An interview is a two-way street.
Many job-seekers mistakenly view an interview as a situation in which the employer has all the options.
They see themselves as a piece of meat waiting to be chosen. The current job market hasn’t helped matters much.
In reality, a job interview is as much of an opportunity for you to screen and select a potential employer as it is for them to question and select you.
Sometimes a job-seeker’s desperate attitude makes the interview a one-way street in favor of the employer. Are you desperate? Consider downplaying your need for a job. Anxiety is an unattractive outfit no one wears well. The job-seekers who project an ambitious, confidant, enthusiastic attitude will put themselves and the interviewer on equal footing.
There is a cost to both the employer and employee when there is a bad match.
You lose when you are hired in a bad match situation even in these recessionary times. The loss is financial if you moved to take the job or quit another job in hopes of bettering yourself.
Other kinds of losses include having a record blemished with a bad reference or the blow to one’s self-confidence that often results when one loses a job.
The job-seeker can even the interview score by preparing prior to the interview.
The single most effective method for evaluating a company or boss is to network with current or former employees. Ask specific questions and listen closely to the answers. You might ask what it is like to work for a specific boss, for example. A job-seeker considering a certain retail store might ask a current worker how many hours they get per week. How are your shifts determined? How much notice do you get? Are you given sales quotas?
It is also possible to research a company’s reputation. Search for relevant books and magazine articles on top employers at a library or on the Internet. Get familiar with a company’s Web site. A lot can be learned by doing an Internet news search using the company name, general manager or even your prospective supervisor.
One could ask a potential employer for a job description or an organizational chart. This could prevent surprises after you take the job. Be sure you know if the written job description is realistic. I have seen job descriptions that are out of date or so vague they are useless.
One form of interview preparation is to practice answering anticipated questions. This practice will give you confidence that will help you avoid making a weak, “hat-in-hand” impression. Lists of potential questions are readily available at the library or on the Internet. The best way to practice questions is with a friend.
Other methods that work are recording your answers, using a mirror or writing out your answers.
If it is not readily apparent, learn if the interviewer will be your supervisor. If not, ask to meet the supervisor. In some instances, you may have more than one supervisor, depending on your location or the shift you are assigned. The job-seeker should also ask if there would be occasions when they will receive direction from more than one person.
One could ask the manager to describe his/her management style. Alternatively, you could ask, “What type of work style do you dislike in subordinates?” Answers such as “I have little patience with workers who do not meet deadlines, ask too many questions or have to be told what to do” can be very telling about a manager’s style of supervising.
Ask the interviewer how they feel about employees coming to them with questions or problems. Ask, “How do you handle stress?”
Ask “What three things do you depend on a person in this position to do?” This will give clues on how to succeed or whether this job is for you.
Another revealing question could be “What advice would you give a new hire about getting ahead in this company?” A manager who says “Keep your nose to the grindstone and don’t rock the boat” will not appreciate outspoken employees.
Ask yourself the following questions as you listen to and observe a potential boss during an interview:
Is the manager sure about him/herself and the department’s future? Is his/her focus on team play or individual performance? Does the interviewer nitpick on inconsequential details about my background? Does the interviewer seem survival or success oriented?
You can consider a job interview successful if you walk out the door with a firm grasp of what your work life will be like if you accept the job.