4 Critical Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Job Offer

Diarmuid called me all excited, he had just been offered a new role. I had coached him in the past through a messy time in his career when he was being forced out of a company. It had drained him of confidence and it took a while for him to pick up the pieces. Years moved on and he did well in his next role. Now he was calling to let me know about his latest job offer and ask some questions about his package. As we got to talk about this new role, it became clear to me that Diarmuid was about to make the same mistake he made before. I asked him some pertinent questions to which he began to waffle his way through the answers or didn’t have the answers because he hadn’t asked. We agreed to meet for a coaching session to go through everything to ensure he was making the right move. In this article, I will share the 4 critical question sets that I brought Diarmuid through which will help anyone considering their next career move.

Moving into a new role is stressful, emotional and all consuming.  Deciding to join a new employer is often a much bigger decision than moving to a new role internally. You are going to be in a fish bowl and everyone is looking at the new person in the office. Plus the stats are against you – between 40%-60% of management new-hires fail within 18 months. This happens mainly due to miscommunication and lack of clear expectations at the start of the relationship between both parties. The employer or line manager may have been surprised the new hire hasn’t lived up to expectations or the new hire has not seen their own expectations realised. Either way, it could have been avoided with greater due diligence on both sides.

From our experience, some of the key foundation stones need to be put in place early on. The 4 question sets I went through with Diarmuid were critical and needed to be addressed upfront and not after he made the move. If you don’t, one of these will most certainly be the reason your new role won’t work out.

I would encourage everyone to script the answers to these questions and have the courageous conversations upfront. Don’t assume and don’t accept a deflection. Gaining clarity will either set you up for success or indicate concerns early on. Don’t accept the first answer you receive, dig deeper. The interviewer is often only giving you their point of view which may not be the full story. It is best to ask more than one person in the interview process these questions. You will be surprised by the variance in answers you receive. I ask my coachees to frame their question under these 4 headings, so we can review what they have heard. I also encourage you to take the emotion out of answering these questions. We are inherently biased to liking people like us. This is no indicator of job success -to be managed by someone like us.

1-Context – Gain as much information as you can upfront on your new employer through internet searches, glassdoor, searching through LinkedIn profiles of people who work there or have worked there. Find out what is the current company situation, are they in growth, who are their competitors and why are they looking to hire someone like you? Who has succeeded and/or failed in this role in the past and why? What is possible from a resourcing and budget perspective in helping you achieve what you want and what is not? Following the interviews, make written notes to describe the culture and values there? What in your opinion will the CEO do and never do and what will your Line Manager do and never do?

2-Clarity – Is there agreement and clarity on your role and your boss’s role and what success looks like for you both in 3,6,12 months, 3 years? Is their clarity on how fast business goals change and the requirement to review these on a regular basis? What is their big challenge right now? How can you help solve this challenge? Do they know and understand your ways of working? Is this acceptable, do they see any challenges to how you like to work? Having reflected on this information, note where you see potential for conflict or differences of opinion. Reflect now on your own career history, what is your Achilles heel and how can you change your behaviour to make this role a success. This is a step up opportunity to make a behaviour change. What made you a success to date may not be important in this role. Clarity is key.

3-Collaboration – Have you and your boss acknowledged your different working styles? Find out their working and personality style and values important to them. Ask them to describe the best person that has ever worked for them and with them? What did they see as great about what they did and how they achieved their goals? Most Organisations include a psychometric profiling instrument as part on the interview process. It is important as part of your own development to have completed a battery of instruments to get feedback to gain greater self insight, so you are not surprised by any results as part of the process. It is also important for your interviewers to share insights and describe the team members that you will be working with if you took the job. What would they see as potential watch outs for you in your new team and other teams across the business? Think how you can influence based on what you know.

4-Coaching – It is my experience that this is a missing piece in the jigsaw. Organisations pay recruiter fees to find the right candidate and then fail to support them in their development. Managers are so busy today that the onboarding process is often rushed and needs to be improved. Ask if they offer onboarding or First 100 Day coaching to new hires to accelerate their performance. Ask about how they manage and develop talent.  Are mentors available? What does mentoring look like there? Ask to hear about examples. Thinking you can do it all on your own is the BIG Mistake. This is NOT a sign of weakness asking for coaching, it is a sign you are serious about your future performance. No High Performer succeeds without one! And lastly don’t be afraid to change coach depending on your development needs.

In Diarmuid’s case, there were just too many questions that remained unanswered when he went back to gain greater clarity on the role, scope and his ability to achieve. The previous incumbent had failed due to lack of resources and support. There was a lack of clarity in his role and while he connected very well with his new Boss-to-be, there were just too many unknowns. With a heavy heart he turned down the role. At first, he felt he had missed a chance to move as he had itchy feet and was looking for a move, when the job offer came along. He really was excited what he could achieve but, deep down, he knew he would have failed just like his successor. It was the right decision for Diarmuid in the long run. He has seen from the outside that the new hire has not worked out. As I said to him, you don’t need to take the first bus that comes along. Instead, do your due diligence, know the bus you want to take, who the driver is and where it is going and then there will be no unexpected surprises when you climb aboard!

“Select in haste, repent at leisure.” – Brian Tracey.

If you are interested in finding out about Executive, Business or High-Performance Coaching, we can arrange for one of the Harmonics Specialist team to meet with you and ask you critical questions to make our intervention a success and the right solution in the long run!

Please contact Harmonics on 01 8942616061 336136 or 021 7319604 or email

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