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25 February-2020

Interviewing the Interviewer: How to Find the Right Job for You

Finding a job often feels like waiting to get asked to dance. Job seekers put themselves out there, spend time getting ready to interview, go meet new people in awkward settings, and then wait for an offer. More often than not, it feels like the company has all of the power — you’re just standing there, forcing a smile, and hoping to get picked.

But letting the company wrestle away all control isn’t going to help land you a job you love. man in suit being interviewed

Studies show that 66 percent of people are dissatisfied with their daily work lives. There are many reasons why so many find themselves in a job they dislike, and a big part of the problem begins with the interview process. Auditioning for a role isn’t just you showing the interviewer how awesome you are while also assuming that the job you want is an ideal fit. If you want to be on a positive, rewarding career trajectory, and if you want to develop professionally while also looking for a long-term home, you need to interview the interviewer. Go into your meeting with the hiring manager prepared with that set of standard questions, yes, but also go in with your personalized set of pointed, thought-provoking inquiries to help you truly decide… “If they want me for this job, do I really want to work here?” 

Start with research.

As part of interviewing for a job, you should always research the company. Doing so will help to demonstrate your interest while also presenting you as a better candidate. But research has a benefit for you, too — you are very likely to discover critical things you need to know about the company in order to make an educated employment decision. 

Of course, obvious things such as compensation and benefits factor significantly when choosing a job. But items like culture, work lifestyle, and flexibility, company mission and values, employee stability/turnover, etc., are also major considerations, particularly when you are trying to determine whether or not you will be truly “happy” in a new position. 

This type of stuff isn’t often covered in depth by your interviewer, so you will need to rely on self-led research. Check out the company’s “About Us” page on the website. Peruse job boards and company rating websites for feedback from others. If you know people (or know people who know people) who work for the company, ask for insight, feedback, and off-the-record intel. Once all of that data has been collected, you should have more than enough information to assemble your personalized list of deeper-dive interview questions. 

Ask useful questions.

Strategic questions help to set up a meaningful dialogue, and that’s what you’re going to need when it comes to deciding whether or not an opportunity is for you. As an example, when meeting with the hiring manager at a startup or early-stage small company, you might want to ask how long they’ve been in business, where they are with funding and burn rate, what the exit strategy looks like, etc. You may not get answers to all of your questions, but the interviewer will surely appreciate your level of prep and interest, and you won’t get caught by surprise accepting a job with a startup that is 90 days away from not being able to make payroll. 

Fairly recently, a candidate we were helping needed to find work pretty fast. She interviewed on her own with a company where sales team turnover was a known issue and part of how the organization operated. While pockets of employees in certain segments of the company were happy, the sales team had a notoriously high churn rate. However, the company was in growth mode, with new investment funding and several new leadership hires. Employees felt hopeful that the change in management would alter internal culture for the better, thus helping to alleviate the turnover problem. This candidate received an offer and took the job. Unfortunately, the one thing that did not change when the funding landed was the person at the head of revenue. Ultimately, she came back to us after less than a year and said: “I tried my best. I bought into the changes promised in the interview and didn’t listen to the marketplace or to my peers who had worked there before. Can you help me again?” 

In this case, could questions generated from her research of the marketplace and via Q&A with her peers have helped with the decision here? Very possibly. But new $$$ and new leadership always brings hope of change for the better, so an interviewer answering her probing inquiries in that way may still have been able to quell heightened turnover concerns. Nonetheless, we don’t know how that interview would or could have played out differently because the personally-useful questions were never asked.

What are some good questions?

Your phrasing, tone, and approach will matter greatly. Be thoughtful about what you ask and how you ask it. And in some cases, the answer might already be available online, so if you haven’t done your deep-dive homework first, you run the risk of damaging your interview chances by appearing underprepared. Here are some examples of questions you can ask: 

  • How long have you been in business? 
  • What is the company’s current growth rate, and where are things headed next year and beyond?
  • What are the differentiating factors about your product/service that compel customers to do business with you rather than your competitors? 
  • Why do employees choose to work here versus somewhere else?
  • How many people do you have in the role I’m being considered for? How big is the team and how much growth are you projecting?
  • What is your career development plan/program for employees? Is there room to advance and to grow internally? 
  • What is it about working here (beyond salary and benefits) that makes it sticky for people? Why do they stay? 
  • What is the company’s stance on doing good in the community and giving back? How are employees incorporated in espousing that mission?
  • How do you address negative feedback about the company in the local marketplace? What are you doing to keep the company’s image positive and forward-facing, both internally and externally?

Assess the answers.

Answers to your personally-focused questions will absolutely help to give you an educated indication of whether or not an opportunity is a good potential fit. Gather together everything you’ve learned, organize it, make a “pluses and minuses” spreadsheet (if you dig visuals), and study and process all of the data. There is a science to choosing the right job, and it shouldn’t be the nervous, unpredictable experience of waiting blindly to get picked to dance. Interview your interviewers, and try to gain as much control as you can over your own job exploration adventure.

If you’re looking for your next career move, please give us a call for help.

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