(MoneyWatch) There's an old joke about a software engineer getting a tour of Hell and deciding to go there because of the great amenities. After he gets there and finds there's a lot more fire and torture than golf and sunsets, the devil accounts for the difference by saying, "Oh, that was just the demo."
Sometimes taking a new job can feel much the same. I've heard horror stories about people who have taken roles at businesses that couldn't make payroll, and a writer friend of mine went to company without asking if he could do any freelance writing on the side. He couldn't.
For your own protection and peace of mind, you should have a checklist of questions to answer before signing on the dotted line for any new job. AvidCareerist has compiled many of these questions into an infographic that you might want to tack on your home office wall when you start your next job search. In a nutshell, here are the key questions to ask:
Get a complete job description of your new role. Make sure you know what your responsibilities are, especially for the first few months after you begin.
Know why the position is open. Is it a new role? Are you replacing someone? Why did that individual leave?
Have you met everyone? If they're not already in the interview loop, you should make a point of asking to meet all of your manager's direct reports -- in other words, your closest peers.
Find out what LinkedIn has to say. Research the company on LinkedIn. You can also use LinkedIn to get a sense of how happy your peers are, and if they're actively looking to move elsewhere. Do you have any connections in common? You might want to ask them about how they like the company and their boss.
How are the company's financials? If the company is publicly traded, you can look up their last annual financial report (or 10K, as the filing is called). If not, you might want to ask the hiring manager about the company's earnings trends and cash position.
Read the news. Last but not least, learn what you can about the company online. Is there news about the organization that reveals something about its strategy, business challenges or performance? This is great homework for the interview, but also can help make sure you are comfortable with the firm before accepting a job and trusting them with your livelihood.