Think that commission-based job sounds too good to be true? It probably is. Here are two very important questions to ask a potential employer.
Let’s get this out of the way early: I HATE the idea of commission-based jobs, specifically those where one’s livelihood is determined on personal sales.
In this situation, the employer takes full advantage of the employee, taking in no risk, financially or otherwise, to have them on board. In many cases, the new employee has to pay their own way for training and certifications. Hundreds of hours can be wasted without a penny earned, and benefits covering health, retirement, etc. are non-existent. It’s a cutthroat model that pits coworkers against each other, and often leads to no-win situations of price undercutting, shady tactics and outright libel and slander. And during this time, management sits back to relax and collect their commissions from people who did all the work for them.
So yeah, I’m not a fan.
That being said, commission-based jobs are an ever-increasing segment of the available job market. Hell, I’ve interviewed with several commission-structured companies. They’re the most cost-effective in a down economy, and with fewer and fewer options, more and more people will be gravitating towards them.
For as much talk about team-building and synergy and the company and the group from the higher-ups, the structure in these businesses is the exact opposite. Regardless of employee jurisdictions, industry separations or client longevity, competition is the name of the game.
Which leads me to the one question that you MUST ask even if, after all the reasons I’ve given you (which might still not balance with the reason to do it: MONEY!), you decide to go for the job:
With employees working individually to gain customers and sales, and given that they are working to generate personal commissions, how do you foster a team-based environment within the company?
Or words to that effect.
This question, in several forms, has stopped even the most grandiloquent manager in their tracks. I’ve received everything from filibusters on other topics to a halfhearted attempt at using buzzwords in the hopes of getting me so confused that I would forget what I asked. This is a key indicator that the job you’re about to get accepted for (because they never turn down free workers and more money coming in) is baloney.
But ah! What if you get the rare breed of interviewer who is able to cite employees having their own regions, particular customer types (legal, medical, etc.) or a strong stance against client sniping? Although you might get this response 0.0005% of the time, I’ve prepared a follow-up question for you. And because this falls under a rare exception to the first question, I don’t count it separately:
I’ve both read and heard of situations where competing employees will subvert these rules or, in some cases, the company will reduce industry pools/jurisdictions/client bases to compensate for new hires or to boost up other employees. What kind of guarantee can you give me that this won’t happen?
If you are not offered this guarantee (if any) in writing (which you won’t) and get a copy of it for yourself (which you can’t) and you still take the job, you’d better watch your back. And your front.
Because in the world of commission-based jobs, it’s everyone for themselves.