When walking into an interview for a new job, you’re interviewing your potential employer just as much as they’re interviewing you -there’s nothing worse than landing what you thought was your dream job and being unhappy after the first week because you didn’t get a thorough understanding of the company during your conversations with the hiring manager.
After working for five companies in five years, I can assure you I’ve made many mistakes in choosing the company. While I’ve gotten important experience at every place I worked, I might not have said yes to one or two of them, had I paid closer attention.
Take advantage of what I learned and look for these details next time you’re about to sit in the hot seat.
Office Culture Is Everything
When you walk into an office, observe the manner of the people working there. It’s pretty evident when someone thoroughly enjoys where they work. Is the receptionist friendly? Is your potential boss treating their employees well? Is the office loud? A recent survey found that 22 percent of people listed the number one on-the-job pet peeve as loud coworkers – don’t overlook details like this. I can’t stand a loud office.
While not all of these particulars will be obvious, you can pick up on subtle clues to determine if the office culture aligns with the work environment you thrive in. I made the mistake of taking a job after having a poor interview experience, and spent an unhappy year and a half dealing with that decision.
What I learned: The office is where you spend 40-plus hours a week; make sure it’s a place you want to be at.
Know Your Deal Breakers
Be honest with yourself about deal breakers when you walk into a potential new workplace. When your interviewer describes your day-to-day job description, are there any significant red flags? I’m the first to ignore these red flags, assuming I’ll grow to like them with time.
Take note if you’re a social butterfly and yet the position is very independent or if you work best individually, but your new job description requires you to rely on other people to succeed.
What I learned: If you notice something amiss at the interview stage, it’s worth considering. Everyone has deal breakers and sometimes you can’t be too picky, but it’s good to weigh the good and the bad as you decide where your next career step will take you.
Pick Up on Subtle Clues
As an interviewee, you’ve spent hours preparing for your potential new employer. You’ve researched the history, studied the product, learned about the people you’re interviewing with and mastered standard interview questions. You walk into the interview and confidently introduce yourself and the interviewer calls you by the wrong name.
Picking up on subtle clues like this goes both ways of course, but if you notice major slip-ups that could be improved with a little proofreading, walk away. Observe the attitude of the interviewer and other employees you talk to. Do they seem like they enjoy working for the company? Do they talk negatively about their coworkers or suggest that it’s not a great place to work?
What I learned: These are easily overlooked when you really need or want a job, but they could also be your first sign that it’s not a great company to work for.
Pay Attention to Your Gut
This is a hard one to suggest, because everyone’s gut feelings are different. That doesn’t mean yours is any less reliable than the next person’s, so use it. I had an interesting experience with this myself. While everything seemed good on paper, minus a few small details, there was something I couldn’t shake after leaving the interview.
I took the job and ended up leaving a week and a half later – that’s how bad it was. I felt awful leaving after the company had put time into processing my paperwork and training me; I’d never done something like that before, but I knew I had to. If I hadn’t ignored my gut, all of that could have been avoided.
What I learned: You know yourself better than anyone else. Use this to your advantage as you go through the interview process.
Ask to Observe or Shadow
Ask to sit in on a company meeting or shadow someone for a day. See if people are interacting in a positive, innovative, creative way and if management takes part in the process. Working alongside new people can be difficult at first, but if you know for certain you’re going to be part of a dynamic team, it will be worth the nervousness.
I interviewed for a position that I thought would be my dream job and left feeling incredibly uncertain. I vowed to shadow a current employee if I was asked to go any further into the interview process, just to be sure it was a good fit.
Note that it may be best to ask about this later in the interview process, either after you’ve been offered the position or when you’re in the final stage. Employers are interviewing many people, not just you, and allowing everyone to shadow would reduce productivity on the team and become exhausting for other employees.
What I learned: Sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting into until you’re in it. Get into it during the interview by shadowing to be more certain about the position.
Treat your interview as a chance to really get a feel for the company, not just the job you’re applying for. There may never be the perfect company along your career path, but if you leave an interview feeling absolutely certain that you belong with the company, you may be on the right track.