The 12 Things Every Applicant Needs to Know

The 12 Things Every Applicant Needs to Know

  • Posted by Stephen White
  • On September 1, 2017
  • before accepting a job offer, job offer, key information for job applicants, what job applicants need to know


If you are fortunate enough to have recently received a job offer what are the things you need to know before accepting? I suggest the following are the twelve things every applicant needs to know before “signing on the dotted line”.


Critical Information You Need to Know:


  • Supervisor – who will be your regular supervisor? In a matrix organizational structure this could also include your team leader, or any dotted line relationships. However, for the sake of simplicity, let’s just say that this will be the person who conducts your performance review, reviews your work, and provides you with feedback regarding performance.


  • Job Responsibilities – what will be your normal job duties? Ideally, the person interviewing you should provide you with a recently updated job description that details, in a clear and cogent fashion, what you will be doing and when. Beware of job descriptions that are overly brief (i.e. one or two paragraphs), excessively long (i.e. more than three pages), that contain vague or unclear phrases, or which haven’t been updated in several years.


  • Deliverables – what are you responsible for, and when, and how will your performance be evaluated? Usually a recruiter won’t have this information, so invariably, it will be up to the hiring manager or your prospective supervisor to provide these details. These deliverables should be clear, and the timeframes for completion realistic. Unless you know the specific criteria upon which your performance will be measured you won’t be able to perform confidently.


  • Organization Chart – where does your prospective position fit in the organization? In a perfect world, this position will have a clearly defined reporting relationship. Be wary if your position is not clearly depicted on an organization chart, of if there are too many dotted lines of authority.

What is also critical to know is the informal organization structure.  One method to learn about this is to determine what committees or panels you will be asked to join. In a matrix organization knowing ahead of time the key stakeholders and counterparts with whom you will be interacting is vital to consolidating your future position in the organization.

  • Business Rationale – why does this position exist? Hopefully, the reasons why this position exists are detailed either in the job description or can be clearly outlined by your prospective supervisor or the hiring manager. However, if your prospective supervisor cannot explain why the role exists it should give you cause for concern.

Be especially careful in cases where the position is newly established. I have seen situations where a company hired an external applicant into a new role on the assumption that a particular product would be built or a project undertaken. Shortly afterwards, budget cutbacks resulted in a change in business strategy, a new direction, and the termination of staff.

  • Previous incumbent – what happened to the individual who was in the position previously? Did they resign? Were they terminated? Why did they leave? This is all critical information you need to know. Be skeptical about accepting any offer if you learn that there have been multiple incumbents in the role over the past few years, or if an employer is reluctant to share this information.


  • Contacts – who are the persons with whom you will be interacting with regularly in this role? This includes both internal and external contacts, clients and customers. Knowing this information ahead of time will give you an advantage in developing and sustaining important relationships.


  • Travel – how much travel is involved in this position, how often, during what time of the year, and for how many days? For anyone who has children or caregiver responsibilities these questions are an absolute must to ask, and a failure to do so prior to accepting an offer could leave you in a difficult or vulnerable situation later on.

Assume for instance that you and your spouse are a one car family. If your spouse uses the car on a daily basis to commute to work, and your prospective employer tells you that visiting other offices is a core duty, but that no company car is provided, you suddenly have an issue. You may be on the hook to lease or buy a new vehicle. Moreover, if the travel involves time away from home but your lifestyle doesn’t allow for this, you also have a problem. If you have to make arrangements for children, pets or elderly parents this could prove both inconvenient and costly. Knowing how much travel you will be required to undertake, when, for how long, and what percentage of the total job it constitutes, is all critical information you need to be clear about before accepting an offer.

  • Success Criteria – what qualities or characteristics are integral for success in this role? If, for example, a hiring manager tells you that a strong mathematical background is crucial for success, but math skills are not your forte, then the possibilities for failure are high and there is a clear disconnect.


  • Work Location – where exactly will the work be performed? Don’t necessarily assume that the location for the interview will be your future place of work. Also, some employers may either permit or expect work from home relationships. Being clear on these arrangements, as well as any financial assistance to help set up a home office, will lead to less uncertainty later on.


  • Managerial Style & Corporate Culture – what is the operating style of the organization, and your manager in particular? Is it “hands off” or “hands on”? Is it formal or informal? Is it structured or unstructured? The more details you know going in the better position you will be to assess the suitability of this role.


Closely related to this issue is the corporate culture of your new employer. There are many telltale signs that will help you in identifying this but the best advice I can offer is this:  arrive early for your interview, and while waiting observe how employees interact with one another.

  • Do relationships appear casual or formal?
  • Do employees seem stressed, intense or relaxed?
  • Are employees smiling?
  • Do interactions between employees seem easy and pleasant in nature?
  • Do you see people chatting in offices?
  • Are there many closed doors?
  • What is the dress code?
  • If it is near lunch do you see groups of people having lunch together, or going out to lunch?

Remember: when evaluating this variable there is no substitute for “gut instinct”.

  • Promotional Opportunities – whether you are very ambitious or just starting out in your career knowing that other opportunities may exist is important information. However, be aware that in smaller companies or family owned enterprises promotional avenues may be more restricted.


Hopefully, many of the issues cited above will have been raised and discussed during the interview process. Unfortunately, this also presupposes that hiring managers are forthcoming with information and frankly, that is not often the case. If you get to the final interview stage and many of these issues have not been addressed or remain unclear then you need to get clarification. In today’s workplace accepting any offer without first obtaining clear details or information is not only risky but could also result in a lot of grief, upset and expenses later on.



Are you currently interviewing for a position, but are uncertain whether this is the right job for you? Have you received an offer, but many things about your new role are still unclear? If so, I may be able to help. Feel free to contact me at to discuss your options.


A job offer can be exciting, but having clarity on key issues is crucial before you accept.



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