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Know What You Are Getting Into

Contributed by Drew Miller

When I was trying to break into the IT industry all I wanted was a job. I had a general idea what I wanted to do, but like many people, I wasnít in the position to turn down a job offer. After jumping at the first offer I realized there were a few things that I wish I had asked during the interview:

What are my chances of being promoted?
For many small companies the answer may be ďnone.Ē Small businesses have fewer layers of seniority and a greater risk of being stuck in the same role forever. Large corporations are more likely to have room for advancement but be sure to find out the most common advancement paths. Accepting a position may lead you away from your long-term goals.

What is the training program like?
Are you going to sit at a desk reading manuals, or follow someone around for a week, or get fed to the wolves? Some people are comfortable getting their hands dirty the first day. Other people learn better watching someone else for a while. Make sure the company training meets your needs.

Does the company have its act together?
This one is tough to judge from one or two interviews but you can pick up a few clues. Does the interviewer seem organized and competent? Does the company have a high turnover rate or recent layoffs? How long has it been since the company released a new version of its product? If you can see the ship is sinking, thereís no reason to jump onboard.

How often are performance/salary reviews conducted?
Some companies treat the two differently. Performance reviews might be given every 6 months but raises only given once a year. Beware if the interviewer gives a vague answer. When the time comes to talk money, you need to get all the details. Donít forget to ask about bonuses and other incentives.

Why is your product better than the competitionís?
You should have a good idea who a companyís business rivals are going into the interview. You should find out what sets a company apart. Do they really produce a better product or are they getting by on name recognition and poised for a decline?

The interview process is not just for you to sell your abilities. Itís a way for you to ensure you are making a good decision. Donít be afraid to ask tough questions; you are more likely to get an honest answer when the interviewer still sees you as an outsider. Whether youíre lucky enough to have several offers on the table or just considering leaving your current job, you should know what youíre getting into.

By Drew Miller