The salary/benefits package is substantially lower than you need
You might be thinking that this reason is too obvious to make a list like this. However, too often, I hear stories from people who have accepted positions below their salary expectations only to eventually become resentful and looking for a way to correct the error. As long as your salary and benefit expectations are reasonable for:
- The level of the position you’re seeking
- The size of the organization you’re joining
- The local of the organization you’re joining
You should have no qualms about sticking to your guns. Although I’ve always hated the salary negotiations part of accepting a new job, by the time companies get to the point of making a firm offer, it’s not that likely that a reasonable request for a few thousand additional dollars or additional days off will end up in an offer being terminated. Getting at least close to what you need will make a world of difference down the line.
If a company is not sure about increasing the offer, ask for a contractual stipulation that makes the increase kick in after year one based on your performance. You know you’re going to give your best and it could be reflected in that first increase, but get it in writing.
Accepting the job would impact your personal work/life balance
I’ll admit it… I made this mistake once. During the interview, I left knowing that the job was going to be grueling, and not because of the actual IT work itself. Rather, it was the rest of the “cultural” stuff that was a requirement for all salaried employees, including, a requirement to work, at a minimum, 10 hour days each day, sing at company events (yes, if you failed to sing, you were written up; I was once told to reprimand one of my employees for not singing loud enough), be subjected to undocumented matrix management, and give up numerous weekends and holidays for the first three years. Personally, I have no problem with working hard and giving it my all, but I also demand flexibility in return. Even though I tend to work more than I should, even this job was too much for my tastes, and I left and moved in to greener (and promoted) pastures after not that much time.
I freely admit that I accepted the job knowing that it was going to be a bad fit, but kept saying, “It won’t be as bad as I think.”
Everyone has different expectations and needs in their work environment. I like to think that organizations – in most cases – can be flexible enough to keep everyone at least semi-happy on both sides. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly common for American companies to demand far more from their workers than many are prepared to give. Whether this is because corporations are simply greedy or workers are simply lazy is often debated. Personally, I believe there has to be a middle ground in which the needs of both are respected.
At the very least, if you sense that a job is going to be a disaster during an interview, just walk away.
The CEO has no technology interest
At the same job I described above, I discovered that the CEO had absolutely zero interest in technology and prided himself on the fact that he didn’t have a computer in his offer or at home. In fact, to respond to emails, his assistant printed the message, he wrote his reply on the back and she then typed the response.
Yes, this was early in my career and I made a mistake.
As you can imagine, technology needs were not always considered a priority, leading to struggles to meet basic needs of users and customers. That’s not the kind of environment I wanted to run, so I left.
And, I hate singing.
The CEO’s inner circle is dominated by group-think
This could be difficult to gauge during a short interview, but it’s always important to try to figure out how decisions are made at the top level of the organization, particularly if you’re going to be a part of the C-suite. Organizations flourish only when problems, ideas, and solutions can be transparently and openly debated in a professional way.
During an interview, it’s critical to determine – as much as possible – the real power structure of the organization. This power structure rarely matches the org chart. Who does the CEO trust? Who does he really listen to? Is decision-making open and transparent? Is it possible to raise red flags without being attacked for it? Is it an environment that fosters creativity or one that stifles it?
Most CIOs that I know are creative people that want to do everything they can to provide the best possible solutions to the business. Enduring in an stifling environment in which uncheckable group-think is the predominant decision-making process stifles creativity and leads to ongoing frustration as those with different ideas yearn to be “heard” through the stifling silence.
It’s the wrong job
Not every CIO job is created equal. Many “CIOs” are CIOs in name only and are really just IT managers with a fancy title. For those that are really CIOs – that is, strategic, visionary, influential, beyond the tech – being an IT manager focused solely on tech would be a really frustrating job and vice versa; a person that loves the tech might be frustrated at having to split his focus. Most CIOs either don’t focus much on the actual technology or split their time between technology and the business in some way.
Make sure that you’re jumping into a CIO role at the level you want.