It is a given that the purpose of a job interview is, well, to obtain a job. There is no shortage of information about how to impress your potential employer and ace the interview. There is another side of the story that is frequently left out entirely: to what extent does your potential employer impress you?
With so much focus on what you need to do, say, and wear in an interview, it is easy to forget that what you think about the person and company you may end up working for is just as important as what they think of you. With some preparation, you can identify whether the opportunity is right or wrong for you with very little trouble. Before you even start your job search, you should compile two lists – must-haves and deal-breakers.
Popular must-haves are medical and dental insurance, paid vacation, and paid holidays. These may top your list as well or you might have your own ideas. In any case, a must-have is anything you are looking for that is absolutely essential, without which you will not even consider the job. Usually these are things you will be able to find out ahead of time, but if you are not sure, always ask questions during the interview.
These are, perhaps, even more important than your must-haves. When you think back on what you did not like about previous jobs, what stands out? You list might contain items about your supervisor’s personality or the aesthetics of the office or size of the company. Remember, this exercise is not an excuse to drudge up every tiny injustice or unpleasantness you ever encountered in the workplace. You simply want to identify what major traits would turn you off the job completely.
Once you get the big issues out of the way, your job is not quite done. When you arrive for the interview, try to set your nerves aside and observe your surroundings. It is quite amazing how much you can find out about an organization’s culture and the people who work there just by listening and watching. The following are some suggestions for things you might want to pay attention to:
- How employees interact with one another: Are they warm and friendly or cold and short? Do they say “Hello” when passing in the hallway or go about their business? Can you tell who is in a supporting role and who is in a supervisory role?
- Office layout: Are there mostly private offices or cubicles? Are most office doors open or closed? Is there several large common areas or very few?
- Office location: Is the office located in a safe area of town? Is there ample parking available for employees and guests? Are there many shops and restaurants nearby?
While there are no right or wrong answers to the above questions, they are important considerations. You should decide what type of environment is a good fit for you and your personality and try to evaluate these and other aspects of the situation based on your values and expectations.
Hopefully you will now realize that as much as you need to impress your future employer, they also need to impress you. Knowing ahead of time what you want and do not want in an employment situation will help you be able to recognize a good match when you find one. Remember that you have just as much right to turn down an employer as they do to turn down candidates. If you experience something that makes you realize the opportunity is not the best match for you, do not be afraid to say so. There is no sense in wasting your time or theirs dragging out an interview process that you know is not going to work out in the end. If that happens to be the case, be sure to decline the opportunity politely and still express your gratitude for their time and consideration.