How can you figure out whether a company is a Mickey Mouse operation before you start working there? A reader wants to know, in the November 17, 2020 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter.
Once I determine that I can “do the work” for the prospective employer, and that I really do want the job, how do I find out if it is a Mickey Mouse operation? In my experience, it requires being an insider and six months’ time to determine that. Are there any ways to figure it out in advance? Thanks.
Perhaps you’ve heard the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for. You might get it!” So it is with job offers — you might get one without knowing the truth about the company until it’s too late.
What is a Mickey Mouse operation?
“Mickey Mouse” means different things to different people. To me, it describes any poorly organized and managed company. To you, it might mean something very specific. For example, a company that’s successful but makes mediocre products, or one that has high employee turnover.
Whatever the problem is, it’s not unusual for job hunters to suddenly find themselves with an offer in hand, wondering why the heck they went after a questionable company. We sometimes pursue opportunities for no other reason than because they’re there, or because we are invited and we are too flattered to refuse.
Judge first, then apply
This is why I advise doing all the tough research before you apply to a company. This is why — contrary to conventional wisdom — it’s imprudent to pursue dozens of companies at a time. It’s also why I advise pursuing companies, not jobs. You need to know in advance whether the company is worth working for, and exactly why you’re talking to them about a particular job. That takes considerable effort and it requires making prudent choices about where to invest your time.
Don’t wait until an offer is made. Judge a company before you even apply for a job. I think you will find that a surprising number of employers will not withstand simple scrutiny. If they do, keep judging through the interview process.
Use the interview to vet the company
Before the interview, cover these bases:
- Start at the top. Research the industry the company is in. Is it sound? Are its prospects good?
- Study the industry press and watchdog organizations. Do they demonstrate respect for this company? How do they portray the company’s status in the industry?
In the interview, don’t miss these points:
- What does the company need to do to meet its goals? How does your job fit?
- Who are the people in other departments who will affect your ability to do your job successfully? Meet them. Look for facilitators and debilitators.
After you have an offer, schedule a follow-up meeting before you accept:
- Confirm the authority you’ll have in your job. People often confuse authority and responsibility. Some companies demand results without giving employees enough control and discretion over their work.
- Get a close look at the entire written benefits package, company policies and employee handbook. Some companies are funny about divulging these critical documents, but you have a right to see them before you accept a job. The quality of a company is usually revealed in how it treats employees.
Avoid Mickey Mouse operations
Good companies comprise good people. The managers and employees you meet should be above board, honest and willing to candidly discuss issues that are important to a new recruit. Don’t be unreasonable or rude, but don’t settle for less than full disclosure.
If anyone is put off by your diplomatic inquiries about the company, the people, and the job, then look elsewhere because you probably won’t be happy working for Mickey Mouse.
What does “Mickey Mouse operation” mean to you? What do you look for when judging an employer? If you’ve made a mistake about a company you joined, what do you wish you had asked or looked for before you accepted the job?