With one of the league’s most talented teams, the Dallas Cowboys underperformed in 2019.

The Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, will likely be searching for a new head coach once this season ends. With a position like the head coach of America’s most covered professional football team, the candidate will have plenty of background.

But, what if that person had zero insight about Jerry Jones and his management style?

Jerry Jones would explain that he has collected a treasure trove of talent and his expectations are nothing short of a Super Bowl.

He might lay out his Super Bowl expectations and express his perspective on how the previous coaching staff mishandled the opportunity.

Mr. Jones would be forthcoming with his opinions related to the team, head coaching, staff and opportunities for improvement. But, would he tell a candidate everything they need to know about the position?

Would this new coach know they are coming into a situation where the role of owner, general manager and coach are often blurred in the eyes of the team?

This is an owner who talks with the press more than any owner in the league, often sharing his public opinions of how the team should be coached.

Jones skips past the chain of command so often that some players feel as if they report to the owner, not the coaching staff.

Two of the NFL’s greatest coaches in history worked for Jerry Jones. Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells built winning cultures in the Cowboys locker room but both left because of Jones.

Johnson, in particular, put Dallas back on the map after a decade of losing. Johnson’s eye for talent helped assemble a bevy of young talent that would push the Cowboys to a decade of dominance.

Jones saw it differently.

After winning two Super Bowl titles, Jones wanted credit for winning. During the fourth quarter of every game, Jones would show up on the sideline to make sure the cameras saw him.

Before the 1992 NFL Draft, Jones gave specific instructions to Johnson, “You know the ESPN camera is in the draft room today. So whenever we’re about to make a pick, you look at me, like we’re talking about it.”

Will Jones tell his new head coach that he will spend as much time placating the owner’s ego as he does managing the team?

Even Hall of Fame coaches get only passing consideration when it comes to construction of the roster. Parcells, who won two Super Bowl championships with the New York Giants, repeatedly expressed his frustration with Jones and his controlling tendencies.

If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.

Bill Parcells, former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys

Any candidate for the Cowboys head coaching job should understand exactly what they are signing up for. You are expected to win a Super Bowl while deferring most decisions and credit to your manager.

Remember that losing coaches last longer with Jerry Jones than winning coaches.

Know What You Are Getting Yourself Into

If you are about to start a new job, there is a 30% chance that you will leave within 90 days of starting, according to a survey from Jobvite.

What gives?

  • Forty-three percent say their day-to-day role wasn’t what they expected.
  • Thirty-four percent reported an incident or bad experience drove them away.
  • Thirty-two percent were not keen on the company’s culture.

As an interviewing manager, I find it odd when someone isn’t interested in why we have an open position.

If you are only allowed one question in an interview, choose this one:

“Do you mind telling me why this position is open?”

There are only so many reasons that can be plausible.

  1. The company is growing – This is the ideal situation for new hires and the most common reason. Business is good and the current team needs help. Expanding companies pay more to retain talent, promote from within and generally spend more on retention and employee morale. Growing companies are more likely to have competent managers than shrinking companies. If you don’t hear about growth when you ask this question, make sure to ask a follow-up question about growth in recent years and months.
  2. Someone was promoted – Back-filling an upwardly mobile person is a close second to growth, and often synonymous with a rising company. Companies that promote from within will offer you similar opportunities if you perform. The company is likely thriving if they just promoted someone internally (but not always.) The caveat is that you will follow in the footsteps of a star. It may prove difficult to keep that pace initially. Think of what it would be like to play shortstop for the New York Yankees after Derek Jeter. That might be what you are signing up for.
  3. Someone was fired – This situation can go either way. On one hand, the bar was set low by your predecessor. If you replace a poor performer, your performance will appear exceptional in comparison. On the other hand, this company might fire frequently and have unrealistic expectations of individual performance. If you are replacing someone who was terminated, don’t be afraid to ask the hiring manager clarifying questions.
  4. Someone left voluntarily – This situation should get your attention. There are many innocuous reasons someone might leave a company voluntarily, with one simply being that person needed a new challenge. More often than not, the company plays a role in pushing the person away.

Here are a few stats according to a 2018 research study by Randstad:

  • Sixty percent are leaving or are considering leaving because they do not like their direct supervisor.
  • Fifty-nine percent believe their company views profits as more important than how people are treated.
  • Fifty-eight percent do not believe their company has enough growth opportunities for them to stay longer.
  • Fifty-eight percent are leaving or are considering leaving because of negative office politics.

A hiring manager is rarely going to share that the company has an employee retention problem. If you are replacing someone who left voluntarily, think about the reasons they could have left.

The odds are likely that something is amiss if you are replacing someone who left voluntarily. Don’t be afraid to ask several follow-up questions.

Give points to a manager who is honest with you. If a manager tells you that they have lost some good employees and that they take it personally, you might be dealing with a good situation.

Managers with emotional intelligence, confidence and self-awareness will shoot straight with you. Lying will only backfire two weeks later on your first day.

If managers want to change the situation, they should recruit people who understand the challenge and are up for it. If not, the situation will keep repeating.

I once interviewed for a position that would support a particularly difficult client. When an applicant asked me why the position was open, I hesitated and then decided to be candid.

I told her that this client had chewed up three people in the last two years. This led to an engaging conversation about the client. The applicant was not turned off. She shared several personal examples of comparable clients and how she had won them over.

This person came into the role with eyes wide open and saw this position as a challenge. Within six months, she won the client over.

Any interviewer is going to dig in and ask about why you left every employer on your resume. They want to know what motivated you to leave and determine if you’ll be a flight risk in their culture.

You have every right to ask the interviewer the same line of questioning as to why they are hiring in the first place. Dig in until you are satisfied with the answer and understand exactly what you are signing up for.

Do you plan to get better in 2020? It starts with what you read. Follow along as I publish new blog posts.

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