Interviews are a two-way street

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Most people, myself included, find interviewing for a job to be extremely stressful. As a job-seeker, you’re so focused on answering questions “right”, trying to impress the employer and getting them to offer you the job, that you can lose sight of another perspective that is very important – your own. Your opinion is just as important as the employer’s, even though it may seem like they’re the ones with all the power. Let’s be honest – interviewing is not so different from dating. You’re always flattered to get an offer, and prefer having the opportunity to turn someone else down rather than being turned down yourself. But accepting a job is more significant than going on a date with someone you may not be all that interested in, and before you let the flattery go to your head, make sure you think through your options.

Image from www.paulmullan.ie

Shortly after college, I interviewed for a legal assistant position working for a corporate lawyer. It’s been 15 years, and this interview still ranks as one of the worst, if not THE worst, interview I have ever sat through. Not only did the lawyer regularly swear in the interview (not at me, thankfully), but he also repeatedly insulted his female clients, claiming that they got their companies in a divorce or by being widowed, and had no idea what they were doing. I sat there thinking “Do you not realize I’m a woman?”, with no idea on how to handle the situation (pre-career counselor days!) and hoping it would be over soon. I walked out of that office completely unconcerned about whether I ever heard from the company again, because there was absolutely nothing that would convince me to accept a job working for that man. (And before anyone starts with lawyer jokes – I’m not criticizing all lawyers or the legal profession, simply the behavior of this one particular man.)

Of course, my example is an extreme one, and most interviews won’t be quite so dramatic and most red flags won’t be quite so obvious. But the point is a good one – you have an obligation to yourself to assess the merits of the job/company, to determine if the job is what you want, if it will help you accomplish what you hope to accomplish, and if it allows you to do the things that are important to you, both inside and outside the office. Each job-seeker has their own personality and their own priorities, and while I could not have tolerated the working environment I described above, it’s also true that some job-seekers would not have been bothered by it like I was.

So take some time to think about what is important to you in a job and in a working environment, and compare it with what you know about the job/company before you accept any offers. Does the job play to your skills? Does the work seem like something you’d be satisfied doing, or are you unconcerned with the actual work as long as the salary meets your financial needs? Would you like a job where coworkers socialize regularly, maybe outside of work, or would you rather just do your job and be on your way? What did you think of the manager/coworkers that you met, and how did they interact with each other? If you’re looking for flexible scheduling, does the job allow that, or is the schedule clearly defined? Do you have other outstanding questions or concerns that haven’t been addressed yet?

Image from Career Girl Network

These are just examples of possible questions you may want to ask yourself, but there may be other things that are important to you as well. Be thorough about your research. In addition to what the company tells you, use sites like glassdoor.com to see what other people have said about them, Google the company to see what has been said about them in the news, and try networking with any possible contacts at the company who may be able to give you more insight.

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