Going on a job interview can make even the most confident of us feel like we’re heading back to school — and for an exam, no less. But unlike those standard tests of our youth, not every question has a clear and simple answer.
To keep yourself from what feels like hopeful guessing, you do the usual preparation, and then a thought comes to mind: Don’t people always say, “You’re really interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you.”
While good in theory, not a lot of people get what it means to interview a potential employer — beyond the customary questions you lob their way. With that in mind, we’ve compiled the following for you to consider when interviewing the interviewer:
1. Keep your eyes peeled for any red flags. Take what you’ve learned about the company as you prepared for the interview, and compare it to what you experience upon walking through the doors.
Let’s say the company touts itself as nurturing a collaborative environment. Is there a general buzz in the office from people working with one another? Or is it so quiet that you can hear a pin drop?
Beyond that, pay attention to how the hiring manager treats you. Has the interview been rescheduled a number of times? Are you left waiting in the lobby for an hour or more? Did they fail to mention you were meeting with more than one person?
Whatever happens during the interview, keep a running tally of red flags. If they end up outnumbering the benefits, this may not be the place for you. Besides, your gut will no doubt tell you whether you should look elsewhere.
2. Prepare a series of questions. During your research on the company and the role, you’ll run across more than one unanswered question. Jot every single one of them down, and then rank them in order of importance.
For example, do you know exactly what you’ll be doing each day? Do you know whether there are any immediate projects to address? Or what skills and experience they seek in an ideal candidate? What about that pesky work-life balance?
This may be the only opportunity you get to ask those pressing questions. And if you don’t get a straight answer, most people would consider it a big red flag.
3. Talk to more than just your interviewer. Remember those references you gave when submitting your resume? Trust that the interviewer will call them to get a better idea of whether you’re a good fit for the job.
You should be doing the same. Stop at the front desk, and ask the receptionist what he or she likes about the company. If you see someone in the hall, feel free to ask how long he or she has been working for the company.
No matter the response, the two of you may strike up a conversation where you learn a bit more about the company. It also shows your interest in the job, which can go a long way with a hiring manager.
4. Take notes. By now, you know to take notes during an interview. It’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to show you’re listening and serious about the potential job. It’s also one of the easiest and most effective ways to make an informed decision on whether this job is worth your consideration.
Besides taking note during the interview, write down your impressions of the company afterwards. Do it while it’s all fresh in your mind. This is the perfect time to note any red flags and any gut reactions to the company, people, and interviewer.
5. And above all else, be yourself. You always want to put your best foot forward, but you want to make sure it’s actually your foot. It’s okay to show your sense of humor and discuss your real hobbies.
Look at it this way: if the interviewer ends up feeling that you and the company don’t mesh, you’ve saved yourself a lot of headaches and stress. Plus, you could be missing out on an opportunity that’s perfect for you.
When all is said and done, good interviews are all about the give and the take — between the two parties. Take just as much as you give to guarantee you’re getting a clear picture of the potential employer. Otherwise, you’ll never know whether the company is a good fit for you, and isn’t that what it’s all about?