How To Find Out if You’re Walking Into A Shit Show With This New Job

This morning, I penned an email to a friend who works for a mobile tech firm to see if I could help him out on any roles. Just before I hit the “send” button, I decided to visit his LinkedIn page, to make sure he was still employed with that company. And, it’s a good thing I checked, because, sure enough, he was not. He lasted 6 months.

Can’t say I was too surprised. Job-hopping in digital media, mobile and ad tech has gotten so bad that I now think staying with a company for 1 year is a good thing.

The market is too volatile.  False promises are made. Revenue goals aren’t met. Management keeps changing. Business directives keep pivoting. And, so on.

Some of this stuff just happens in the land of start-ups. It’s called “growing pains.” But, some of it happens because of a disease that has infected the culture, starting from the upper echelons and spreading down. A company-wide Ebola that doesn’t make people bleed out, but burn out. Fast. As executive teams scramble to make their Boards happy, they panic and start making impetuous decisions that affect their entire workforce. It’s this “fly by the seat of your pants” atmosphere that ultimately destroys the harmony of the workplace and forces people out.

While you can never be sure if the company you’re about to join is going to be a total shit show, there is some due diligence you can perform in advance that can help you make an informed decision before committing. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Use LinkedIn to Research How Many People Have Left the Company in the Past Two Years. At the top of LinkedIn, there’s a search box. The word “advanced” is to the right of the magnifying glass.  Click on it and a column of search criteria will appear on the left.  Add the company name you are investigating to the section titled: “past company” and view all the people that USED TO work there. Click on their profiles and check out the duration of their stay. If you notice a pattern of short stints, you might want to think twice before accepting the job.
  2. Ask Why The Position You are Interviewing For is Open. Is this an add-to-staff position (new head count)?  If so, that’s actually a pretty good sign because it means the company is growing. If you are being hired to replace someone who was promoted internally, that’s also a good sign. It means management rewards hard work and believes in advancement. However, if you are replacing someone who left the company, ask how long that person held the position and why it did not work out.  If  your predecessor only held the position for a few months, that could be red flag. Find out how long the prior individual held the job. If there have been multiple people in this position in the past few years, you might want to reconsider your options.
  3. Find out How Long the C-Suite Has Been in Place. I can’t tell you how many times candidates tell me that they were with a company for 2 years and in those 2 years, they reported into 3 different CEOs.  If there’s been a ton of movement in the upper echelons, I’d run away, quickly.
  4. Ask About Funding and Goals. You want to make sure the business is healthy and can stay afloat before making a commitment. Do they have the cash flow needed to operate? What about revenue goals?  Are they achievable?  Did they meet their goals the previous year?
  5. Request a Meeting With Some of the More Junior Staff. Anyone you’d be interviewing with on the senior side is going to be “selling” you on the job and the business. Talk to some of the more junior folks and get a feel for what they think of the company and how they like working there.

None of this due diligence is full proof, but at least you’ll be walking into a new endeavor with your eyes wide open. Ok, well, maybe with a little bit of squint.

Carpe diem.

Jane Ashen Turkewitz is the President of .comRecruiting, a firm dedicated to advancing business and careers in digital media, mobile and emerging technology.  If she could make a living writing posts like this she would.  Got any topics you’d like her to cover?


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