What to Watch for and Key Questions to Ask in Your Next Job Interview
Have you ever accepted a job you thought was a great fit only to discover shortly thereafter how wrong you were?
I have. How could I have been so blind? In my case, I neglected to pay attention to key elements during the interview and I failed to ask pointed questions about the position I was interviewing for.
One of the greatest mistakes I think we make when we interview for a job is thinking that the interview is all about selling ourselves in order to secure the position.
What we often fail to see is that the interview is, just as importantly and arguably more so, an invaluable opportunity for us to determine if the job we're interviewing for is actually a good fit.
No job is going to be a perfect fit. And there's a lot we won’t know until we actually accept the position and start working.
However, there are key elements to watch for during the interview and pointed questions we can ask to help us determine if the job we're interviewing for is a job we really want.
Have you ever accepted a job offer you later regretted?
Key Elements to Look for During the Interview
Here's what I learned to pay attention to:
1. The supervisor. During the interview, you'll likely have the opportunity to meet your potential future boss.
Does he or she appear to have strong leadership skills? What is his general demeanor?
Listen and pay attention to how he responds to you during the interview–both verbally and non-verbally–in order to gather information about him.
Does he provide direct answers to your questions? Consider this a reflection of how he'll answer future questions you'll have if you get the job.
Do you feel intimidated or comfortable in his presence? This is the guy you may work under for the next few years.
Do you like him? When you like your boss, you're more likely to want to give your all at work.
2. The employees. At least one of your potential future colleagues is likely to be present during the interview.
Do you feel a connection with them? Do they appear to have a work ethic and other values similar to yours? Do you think you would want to work with these people forty hours per week?
If you like your colleagues, you'll feel more excited about going into work each morning and you'll enjoy your work atmosphere more, which in turn will make you a more productive employee.
3. The interactions among the interviewers. Pay attention to the interactions among your potential employer and colleagues during the interview as these may tell you a lot about your potential future work environment.
Do the employer and employees seem to respect each other or even like each other? Do they appear to have positive professional relationships with one other?
This is important because these relationship dynamics will impact you if you end up working in this environment.
4. The general set-up. How are the chairs arranged for the interview? Are they arranged in a uniform manner around a table signifying equality, or is your chair singled out from the rest?
If the chairs are set up as if you're on trial, with your interviewers' chairs lined up directly across from yours, this may indicate an authoritarian supervisor or an unleveled playing field between you and your potential colleagues.
5. Your instinct. Are you getting bad vibes during this interview?
Do you have a sense that something is amiss or that the interview committee is hiding something from you or somehow not presenting all the facts about the position you're applying for?
We often regret not having listened to our gut feeling about a big decision we made. Don’t make that mistake; trust your instinct.
6. Nonverbal signals. Do your interviewers make eye contact with you as you converse with them or are their eyes wandering the room, looking at their watch, or otherwise not engaged in the conversation?
Do they appear fidgety or uncomfortable speaking with you? Also notice nonverbal cues the interviewers may give one another during the interview. Are they signaling that they are interested in you or bored?
These cues may be misleading or hard to read, but they can help you get an overall impression as to whether or not you're a good fit for the company.
Ask Questions During the Interview
Think of all the questions that are important to you about the job you're applying for and write them down in advance. Take them with you and refer to them during the interview as you record the responses for future reference.
While you don’t want to read your inquires off like a laundry list during the interview, it's important that you get answers to all of them to help you decide whether or not the job you're interviewing for is a good fit for you.
Keep in mind, as a general rule of thumb, that the interview is not a good time to ask about salary and benefits.
Regardless of the questions you choose to ask during the interview, listen carefully to the responses you receive. Are your inquiries answered, partially answered, or dodged altogether?
Beware of an interview committee answering your questions like politicians, meaning that they talk around the questions but never actually answer them.
Here are some questions you may want to ask during the interview:
What exactly will my work duties be?
What will my work hours be?
Which part of the building will I be working in?
Will I have my own work space and/or desk? (Don’t assume anything.) Ask your supervisor to show you where it's located. If it's in a noisy or highly trafficked area and you work best under quieter conditions, this may not be a good fit for you.
Who will I be working with?
Who will my direct supervisor be?
Why did the last person in this position leave? (You may not get the real answer to this one but the response you get may tell you a lot in and of itself.)
Also, even though you've likely done your homework and researched the company online in advance, it's still a good idea to get clarification and/or affirmation during the interview that the information you read online is accurate and current.
Regardless of whether or not you end up being offered the job you interview for, as well as whether or not you decide to accept it, don’t forget to take the time to thank your interviewers orally at the end of the interview as well as in writing after you leave. Make sure they know how much you appreciate their time in meeting with you.
© 2015 Geri McClymont