Ask The Headhunter: Don’t Take a Job Without Due Diligence

BY Paul Solman  June 25, 2013 at 2:32 PM EDT

By Nick Corcodilos

You should investigate a new job, and the various departments with which you’ll be interacting, thoroughly before accepting the offer. Photo courtesy of Stockbyte via Getty Images.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

Question: I recently started a great new job within my company in a new city. When I say “great,” I should say “great on paper.” It’s an excellent resume builder, and a bump in pay, but I’m miserable. It’s affecting my home life and keeping me up at night. My employer paid for the relocation of my family, meaning I’m on the hook for a year before I can move on without potentially having to pay them back for the transfer.

It’s been three months, and I’m willing to stick it out for a year if I have to, but when do I start looking in earnest? I find myself at home trolling job-finder sites, but I know it’s too early to start looking for the next step, right?

Nick Corcodilos: Too often, people accept a new job because it comes along, not because they pursued it or because they carefully decided it was the best thing for them. It sounds like you took this job for the wrong reasons, and without due diligence.

I realize that an internal move like this — even though it was to a new city — seems safer than jumping to a new employer altogether. But due diligence is always necessary. I’ll offer some suggestions about how to check out a company and a job before you accept it, and I think that will help you see what you need to do next as you pursue yet another job in your new location.

In the PDF book, “Fearless Job Hunting | Book 8: Play Hardball With Employers,” I offer some tips on how to avoid disaster when considering a new job. Here’s an excerpt:

Once an offer is made, you have a measure of control you didn’t have before. Politely but firmly ask to meet managers of departments that are upstream and downstream from your job. That is, departments whose output would affect your department.

For example, if you’re in sales, ask to meet the chief of engineering and the head of the shipping department. One designs and builds the products you have to sell, and the other ensures that your customers will receive what you sold them.

If you work in engineering, ask to meet the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), who funds product development, and the manager of manufacturing, because that’s where the products you design will be assembled. Find out what they think of the way “your” department operates.

(No matter what job you’ve been offered, ask to meet the sales department. In my experience, sales knows the condition of a company better than anyone — and where the skeletons are hidden.)

By talking with people who manage other areas of the company, you will learn a lot about the manager of the team that wants to hire you, and you will also learn about the integrity of the entire organization. If there are cracks in the corporate foundation, this is where you’ll see them. If you’re not permitted to meet these folks, you should reconsider the job.

Of course, there’s lots more you must do to make sure you’re managing a job transition properly, both to optimize the outcome and to minimize risk. “4 Top Answers From The Archive” addresses a few more key questions that are related to what you are asking.

“Play Hardball With Employers” provides a checklist of which people you should talk with and what information to gather to make due diligence pay off for you. It ends with a note about the cost of not doing it properly:

When a company uses a headhunter to fill a position, it expects [a high] level of due diligence to be performed on candidates the headhunter delivers. If this seems to be a bit much, consider that the fee the company pays a headhunter for all this due diligence can run upwards of $30,000 for a $100,000 position. Can you afford to do less when you’re judging your next employer?

As for when to start job hunting, if you want to leave as soon as your obligatory year is up, my answer is immediately. It’s never too early to start looking at your next step, which is one of the reasons that it takes time to check companies out carefully to avoid making a mistake.

Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark. This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown — NewsHour’s blog of news and insight.