Should I accept a position at a company under a hiring freeze?
October 2, 2012 1:40 PM   Subscribe

Is it way too risky to start a new job at a small tech company under a hiring freeze?

I have had been interviewing with a small (120ish employees) tech company. I did my research before the interviews and the company seemed solid. However, during the most recent interview I learned they are under a hiring freeze - except for the position I am applying for and one other position. On its own this would not be much of a red flag, but I also got the feeling (just a gut thing) that they were looking to hire someone for one project ... but not much else. Is it common to bring someone on for one project and give them the boot when it's completed?

I have a final phone interview with the executive in charge of the department later this week. Would it be appropriate to bring up these concerns with the executive? What are the chances of getting a straight answer from the executive or anyone else?

My professional work experience has been with a large, relatively, stable corporation so a hiring freeze is not something I've been through. Would it be high risk to join this company during what seems to be a financially unstable period? I am not in a place in life where I can take too much risk - though I understand some is involved during any kind of job change.

Aside from my misgivings about company-wide stability, the position itself sounds great, the environment seems like a good fit and it would be a great opportunity. I'm just not sure if it's worth the risk (or even if the risk is real or imagined!).

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Note: I haven't been offered a position yet but based on my most recent conversation an offer seems imminent.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
During tough times, even solid companies go under hiring freezes and steal training budgets and such during the last half of a year in order to contain opex. It isn't necessarily a sign that the company is unstable. 120 people is a medium sized company.

"Is it common to bring someone on for one project and give them the boot when it's completed?"

Ask the executive whether your position is incremental or not. Yes, it is common in a budget to have employee count on the books for a limited time.
posted by cmm at 1:58 PM on October 2, 2012


Is it common to bring someone on for one project and give them the boot when it's completed?


At least in the tech startup world of silicon valley, nobody would do this on purpose. They'd explicitly hire you as a contractor for a short-term job.

Would it be appropriate to bring up these concerns with the executive? What are the chances of getting a straight answer from the executive or anyone else?

Yes, it would be prudent, I've voiced similar concerns before and received honest answers. How do you know if the executive is lying to you? You really can't, so use your judgement.

Would it be high risk to join this company during what seems to be a financially unstable period?

Don't view the hiring freeze too negatively. I've worked for billion dollar corporations and branches of the federal government that have both gone through hiring freezes and are still around and healthy today.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:06 PM on October 2, 2012


Like tylerk, I've also worked for corps who've had hiring freezes and not all of them have been negative (and most of the companies are still around in a viable form)

One of the things I learnt was that hiring freeze was a phrase which meant a bunch of things, and its vagueness as a term was used deliberately. It's been used as a distraction for managers who have the hiring crazies, it's been used to dissuade people from asking for resources, it's been used as a temporary go slow while other parts of the business are ironed out (not necessarily a bad thing), it's been used as a badge to signal 'we aren't hiring except for the special people', as terrible as that sounds. And, as cmm says a hiring freeze can be a temporary thing to cover 2H financial lumpiness. It's uncommon in my experience to bring someone on in an FTE capacity only to boot them at project's end, that's what a contractor role is for. My experience in this is not US based, though.

There are probably more subtle- and I think, informative - questions around the company and your role's current and future goals which would give you an understanding of their position that a question regarding hiring practices would not. They're probably questions that you'd receive a better answer for in an interview situation as well. In short, I think there are metrics beyond 'hiring freeze' which would make me second think an organisation.

I hope your call goes well and you get the information you need to be able to make a sound decision.
posted by pymsical at 4:20 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


yes, big red flag. working for a tech company that is under a hitting freeze is basically signing up to watch your good coworkers leave. in the current environment i would be very scared of a tech company of any size that wasn't hiring.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:53 PM on October 2, 2012


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