Interviewing is often compared to dating—and for good reason. Just like a first date, an interview is a forum for you to look your best, highlight your attributes, and convince the other person that they should pursue a long-term relationship with you. While these are all important aspects of successful interviewing, don’t forget that it’s important to interview the company as well to make they’re as a good a fit for you as you are for them.
The hiring process, when done right, should be one of mutual compatibility. You could be the greatest x,y,z in your field but if you thrive in collaborative environments where everyone brainstorms out loud and often work together, you probably won’t be happy at a place where the culture is very competitive and it’s every man or woman for themself—or vice versa.
I strongly believe that 99% of work is relationships—relationships with other employees, customers, vendors, you name it. An in-person interview at the office where you will be working is the best and often only time to scope out the corporate culture and decide whether or not you’d like to work there.
This process is very similar to visiting a date’s apartment for the very first time. The way a person lives is very telling. Your date may look and seem well put together in public but their apartment could be filled with dirty magazines, old food and a futon mattress. If you always use coasters and like having everything in its place then no matter how wonderful this person is you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle.
Here are a few pointers to help you evaluate whether a potential employer is right for you:
Before The Interview
When you arrive at the interview, which will hopefully be the same location at which you will be working, observe the exterior and interior of the building. Ask yourself the following:
- Can you imagine yourself walking through the halls of the interior?
- What is the mood of the workers? Friendly? Busy? Deflated?
- What is the dress code? Will you be comfortable conforming to it?
- Is this a location I would be comfortable commuting to everyday?
- Is the exterior of the building in good condition?
Don’t underestimate the impact a long commute or uncomfortable working conditions can play in your job satisfaction. A 45-minute drive to an interview may seem like no big deal, but having to make that trip twice a day, five days a week in traffic can really be a big drain not only on your time but also on your stress level. Also, working in an office that’s poorly maintained or poorly laid out can also have negative effects. Leaky ceilings, broken air conditioning, smelly bathrooms—these are not things most people want to deal with eight hours a day.
During The Interview
Most interviews allow at least some time for answering questions—make sure you use it! Not only will you look thoughtful and prepared to an interviewer, you will be gaining valuable information that will help you asses whether or not the position is a good fit for you. A few questions to ask each interviewer:
- What would a typical day in my position be like?
- Are there opportunities for personal and career development such as tuition reimbursement, mentoring programs or training seminars?
- What do you like best and worst about your job?
- Why do you like working at this company?
- How would you describe the corporate culture?
Having spent more time as an interviewer than an interviewee, the most impressive candidate I have had the pleasure of interviewing came to the interview with an entire notebook page full of questions. Not just a tiny, pocket-size notebook but a large, 8 x 10 sheet with notes on every line and in the margins. I went straight from the interview to the hiring manager to beg them to hire this person.
The answers to any of the above questions can be extremely telling. If your interviewer gushes on and on about how wonderful everyone is, how well the company treats people and seems genuine, then you know that the company must be a great place to work. If the interviewer seems guarded or unsure of how to answer questions about their personal job satisfaction then maybe there are some internal personnel issues and you might want to keep looking for something better.
Remember that the employer-employee relationship is a lot like a marriage. Each one takes care of the other so that each can be happy and successful. Make your ‘marriage’ a solid one by first choosing the right mate.