I’ve wanted to write this article for a while but just haven’t had time between guitar and my articles for Penton and SharePoint Reviews. After working at an employer for a few weeks I realized they had mis lead me about the role. My new coworkers told me I was setup and in for a treat and not in a good way. Speaking with colleagues and friends we jumped on the topic of organizations that create new roles but don’t think them through. It’s a common problem at all levels in organizations no matter the industry. So I thought I’d share some experiences to help you out when interviewing for that role that looks so good on paper.

First off, if your unemployed and a new job appears and happens to be a newly defined position, you may not have the luxury of being picky but the last thing you want is to go from the frying pan into the fire. Many organizations create new positions as they see gaps or see opportunities in the market they work within. These could be persons that cover new regions or have a specific skill set or support a new business process. To get a sense of how we’ll thought out the role is, here are some questions you can ask and interviews you must request:

Have you defined the specific goals and success criteria?

  • Have they assembled a list of goals?
  • Do they know who you need to work with to achieve them?
  • Have they allocated funding to enable you?
  • Are the goals agreed to by all the stakeholders?
  • Or do they have grandiose plans but no detail?

Have you defined the specific duties?

  • Do they know what you are going to be doing at an activity level?
  • Do they know who you need to work with to achieve?
  • Or do they have grandiose plans but no detail?

Has this role or one similar been staffed in the past?

  • Looking for a history of success and or failure
  • Why people succeed? Why they failed?
  • If they did fail how will they prevent it this time around?

How will you measure success? In 3 months? In 6 months? 2 years?

  • What opportunity are you addressing?
  • What problem are you solving? Gap their addressing?
  • Who wins if you win? Who losses?
  • Are you being inserted into a political battle? Or someone that has a chance of winning?

Who will interface with to carry out my duties?

  • Do they know how the role will interface within the organization?
  • Who are the supporters? The enemies?
  • Where are they located? Do you need to travel? Have a budget?

Who will most benefit from the role?

  • Level of sponsorship?
  • Have they thought out what success means?
  • What are the key enablers for success?

Who will be most threatened by the role?

  • Do they know who will be most threatened? How will they make sure you’re not sabotaged?
  • Do you have the executive support required to be successful?

What steps have you taken to make sure the candidate will be successful?

  • Do you have the executive support required to be successful?
  • Have they enabled the role? Authority? Budget?

What obstacles did you encounter?

  • Have they thought out the role? Potential roadblocks?
  • Do you have the executive support required to be successful?
  • Have they enabled the role? Authority? Budget?

How will you deal with grievances generated by the new role?

  • How will issues raised as a result of the new role be addressed?
  • No doubt you will step on toes, how will they support you?

Who are my direct reports?

  • Will you actually have direct reports? Or are they lying?
  • You want to meet with them to get a sense of their expectations and cultural fit

What is my budget and its breakdown?

  • If you’re a manager, what is the budget?
  • Does it exist? Is it enough? Is it yours?

When can I meet my clients?

  • This could be difficult but you want to meet them to get a sense of fit, if they see value in the role, their view on the role, will you get along etc.
  • Find out what they think of the company and your new role.

These questions are designed to give you a sense as to whether the organization has the role though out and you have chance of success. You can also ask the same questions as you meet with others for testing alignment (how much work has the executive management team done in making sure the role will scceed?). My manager was a game player, manipulator of sorts that had no clue how to establish a role or structure a department team – his manager admitted this to me and said they have a hard time keeping people. My HR contact verified the same problem – others were complaining as well. In the end they closed the department and everyone on the team resigned and are doing well elsewhere.

Don’t be surprised if you leave an interview feeling like they have not answered your questions. Some companies don’t think through the role (due to lack of insight, skills and or organizational alignment) and will rely on the new hire to sink or swim. Also, don’t rely on Human Resources to know whats going on either, they are usually blind (I Google’d many HR sites and this is the advice they offered). The best approach is 3-4 interviews with different people and to leverage your network to get the inside scoop. Your decision comes down to where you are in your career, drive, smarts, luck and level of risk you can take.

Good luck!

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