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A small "startup" IT company from US wants to open office in my city (Poland) and start a new project here. Based on my experience and relationship with the CTO, after brief interviews, I was given an offer letter in October 2019.

But the company was still waiting for funding therefore offer letter stated only "possible" start date in January 2020. Following the offer letter we had a team meeting (~10 people) with the CEO two months later (beginning of December 2019). At that meeting, we were laid plans and assured the formal employment contracts will follow next week.

Long story short, did that not happen and radio silence followed. No update, nothing, until, now, April 1st. Throughout that time I have repeatedly tried contacting the CEO via e-mail for an update on the situation, without any response. From the CTO I know the CEO was all that time trying to secure the funding. Now, all of a sudden, there is this "official" update that they're about to kickoff. The update made no mention whatsoever about the radio silence.

My feeling is that such lack of communication and transparency should be a red flag. Other possible red-flags:

  • The recruitment process was very swift, without any technical questions although the position would be a strictly technical senior role (this can be somewhat explained by the fact the CTO knew my skills from my previous roles and possibly vouched for me)
  • The recruitment process felt "cold" - like they just wanted to "get on with it" as fast as possible
  • During the recruitment process, the Product Manager that was interviewing me never responded to any of my e-mails even though they were questions regarding the company/product/role that he himself suggested to ask
  • During salary negotiations, the CEO made a blunt statement he knows my current job salary figure, even though I never disclosed that (???). When confronted about that, he basically ignored the question

My question is, is this lack of communication and transparency an objective no-go for this job? My personal feeling is yes.

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    Think they may have more immediate problems given the times we are living in. Or has the coronavirus not got to Poland? – Solar Mike Apr 1 at 11:58
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    Yes, if you already have another job, it's a no-go. However, if you don't have a job right now, maybe you could do it, but with some strict conditions and boundaries going forward. – Stephan Branczyk Apr 1 at 11:58
  • @SolarMike Oh it certainly has. I don't see how this might be relevant to the situation I described which lasts since December last year. – tomi.lee.jones Apr 1 at 12:05
  • @StephanBranczyk What conditions/boundaries you have in mind? – tomi.lee.jones Apr 1 at 12:09
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    @tomi.lee.jones, Well, first off. I would ask them what the hell happened. Then, I would ask for assurances on communication, plus assurances on the payroll issue during this pandemic. They ghosted you once already. Will they ghost you again next month? or two months from now? If I were you, I would ask for a retainer of some kind or some sort of sign-on bonus. I would also negotiate what happens if Poland goes on lockdown mode because of COVID-19. Will they just delay your starting date indefinitely? – Stephan Branczyk Apr 1 at 13:17
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My question is, is this lack of communication and transparency an objective no-go for this job? My personal feeling is yes.

You've answered your own question.

You've also put your finger on the big problem, i.e. a lack of communication. There can easily be great reasons for the delays, dealing with a big company who is slow, rounding up funding.

However you're dealing with a small company so you're getting a taste for how they (i.e. your prospective new boss) do things (in a big company this behavior would just be a taste on how HR does things which is a different issue).

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  • I am not going to defend not responding to an email you actually read. I however, will raise a potential counterpoint, emails are sometimes never read (i.e. mistakenly marked as spam). It seems this potential employee (the author) at no point called anyone at the company on the phone. It's harder to ignore a phone call. However, if the author was recruited in October 2019 and didn't hear anything until April 2020, something isn't right because that isn't typical or normal. – Donald Apr 1 at 12:54
  • @Donald So to clarify - yes, I didn't attempt to "call the CEO" as at no point I was given such contact details and the company has none and I think it was reasonable for me to expect that direct replies over gmail to an offer letter (!) won't get marked as spam... – tomi.lee.jones Apr 1 at 15:38
  • @Donald It's WAY harder to explain lost emails and so forth if you're dealing with a small company which is recruiting a limited number of people. – Dark Matter Apr 1 at 16:02
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There are all huge red flags.

The biggest and most important being lack of transparency. In a startup that's huge, without transparency you'll find almost everyday you are in this same situation with something. From why haven't you been paid, where are those bonuses, what's the new offices, when are we getting a new round of funding, who does the hiring, what are my individual responsibilities ...etc. Everything in startup comes down to everyone knowing what's going on and being cool with it. A soon as something that's not alright happens and the CEO starts to cover it up the whole thing falls apart.

If you haven't even started and already the CEO is covering stuff up and acting strange I would run a mile.

My advice stay away from this company.

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It seems they did not care to the deegre they pay attention to you. It is a red flag. They also did not honor their promises. These mean that on the soft side this company has serious issues and they will most probably than not treat you as a commodity. I would prefer a more serious company given the chance.

To be honest, opening offices for cheaper employees usually is a search for commodities unless there is a business location issue, which I suppose in your situation there is not.

To conclude, things might change but for now it does not seem you are on best grounds.

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