Job interviews can certainly be nerve-racking. While they may open the door to potentially great opportunities and hopefully, to a long bright future, they can unquestionably make you nervous and feel uneasy for good reason. Job interviews are an opportunity to showcase your credentials, demonstrate credibility and make an impression (hopefully, a very positive one) that will resonate long after you leave the interview. If the job interview is for that “dream job” that you’ve searched long and hard for, a great interview could land you that “perfect job” while a poor interview may leave you feeling defeated and devastated.
That said, it’s also important to understand and realize that job interviews are a two-way street. Yes, it’s your opportunity to showcase your credentials, make a lasting impression and statement about why you should get the job; BUT, it’s also an opportunity for YOU to evaluate the job opportunity to determine if it truly is the right match for you.
Use the job interview to assess the job opportunity thoroughly beyond the basics like job function/duties, compensation and benefits.
What is a typical work day like?
You’ll want to try to get a feel for what a typical day in the life of this job would be. Yes, no two days are alike but what are some of the things that you can expect each day from basic to moderate to extreme. Is it a fast-paced, be quick-on-your-feet type of job? Is it a seasonal type of business? Are there peaks and lulls? Is it a 24/7 type of business where you’ll be constantly on-call or is it more of a “9 to 5” or “8 to 6” type of job?
Does this job offer a good personal/work life balance?
While you’re certainly willing to put in 110% towards the job, it’s vital to have a good personal/work life balance to manage stress and avoid burnout. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be effective or efficient in what you are doing. During the interview you’ll want to try and get a sense of what the personal/work life balance will be like in this job. As eager as you may be to get the job, you also don’t want to regret it immediately thereafter.
What is the culture, atmosphere and environment like? Do you like and feel comfortable with the culture, atmosphere and environment?
You’ll be spending a good amount of time in this job, so this is very important. Be sure to look around the office and try to gauge the atmosphere. Pay attention to how people act, behave, respond, interact, operate and so forth. If you meet with multiple interviewers or other company employees, it’s a great opportunity to gauge your interaction with each interviewer and employee. You can learn a lot from just having conversations with various people within the company. Also look around the office, how it’s setup, organized and arranged. The look and feel of the office can say a lot about the environment, atmosphere and culture. Rely on your senses and instincts.
What are the opportunities for growth & development? What is the outlook for the future?
You want to get a sense of what the future will look like for both you and the company. Obviously, if this is a job and more importantly, a company that you hope to spend many years with, you’ll want to have room and opportunity to grow and develop. If the outlook is that it’ll take 3-5 years before you can make a move within the company, you’ll need to decide as to whether this is the right fit for you personally and career-wise. Sometimes you may take a position that isn’t quite in your area of interest but has the potential to get you into your area of interest with the caveat that it will take several years. You need to decide whether taking this job is the most appropriate course of action or whether it’s better to seek a different opportunity. How does this fit into your short and long-term personal & career plan?
You’ll also want to get a feel for where the company stands currently and where it is going. If you walk into a company that appears to be on its last leg, you’ll seriously need to take this into consideration because you know that within a certain period, you could be on your way right out the door. On a similar note, if a company is in the process of a merger or acquisition, there is the potential for downsizing or elimination of duplicate roles or job positions. While mergers and acquisitions are a way for companies to grow & expand rapidly and may result in benefits for some employees, there is always the potential for job losses.
So, the next time you go on a job interview, keep in mind that it’s a two-way street. The interviewer is exercising his or her due diligence and so should you!