Hopefully most hiring managers don’t do this on purpose, but candidates frequently sign up for a job to find something completely different than they expected on day one in the office.
What are some possible reasons for this, and what can you do to reduce the risk of it happening to you?
Internal reasons: An infrastructure can change, and if key-players leave—or join—a company, this can have an impact on your future role. Strategy can be revised for whatever reason and departments can be outsourced, divisions can be closed or sold. Major investments which were approved when you were hired (and meant to be used to pay your salary) can be cut.
External reasons: The economic environment can change fast (have a look what happened out there in the last 12 months). The loss of a major client can have a huge impact on entrepreneurial decisions. Depending on where you are based or where your biggest clients or suppliers are, political factors can have an impact on strategic decisions or on how you do business together.
What can you do to reduce the risks?
1. Ask specific questions: “How will my performance be measured?” or “Which criteria will define my success or my failure?” and “How might the organisation develop over the next months and how could this affect the job?”
2. Ask general questions: “What can change from now until then?” or “What could go wrong?”
3. Do your homework: Many jobs do not have a job description, and for positions on senior level, you can’t ask for a description if you want to look credible. However, 80 per cent of what you are supposed to do should be clear in advance and clear answers should be given to your questions. If the hiring manager is not able to tell you, this is not a good sign and can be an indicator that things will change.
Surprises are mostly good for birthday parties and mostly bad in the business world. If your job content changes during the first weeks, this will almost inevitably be bad.
On the one hand, we must understand that the future is unpredictable and that in rough times, things can change fast. On the other hand, we have to take control of our careers. We don’t want to feel paranoid, but as Benjamin Franklin put it, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Do your homework and try to reduce the risks of bad surprises.