During a job interview, it’s critical that you pay attention to your environment, and ask the kinds of questions that will offer a good idea of whether you’re going to be comfortable at that particular workplace. Even if you think your skills are a perfect match for the position, don’t squander an early (and significant) opportunity to find out if the job is right for you.
Gauge the Mood
John Reed, senior executive director at Robert Half Technology, recommends that you begin paying attention to the workplace environment as soon as you walk into the building. Do the surroundings feel comfortable? Does morale seem high among your potential colleagues? Is there tension in the air?
“What’s their posture and body language like?” Reed asked, “Are they frowning or do they appear unengaged? You really have to look at other people besides the interviewer.”
Do You Fit In?
A good cultural fit is critical to your success at any organization. As Reed explained, you should look for a cultural theme or message. “While you don’t want to be part of a homogenous work force,” he said, “there has to be common threads in the group. So ask yourself: ‘Are you like-minded and would you complement the team, or struggle to adapt?’”
You can pick up clues to the culture from what you see around the office, and compare it to your own needs. Are you structured in a way that demands a clear-cut schedule? If so, that office with the foosball-playing software engineers, all of them clad in jeans and flip flops, might not be the best place for you. Conversely, if you live in t-shirts and shorts, you may not last very long at a company where everybody wears khakis and button-down shirts on Casual Fridays.
Ask About the Work
If you ask specific questions about the kinds of projects you’ll be working on, and your interviewer gives you a blank look or is purposefully vague, it’s not a good sign. (The only caveat here is if you’re speaking with someone in HR or otherwise not close with the department or team, and you know there will be other interviewers in the future.)
They May Want You, But Do You Want Them?
It’s rare for an employer to offer a candidate the job during the interview; there are often too many contingencies at play for management to hire right off the proverbial bat. But if the offer comes before you even stand to leave the interview room, be cautious and ask questions. It’s important to determine if the company is hiring out of desperation, or because you’re actually an ideal candidate.
One way to make that determination is to ask what happened to the employee who occupied the job before you. “You want to know how long they were there and why they left or are leaving. If it appears they were at the position for a very short time,” Reed said, “ask about the person who was there before them. If your predecessors were employed for short stints, weren’t promoted, or moved on for negligible reasons, be very wary.”
- What the Interview Qs Say About a Company’s Culture
- How to Tell If a Company’s Culture Will Strangle Your Soul
- Are You Properly Preparing for Job Interviews?
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