Assuming that you know how to present the best side in the interview process, and there are myriads of articles on this topic, the important step is to avoid making a poor decision once you have been offered a new position

Do your homework

Make sure the next organisation is going to be a better fit, or at least part of your proposed journey.

Is this move intended to gain some blue-chip company experience? □ Yes □ No
Have you checked with the person you are replacing whether your new manager is any good? □ Yes □ No
Are you going to work under an inspirational CEO? □ Yes □ No
Will you have staff reporting to you? □ Yes □ No
Can you envisage working in the new organisation for at least 3-5 years? □ Yes □ No
Is the work life balance your new peers have achieved the same as to which you inspire? □ Yes □ No
Does the new organisation offer travel opportunities to the country you aspire to work in? □ Yes □ No
Are you happy with the proposed staff you are about to inherit? □ Yes □ No
Does the new position make the best use of your skills? □ Yes □ No
Is there a good values and ethics fit with the new organisation? □ Yes □ No
Is your proposed rate of pay in the top quartile for your position and experience? □ Yes □ No
Will you be offered good training and development opportunities? □ Yes □ No


Degree of values fit

There are business sectors where the values are best suited to the wilds of Serengeti. Working in these environments, while financial rewarding, is full of people who have a poor set of values.  In every sector there are some stand out performers.  Search these out.

Far too often organisations are too large for integrity to be unchallenged.  The number of layers you have in an organisation undermines integrity, the values, builds silos and enables and supports broken management practices to thrive.

I now believe that dysfunction will become prevalent when an organisation has more than five layers of management. If we have each manager having, on average, between 7 to 10 direct reports, we come up with a maximum for an organisation of between 2,500-7,000 employees.  Over which I would argue there will be a lack of integrity and performance unless you subscribe to an investment model, such as Berkshire Hathaway. In Berkshire Hathaway individual organisations are left alone to manage their own affairs supported and funded by a governing body who know the difference between management and governance.

For what it is worth, I would choose an organisation, in the long term, under this threshold, around 150 strong.

The 150 staff sweet spot for an organisation

Bill Gore, of GORE-TEX fame, have an interesting rule on their management structure. Through trial and error, they have devised a model of office design, whereby if the office grows to exceed 150 employees, they will start another office elsewhere until it hits 150 employees, and then start elsewhere again.

148 is the magical number called ‘Dunbar’s Number,’ often rounded up to 150. It is attributed to British evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who has stated that 150 people is the ‘point beyond which members of any social group lose their ability to function effectively in social relationships.’

Dunbar focused his research largely on the success of GORE-TEX, but he also found similar results in other communities such as Native American tribes, historic military units and Amish communities.  In the republican period of Rome, the infantry was split into 10 cohorts each of four maniples of 120 legionaries.

The key people to talk to

Never, I mean never, take a job without talking to your predecessor.  I did, and I must have taken months off my life through the stress it created. I was conned into the job.  Even the job description was hidden from me.

To get an accurate feel of the organisation’s culture and an assessment on your future manager, as a minimum, contact the following:

  • Talk to your predecessor even if they are in Bolivia
  • Take out the team you will be running for a coffee and after the small talk ask them “Should I take the job?”
  • Using linked talk to others who have worked and left the organisation.
  • See the human resources representative and ask about the staff turnover in the department.

If it looks too good to be true it probably is

Whilst I am a positive individual one realises there are a whole raft of managers who see recruiting as just an exercise to tick-off.  They want a bum on the seat right now.  To achieve this, they will lie about the job, make false promises and mess with your career to meet their short-term need.

They are so good at giving a positive impression that recruiting is a breeze for them and we are the cannon fodder.

Your only safeguard is your homework. Using LinkedIn you should be able to find someone to talk to who has worked under them.  You want to hear, “Oh, you are so lucky, s/he was a great manager.”



This is an extract from a book called ‘Don’t say I didn’t tell you’.

The past has great lessons to offer. Whilst technology and the evolving pace of change may lead millennials to thinking that what is ahead of them is unique. In fact, it has all happened before. I am a father in my 60s who has gathered many lessons from the past, and I set them out here for my daughters in the vain hope that they will be a guiding light long after I am physically gone. Some of the suggestions may seem ridiculous at first, but I ask you to chew the crud and make an informed decision later. For a list of topics covered see here.