By Denene Brox
All job hunters are waiting for that call -- the one that says they've landed the job. But as eager as you may be to escape either your current job or the unemployment ranks, don't abdicate your power position once the offer comes in. Now it's your turn to sit in the interviewer's seat and ask the company and yourself some tough questions -- the answers to which could mean the difference between career bliss and disaster.
Julie Jansen, author of I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This, says every job seeker should get the answers to these five questions to make sure the job is a good fit all around:
1. Will the actual work and job responsibilities provide gratification, fulfillment and challenge?
This question is often overlooked, because applicants get hung up on job titles, salary and benefits. Try to get a clear sense of what an actual day would be like. What will you spend the majority of your time doing? Is the work in line with your values? Will you likely learn this job quickly and become bored and unchallenged?
Diane Speros, who works in publishing, wishes she'd known how she'd spend her days before she took one early-career job. "All of my time was spent on my boss's personal errands," she says. "This was the 'administrative work.' I never asked how my time would really be split."
2. What are the boss's strengths and weaknesses?
This question can be tough to answer, and it's best saved for after the job offer has been extended. You'll want to get a good idea for your potential boss's management style. Speak to your potential boss as much as possible to get a feel for his personality and what you can live with. Does he micromanage? Will you get consistent feedback and reviews? Does he make small talk, or is every conversation strictly business?
3. How much change is in the works at your prospective company, and what kind?
Constant change at work can mean constant stress. Find out if there are any big changes coming, such as new processing systems or management, impending retirements or adoption of new procedures that still need to be ironed out. At the same time, remember that some of these transitions will have less effect on your position than others.
4. Which of my skills and experiences will I be able to use, and what will I learn?
Make sure your unique skills and talents will be used and that training and promotion are open in the future. When you decide to move on, you'll want to have a new crop of experiences to sell to your next employer. Your goal is to perform well at work while constantly growing and learning
5. How many people have held the position in the past several years?
Knowing how many people have been in your job and why they left can offer you great insights. You'll want to know if they were promoted or quit altogether. A steady stream of resignations may be a sign you could be reentering the job market soon.
"Five people held that job in one year before I came along," Speros says of her early-career job. "All the others quit within two weeks, as did my successor, whom I trained. I quit after two months and nearly had a nervous breakdown before I left."
While many of the reasons positions eventually become unfulfilling are unavoidable, such as hitting a plateau after repeatedly performing the same duties, job seekers should consider the ways a new position will advance them.
"It's normal to eventually become dissatisfied in any job for a variety of reasons," Jansen says. "What's important is to face it, understand the root of the dissatisfaction and do something about it."