweek.

In an about-to-get-big (medium-sized) organization, the key leaders of a company are still visible and reachable, but they usually have better things to do than hang around the operations floor and offices. They’re usually out of town in efforts to expand the business, but then if you’re part of management, you will still hear from them through meetings and communications.

Lastly, in big, global companies, the layer-of-leadership (LOL) can sometimes become so thick that you may tend to perceive your existence in the company and the work you do to be insignificant.

So, where do you think you will fit in inside the organization once you sign on? This is a very important question to ask yourself because comfy senior employees in the FAANG companies tend to leave because they’re tired of the size of the organization—tired because, in very large companies, things can move very slowly. In contrast, startups almost always tend to abide by the philosophy of move fast, break things—and so, if you’re the type of person who’s exhausted by multiple LOLs, think carefully before accepting a job offer coming from an established company.

4. How Heavy Will My Responsibilities Actually Be?

Similar to the first question on this list, judging just heavy your workload and responsibilities will turn out to be is a complex thought experiment. Because, I’ll say it like I said on the first question—your answer to this question can end up becoming very wrong and outdated. Wrong, because not everything about your job is fully disclosed on the job posting nor revealed during the interviews. And outdated, because the amount of responsibility you have tends to change, and, to use an engineering term—is directly proportional to the amount of trust your employer has of you.

At first, it might seem that your responsibilities fit perfectly with the amount of salary you take in. But then, as you evolve, as you deliver most of your promises and execute your job beautifully, your boss will start to think that you can do more. Such is the paradox of the top performer—the higher the achievements, the heavier the workload.

In sum, before you decide to take a job offer, try to assess not just the responsibilities they say you’ll take on, but fast-forward into a future version of you in that role—will you still have the time and bandwidth to take care of your life?

5. Will I Get a Better Offer Elsewhere?

Ask yourself this question not just because you’re in the hunt for more cash but also for the purpose of gauging how the market values a person with your skillset. Sure, it can be convenient to just check out sites like Glassdoor and Indeed to see just how much a person with your skills and experience would make, but it’s also important to make that assessment yourself. Making this assessment will give you an edge in negotiating salary (if that’s available to you) and it will help you instantly see if the company making the offer is lowballing you.

6. What Is the Work Culture Really Like?

This is another very important question I never got to ask myself because, in all of my previous job searches, I became a bit too desperate just to land a job. But that’s not to say that I didn’t decline any offers because later in my career, I learned not to take a very low offer, even if it meant another couple of weeks burning through my savings account.

Before you get too desperate—do consider asking yourself the question, “what is the culture of work at the company I’m applying to?” This is highly important to ask yourself because once you’re in, that work culture will come for you like a tidal wave.

If it’s a culture where your co-workers are encouraging, supportive of your efforts, kind enough to block off a portion of their time to help you with something—then you’ve landed the jackpot. But if it’s a culture where people one-up each other, where everyone jostles for attention during meetings—then think twice before accepting the offer.

But how will you know about the work culture of the company? The reviews at Glassdoor, Indeed, and JobStreet can be helpful (though these are filled with spiteful ones) but one of the best ways is to use your network to your advantage and find out through the people who already work there. This is also why hiring on through referrals is good—because it shows that your friend or acquaintance feels good enough about the company that he’s confident that you’ll like it there, too.

7. Is the Company Notorious for Micromanagement?

Micromanagement has always been an issue, and it continues to be a very hot issue to this day. Because let’s face it—the coronavirus pandemic brought flexible work arrangements into the mainstream. And along with flexibility, it also brought in employers who wanted to know everything that their employees were doing at any given time.

It’s naïve to say that your company completely trusts you to do the work you’re paid to do—and in most cases, it knows right away when you are slacking off. The work tools that are available and are being used by companies with remote work setups most of the time have capabilities to track employee activity—are you tapping away at your keyboard, or are you using official work hours to do your laundry?

In sum, before you take the job, try to find out if your prospective employer is notorious for micromanagement. Because it might be the reason why others have left, and the reason why you’re about to have a job there in the first place.

8. What State Is the Company in?

This is where wide research about the company becomes important. Some don’t even look the company up until a day before the interview—don’t be them. Even if the recruiter or hiring manager would reassure you that you are signing onto a long-term role with “lots of room for career growth,” that may not be the case, especially if the company is under financial ruin.

This type of situation kind of reminds me of Lehman Brothers when it failed in 2008. Could you imagine being a new hire that week? One day you’re positively overwhelmed by an outstanding onboarding orientation, and the next day you see employees packing the things on their desk into cardboard boxes.

Knowing the state that the company is in before taking the job is crucial because in some unfortunate cases, you might just be a tool in their state of transition, and they won’t care at all what happens to you once they get to the other side.

Bottom Line: Be a Little Bit Skeptical

As I’ve said in the first part of this article, job offers are exciting occurrences. They’re almost as heavily romanticized in movies as in becoming engaged to someone, having a baby, getting married, or getting into Harvard. Job offers can blind you with positive energy—so make sure you try to stay grounded.

I’m an enemy of pessimism because I always try to stay positive no matter what—but that doesn’t mean I’m never skeptical. As you grow older as a worker, you naturally become more skeptical. I hope this article helps you to be at least a little bit more skeptical in your job searches. Thanks for reading.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.