I have been contacted about a position in which the boss hired a recent college grad at a mid-range salary, fired him as unacceptable, increased the salary a bit and hired then fired someone else, and now wants to hire a better and more senior employee. The salary range for the latest opening is approximately 10% below the low end of a typical range for the position.

This manager's history of quick hirings and firings, along with salary offers in the low end of typical ranges, raises some red flags for me -- namely that it appears the manager seems not to know how to appreciate and retain talent he has hired.

As a potential candidate for this position, before I determine if I want to apply to this position, how can I tell if this situation warrants a "proceed with caution", or a situation in which I should ask or do X, or is just a nonstarter?

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    .... are you qualified? That seems the most important detail you've not added here. – enderland Feb 20 '14 at 23:39
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    I am qualified as a senior FED; that is why I mentioned a standard senior FED pay. I am concerned because the previous hires seem to be viewed negatively. And I am concerned that whatever skills I bring to the table will be seen negatively, regardless of what value other employers might place on them. – Christos Hayward Feb 20 '14 at 23:41
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    What kind of time frame passed between hirings and firings? – Joel Etherton Feb 21 '14 at 0:09
  • Should you take a job or not is not something we can help with. That is a decision for you to make. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 21 '14 at 4:11
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    @Jcmeloni - Do you think you could rework the question so I can read it that way too... this is really kind of a should I quit my job post as I am reading it? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 21 '14 at 14:56

As a hiring manager, if I hired and fired people very quickly and in succession, and changed the job ad each time, I'd sit myself down and have a talk with myself that went something like this:

  • "Do you have any idea what you're looking for?"
  • "Do you pride yourself in treating employees like throwaway parts?"

If I answer "No" to the first point, and I don't ask for help from colleagues or peers, then I wouldn't want to work for me.

If I answer "Why, of course!" to the second point, I really don't want to work for me.

As a prospective candidate who knows only one side of a story (that a hiring manager appears not to know what he or she is looking for, and also doesn't appear to give people a chance), if the job is appealing to you on paper then you can figure out the mettle of the hiring manager when you make it to the interview portion and ask some questions:

  • "You seem to have posted this ad a few times with some slight changes each time. How has your thinking about this position evolved over time?" -- If the answer is "I had terrible people try to fill the position" then you might wonder if this person is someone who should try to fill positions and manage people. If the answer is something like "the needs of the company shifted a bit, and the type of candidates I was seeing did as well, so I've been trying to match up" then you know the manager is trying something, and might give him or her the benefit of the doubt.
  • "What are your expectations for someone in this position in the next 30/60/90 days?" -- If they're completely insane, by your estimation, then that's one data point. If they're reasonable, then that's another.

I think you see where I'm going -- on the surface, given what you have said in the question, this might appear as a situation to avoid entirely. But with a few well-placed questions in the interview stage, you can begin to see if what you see on the surface is in fact a bit distorted. And then you can make your own decision, as you progress through the process -- maybe even before the hiring manger makes one!


Proceed with caution would be my advice here.

But the big concern I have is, from a human resources prospective, the boss seems not to know how to appreciate and retain talent he has hired.

That is one rationale for why the previous people got fired. However, it is also possible that this boss may have a different definition of what a Front-End Developer handles. I'd be sure to go through what are the expectations and skills he is expecting. For example, do you do Graphic Design, Information Architecture, Social Media and its integrations, Mobile and web analytics like Google Analytics or WebTrends? Some people may think anything with a UI should be considered "Front-End."


There's two factors:

  • how crazy is the boss? Let's assume this is a spectrum - all managers are at least a little crazy, so this is "is this situation within acceptable ranges of crazy?"

  • how much do you need the job? Being out of work for 6 months is different from having a job and such an awesome reputation that people are knocking on your door.

Assuming that you are actively looking because your current situation is unpleasant enough to necessitate some really serious job searching effort - I'd say that this a "proceed with caution".

When you know that the company is seriously underpaying for a role AND that they've fired two people already for the role - you know that something isn't right. It could be 2 symptoms of the same thing - that they have no idea what the job really is, how to define it, or who has the skills to get it done. Conversely, it could be that the situation has been set up (intentionally or unintentionally) as one that is doomed to failure.

Knowing a bit about the industry, be careful in the difference between "better" and "senior" - know whether they are talking about a senior FED which fits with the salary expectation or a "better" still-junior FED, for which at this rate they may be paying a pretty high end. They may have a very poor understanding of the difference between senior and not-senior. Be sure in the conversation that you and the job agree on whether or not this is a senior position with senior expectations and senior pay or not.

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