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Asking the WHY Questions

March 24, 2011
by Tim Tolan
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Make sure you really want to join the organization you claim you want to work for

Here’s a job/career tip the next time you are interviewing for a new position: Before you start thinking about an offer, you should do some soul searching. Make sure you really want to join the organization you claim you want to work for. Trust your instincts – but verify it’s not your emotions driving your decision.

Ask yourself the following WHY questions and try to answer each one as honestly as you can. After all, it’s your life and your decision, and it's you who will have to live with the uh-oh consequences after the fact.

· WHY is this company the right organization for you? List three or four solid reasons why you want to work for the organization you are interviewing with. Is it just about the paycheck, or do you like the culture, the leadership or the chance to do things you’ve never done before? Be sure you know you're joining up without emotion and based on really good reasons. Please check all of the boxes before you go ALL IN.

· WHY is this decision a smart career move for you? Are you scaling your skills or learning a completely different skill by accepting this job? Make sure you understand all of the reasons that make this move the right one right now, and list three or four good reasons as to how your career will grow as a result of the decision to move forward.

· WHY do you like the people? This one is really important – I mean, who wants to wake up every day and go to work for a jerk? But how do you know what it will be like to work for this new manager once the dust has settled? I recommend meeting the new boss one-on-one before you declare your intentions in a non-interview setting. Lunch or coffee one morning in a neutral setting always works. Now that the interviews are over, get to know this individual as a person. Talk to others in the company and ask the tough questions about the hiring manager’s style. Their honest answers will surprise you if you ask the right questions.

· WHY is the organization's culture appealing to you? Do you know? This very important question is probably one of the toughest to gauge. Again, you have to ask a lot of questions. I like candidates to ask one simple question to a potential hiring manager: What’s it like to work for you? Their answer should speak volumes about what you should expect. Then again, this is another example where you need others to help bifurcate their story. How does the company incentivize employees to become successful? Is there real camaraderie with the troops? Ultimately, are people having fun working there and do they like coming to work every day?

Once you get through the WHY questions, is the compensation package a fair value exchange for what you have to offer? Nobody wants to leave money on the table – ever. When evaluating the compensation, step back for a minute and make sure you're looking at the entire package. That includes base, incentive compensation, equity and their benefit package. What’s the upside, and how much of it can you control?

Too many candidates start and stop looking at a new opportunity using the base salary ONLY - a bad move and potentially a huge mistake. There are too many other important questions to ask.

So let me ask you again: WHY?

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Tim Tolan

Senior Partner, Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice

@@TimTolan

http://sanfordrose.net/thetolangroup/

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