job offers in These Unprecedented Times
May 18, 2020 8:12 AM   Subscribe

A company I freelance for recently asked if I'd be interested in a full-time position. I like these people and I enjoy the assignments, but at the same time, the offer feels very abstract: I haven't met my contacts in person, nor have I visited their offices, and doubt I will until after we return to whatever will pass for normalcy. So — given These Unprecedented Times — what questions should I be asking before I make any big job decisions?

Also, if there's some sort of solid "Things to Think About When Considering Employment Offers" list that already exists, I'd love to be pointed in that direction. Thanks!
posted by roger ackroyd to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
...skipping over all of the more usual questions, a few that spring to mind given current circumstances are:

Will you be expected to work in the office, or will you be able to remain WFH?
Can you get to the office in a safe manner?
Do you expect their business to be impacted by the pandemic? If so, how?

(personally, I'd tend to take the fulltime position since I think, right now, corporate benefits may tend to outweigh freelance flexibility)
posted by aramaic at 8:25 AM on May 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Ask about those concerns. If you’ve never met these people, do they have a plan for introducing you? Do they have ways for you to get to know them as people and not just as co-workers (e.g., non-work-related Slack channels)?

Ask what work was like before quarantine. Did people WFH a lot of the time anyway? That can make a big difference. If they were already WFH, they know what they’re doing and can adapt easily. If not, half of your time will be spent listening to “can you hear me? oh sorry I was on mute” crap while everybody figures out how Zoom works.

Ask if they have a formalized training process. Even if it’s just a quick outline document, that can help you figure out what needs to happen, since you can’t just ask the person sitting next to you.

Ask about extra leave for coronavirus-related stuff. They’ll almost certainly tell you how you can take time off if you get sick, but what about if your spouse or your kids get sick and you need to care for them? Or someone outside your household, like an aging parent or a boyfriend/girlfriend?

In general, my philosophy has become “if something matters to you, ask about it”. The conventional wisdom is to tiptoe around asking questions that might paint you in a bad light, but these are things you need to know. If an interviewer is going to think less of me because I asked a question about work-life balance, we’ll, that tells me all I need to know about their work-life balance, doesn’t it? And if balance is important to me, I need to know going in that they’re on the same page, or the relationship will sour fast. Likewise, if your interviewer thinks asking about promotions means you’re not interested in the job at hand, it’s a sign that it’s probably a dead end job and you’ll be on the market again shortly. So think about what matters to you, what has made you happy and unhappy at previous jobs, and ask straight up about those things.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:41 AM on May 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Ask for a Zoom meeting with the folks you'll be working with? If it feels like an otherwise good opportunity for you (career growth, pay, benefits, eventual commute, hours, etc), don't let the weirdass times we live in hold you back. Online meetings are in no way as good as in-person meetings but if you take the time to meet your whole team one-on-one for 15 minutes each, you'll honestly get a decent feel for how well you might fit with them.
posted by MiraK at 9:01 AM on May 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Is this actually a permanent position or are they just trying to temporarily inflate their headcount to meet the requirements of their payroll protection loan?
posted by Jacqueline at 11:20 AM on May 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Is this actually a permanent position or are they just trying to temporarily inflate their headcount to meet the requirements of their payroll protection loan?

Any ideas how I might be able to figure that out?
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:31 AM on May 18, 2020

Based on your question, the offer sounds abstract because it is. You were asked if you would be interested in being brought on as a FT employee. An actual offer would have more details.

Let them know you're interested and that you would like to explore the opportunity with them further. That opens up the conversation for you to turn the situation from abstract to concrete.

Before you let them do all the defining, though, have some clear ideas of what it is important to you in the role so that you can actively advocate for those things in the course of the discussion.

The last thing you want is for them to dictate the terms, leaving you with the choice to only either accept or reject their offer. Make it a conversation where both sides receive a net positive result from the outcome!
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 11:51 AM on May 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

“ Any ideas how I might be able to figure that out?”

Ask. ;)

But if you don’t feel comfortable asking “are you just fucking with me?”, you could say something like “how do you see this role adapting over the next few years?” If they respond “ummmmm”, you’ll know.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:41 PM on May 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

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