The importance of doing career due diligence

A little research and a few hints are plenty when you’re looking for your next job.

Geoff Wilson

Picture it: You’re thinking about joining a new organization. You just so happen to know a few people with very solid inside knowledge of the organization. One of them gives you this pearl: “On a scale of 1 to 10, the leadership team you would join is a solid 8—but the leader is a 4.”

What would you do? You might say “8, wow. That’s pretty good. I could do much worse.” Or you might say “Ugh, a leader who’s a 4. Back to the drawing board.”

Here’s what I’d tell you …

KEEP SHOPPING!

Any leader who has engendered enough bad will to have innocent observers rate them a 4 probably deserves elimination from your solution set. Of course, I write this with the assumption that you have other options; if you’re desperate, take your chances with a bad leader. After all, bad leaders deserve to have teams of desperate people.

Why does this matter to your career? Because a little due diligence is a good thing.

I’m actually wary of people who take jobs without asking questions. Like, really wary. Scary wary. Why? Because a person who will take a job with you without a question asked is probably just looking for a job. And you know what? There are lots of jobs out there.

People with purpose ask questions that relate to their purposes. I’ve had people ask questions about firm strategy, the career path, and even faith in the workplace. None of them were off-putting; these people showed sincere curiosity about where their own skills, purposes, and beliefs fit. But people without purpose just ask for offers; they don’t do any due diligence.

And those candidates deserve no offers when it comes to professional roles. “Ouch,” you might say. “What about junior people who don’t know any better?” Yep, they get a pass. But anyone who’s been around the block even once should know better.

I know of an executive who left a role with a firm after years within it, and the particular role he left was open and advertised for months and months. He constituted what I would consider a juicy due diligence target. Why? Well, he was there for all the world to see, regardless of what he could or couldn’t say about the role. He did, in fact, receive dozens of calls about the role and the organization. While I’m not sure how he talked about the role to those who were interested, I do know one thing: The person who actually took the role never called him. That would be a glaring red flag for me if I were filling the role. It says a lot about the depth of curiosity of the person who took the role, doesn’t it?

It’s not a sin to ask questions about a role that might be offered to you. And if you encounter resistance from your potential future organization when you do ask questions … run away! Any team that questions your motives for doing due diligence on them, particularly if you’re a very senior executive, doesn’t deserve to attract top talent.

Go ahead and look them in the mouths. Gift horses, they ain’t.

What do you think? Have you ever encountered resistance from an organization when you asked about it during an interview cycle? 

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