We assume that an interview is all about selling ourselves to the interviewer to land the job, but it’s much more than that. It is your chance to get to know the organization and the people who work there. Even if a company gives you an offer, if you didn’t get a good feeling from the interviewers, you need to put a lot of thought into your decision before accepting the offer.
An interview is your chance to assess them. Personally, I’ve had a lot of odd interview situations. Here are two.
- Overseas in my early 20’s, I was looking to end my internship and find a full-time job. I thought I was interviewing for a chief of staff role for the managing director of a global Fortune company. When I found out that he smoked cigars in his office and the stench was unbearable, I was turned off. My impression worsened when I was given a Word processing test as part of the interview because the job posting said nothing about clerical duties. I was paralyzed at that point but walked to the kind HR person to tell her this was not the job for me.
- Non-profit, mid-20’s. Two young professionals interviewed me and asked some great questions until they started in front of me to speak privately to one another, insulting my current company and its clients. I didn’t get an offer, and I wondered why I had even been invited; just so they could humor themselves?
Sometimes you’re going to feel uncomfortable and maybe it will just feel all wrong, but no matter what situation you’re in, remember you are also interviewing the employer for cultural fit with you.
The employer can see your qualifications on paper; that’s why you were invited to come in. The interview is about chemistry between you and the individuals – are you someone they want to work with each day? There is no point in trying to be someone you’re not because sooner or later they’ll find out who you are, and if they don’t like you, you probably won’t like them either!
Know the Job.
Job descriptions are not always accurate. Ensure you get a complete picture of what the job entails. If you sense that the role as advertised is completely different than the one you’re interviewing for, ask questions to get a clear picture of the daily responsibilities and skills required to be successful.
Observe the Culture.
Look around the office. Is it an open office space with cubicles? Is there a lot of chatter or is it silent? Identify what type of work environment is best suited to you. You may receive strong signals during an interview about the culture or people who work there.
Ask Powerful Questions.
One of the best questions you can ask is, “how did this position come open?” If the interviewer is honest, you will find out if someone left, was fired or if it’s a new role. It should give you some insight into what you’re up against and what kinds of expectations the employer may have. Another useful question is, “what do you like about working here, and what would you change?” This may give you hints as to what it’s really like to work there.
If you get an offer and don’t feel you have enough information to make an informed decision, reach out to your point of contact and ask more questions. It shows your genuine interest and tells the employer that you want to find the right match just as they do. You want to spend your working hours at a place that respects and values you, so make sure you conduct your own thorough evaluation of your interviewers and the company. We spend so many hours per week at work, so you’ll want to spend those hours with people you like to be around. It has a substantial effect on the quality of your life.