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In this economy, if you’re good, you’ve got options. Recruiters are working hard to convince you that their company is the perfect place for you to learn and grow. They’ve shared glossy brochures full of smiling people looking fulfilled and energized by their work.

How can you tell whether a prospective employer is truly offering a great place to work or is just a shiny veneer with a foosball table and a clever recruiter? Whether you’re wrestling with a greener-grass dilemma or are just starting out, take time to dig a bit deeper and ask yourself about “C.A.R.E.E.R.” security accepting a job offer:

1. C – Cause

Do your homework on the mission, vision, and values of the organization. Read through the website, do a Google search, and talk to others who work there. Be sure you understand what matters most to the company and how its values align with yours. Just because this is a great place to work for someone else doesn’t mean it is for you.

- Does the mission of this organization light me up?
- Are people here doing work I believe in?
- Is this how I want to be spending my time?

2. A – Admiration

Find out about the people who work here. Ask open-ended questions during the interview process to learn more about their motivations and leadership styles. Then ask yourself:

- Are these my people?
- Are there leaders I admire here — people I could learn from and perhaps even emulate?
- How did the hiring manager treat me during the interview? How did they treat their assistant? How did they behave when they ran into other employees walking down the hall?

3. R – Rigor

Try to find out how work gets done at the company. Ask if you can talk to people doing roles similar to the one on offer. It won’t feel like a great place to work if you can’t get anything done.

- Do employees have the tools they need to succeed?
- Is there a culture of accountability and collaboration?
- What kind of obstacles get in the way and slow people down?

4. E – Energy

As you look around the office, tune into the energy level. Most great places to work have a vibrant feel.

- Do people seem engaged and excited about their work?
- Are the break rooms filled with lonely people staring into their microwaved lunches, or are people smiling and engaged in upbeat conversation?
- Start in the parking lot. What would it feel like to walk through the office doors every day?

5. E – Expansion

Think beyond job security. Consider career security. A great place to work will leave you better than it found you.

- How will you grow professionally and personally while working here?
- What new skills will you acquire?
- Will there be opportunities for lateral moves and special projects?
- What is the typical career path for someone in this role?

6. R – Risk-Taking

This may be the hardest thing to uncover, but it’s worth trying. If you get a chance, do a bit of job shadowing. At least try to talk to people in the role you will be taking on.

- Is the fear of speaking up, or “FOSU,” prevalent here, or do people feel like they can tell the truth up, down, and sideways?
- What happens if you make a mistake around here?
- Are innovation and new ideas encouraged?

If you want a great place to work where you can make an impact without losing your soul, take a moment to ask yourself these important questions before signing on the dotted line.

Karin Hurt and David Dye are leadership experts and the award-winning authors of Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul.



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