Do you have an interview coming up? You are probably preparing for it all wrong! Typical job candidates spend most of their time rehearsing answers. Instead, they should be looking for ways to evaluate their potential employer. Here’s how to use your job interview to find out if a job is right for you.
Why you should evaluate potential employers
Harvard Business Review reported that, on average, workers change jobs once every three or four years. Of course, an employee might change jobs for unavoidable or unforeseeable reasons. Others unknowingly set themselves up for failure on the job interview.
A recent study by Leadership IQ found that nearly half of newly hired employees fail within the first 18 months. For some of these new workers, the problem is that they struggle to fit into the company’s culture. Within the first few weeks of working a new job, they might find out that they don’t work well with their supervisors, but it’s too late! Eventually, their discontent is too strong, and they quit the job they worked so hard to acquire. What a waste!
Boris Groysberg, a Harvard Business School professor, says that the ability to evaluate a job offer is an essential skill for modern professionals. “Yet,” the Harvard Business article states, “most people do it poorly.” Thankfully, you can discover a significant amount of information about your employer during the interview. Equipped with the facts, you can decide whether the job will work for you.
Ask the right questions
According to Dr. Thomas J. Denham, founder of Careers in Transition LLC, your boss is one of the seven most important factors of job satisfaction. “Without a boss who is committed to helping you learn and succeed, other benefits aren’t worth as much.” In Denham’s article “Evaluating Job Offers and Negotiating Salary,” he suggests gauging your chemistry with your boss just like you would with a romantic prospect. Do you get along with him or her? Would you feel comfortable with your potential boss’s management style? Is he or she interested in your growth?
To discover these factors, ask if your interviewer minds a few get-to-know-you questions, such as “Why did you decide to enter this career? What do you like best about your job? What’s the hardest part about working here?”
What the answers reveal
How did the employer respond when you suggested asking questions of your own?
With dismissiveness: A flippant or incomplete response is a red flag. The supervisor may be stingy with her time—a potential disaster if you need clarification of job tasks in the future.
With outrage: Does he seem offended that you dare to question him? If he doesn’t realize that it’s important for you to evaluate the job, he might never have your interests at heart. You want to work for someone who considers your needs, not someone who gets huffy under the slightest provocation.
With delight: If the interviewer is pleased that you’re so interested in getting to know her, it’s a good sign! Don’t you want an employer who is open and friendly?
With criticism: Kay Bosworth, a former editor for a business education magazine, describes a good boss: “He is honest and straightforward, which means you should not have to worry about where you stand with him. He’s willing to share responsibility when things go wrong.” If the manager blames his team for problems during the interview, you might be next under fire if you work under his direction.
With seriousness: A reasonable manager would realize that the more you know about your working conditions, the better you can evaluate if you will fit in with the company. Your questions deserve respect. Complete answers reveal that the boss takes your concerns seriously.
If the interviewer isn’t the boss
What should you do if someone other than the boss conducts the interview? You can still learn much about management from the interview. You might ask what resources will be provided to do your job. If the resources are scarce, it could reveal that the managers are out of touch with the needs of the employees, or that the company might be struggling to make ends meet.
Also, take a gander around the building before and after your interview. Do the employees seem happy? How is the workspace? Contented employees usually invest time in making their offices homey because they want to stay at their job long-term. Bare personal cubicles indicate that employees have a sense of detachment from their job.
Don’t lose the opportunity to get to know your future employer. If you ask the right questions, you’ll successfully evaluate whether the job is a good fit for you. What will your next interview reveal? Much will depend on how observant you are.