Interviews: While they’re looking to see if you’re a match, you should be doing the same.

Job interviewing can be a little like dating. When you engage and connect with the person who is interviewing you, it provides an opportunity for you to determine the chemistry between you and your potential employer.

I was interviewing at a tech company in Silicon Valley that everyone wanted to be a part of and I was excited to be there. So, when I asked the hiring manager for a business card, and we left the conference room to walk through the office over to his desk, I knew that this was not the right place for me after seeing the office and its employees at work. When I saw that work environment, I knew it wasn’t going to be the right match.

Interviewing for a job is a mutual process of getting to know each other and figuring out if it’s a match for both parties. Some companies invest a lot of money and effort to recruit, even host social events or trial work weeks as part of the selection process to assess if candidates are a right fit for their organization. Training and guidebooks offer interview questions to help managers establish the right set of questions to find the person they are looking for. But, I wondered about the flipside: What are candidates doing to assess if the company’s culture is going to be a good match for them?

As much as you want to be the perfect hire for the company, it’s important to consider if the company is going to be a match for you. In today’s job market, you should be selective about where you want to work and who you want to work for. Let’s face it—no one wants to be in a place where it’s not grooving. It’s not going to be good for either party. 28% of employees voluntarily quit in their first 90 days. That’s significant turnover. The turnover could also be a result of the stress of the job market, which can cause some candidates to accept a job offer too eagerly before doing their due diligence. Other than reading reviews on sites like Glassdoor or CareerBliss, there are other ways to gain valuable insights into the company’s work environment and culture to discover if the company may be a match for you or not.

Ask thoughtful questions

More candidates should be actively engaged in interviews and armed with questions to ask the interviewer/employer. Do your research and look at recent articles on the company and its leaders. Does the company garner positive or negative results in the media? Look beyond the company’s perks and benefits to uncover more. If you read about the company’s involvement with local schools and that’s important to you, then ask about it during the interview. Candidates can ask questions to reveal more about the company culture. Just like dating, each party should be asking questions to get to know each other better. As a hiring manager, it disappointed me when candidates had no questions for me. Imagine having a date like that.

Pay attention to details.

Beyond the questions asked, other details can give you a hint about the company’s culture. How do you feel when you’re at the office? Are they genuinely interested in you beyond your work experience? Once you’re onsite and face-to-face with other team members, it offers more opportunities to learn about the work environment.

  • The reception. Your interview experience begins the moment you set foot onto the company’s property. How are you received when you arrive? Are they respectful of your time? I think it shows a lot about the company if they go out of their way (or not) to make you feel comfortable when you arrive and keep you informed if someone is late.
  • The interview room. It’s likely the appointment was set up in advance. Does the room you’re interviewing in look like it was expecting you? Does it reflect the company’s image or brand? I interviewed with a company that made Fortune’s list of Best Companies to Work For several years in a row. The interview started in a terribly-appointed conference room. The interviewer acknowledged it was a poor representation of the company and not a good environment for us to talk, so she suggested we move outside in the atrium. I thought that was a very polished gesture.
  • The office vibe. Take note of how employees recognize you. Are they friendly, make eye contact, and smile to strangers visiting their office? Pay attention to how employees acknowledge others. It might be casual, it might be nonexistent, or it could be a whirlwind effect.

Look beyond the décor

Candidates pick up on things they see. Culture goes beyond looking to see if the company’s values are part of the office décor. If a candidate has the good fortune to see beyond the interview room, sometimes more can be revealed. In my example, when I walked with the hiring manager to his desk, we walked past the break room where he pointed out to me that employees had access to food at any time they wanted. What I saw was a kitchen counter dusted with colored crumbs from the cereal dispenser. A refrigerator was well-stocked with energy drinks, craft beer bottles, and green juices. The recycling bin overflowed with empty cans. And, as if on cue, an employee on a Segway rode past us announcing that the DJ was setting up and the party was about to get started in the courtyard. While that might have been the kind of work environment that some could thrive in, that environment wasn’t for me at that time in my career.

There’s a lot that can be understood through what’s observed, like the closet just stocked with free samples that employees quickly rush to; the fishbowl-like glass conference room full of flipcharts and post-it notes all over its walls; or the indoor yurt used for meetings (all of which appeared in various organizations during my career). Every company has its own unique Kool-Aid that candidates should get a taste of.

We all want our next potential employer to be a good match, and there’s no easy way to describe a company’s culture. So, ask questions and ensure you balance it out with what you observe or feel about the work environment. Whether you are job hunting or career dating, ensure you’re doing your due diligence to get to know the other party fully. You’re going to be spending a significant amount of your day with them, so it’s in your best interest to get to know them pretty well before making that big commitment. How will you make sure it’s a match for you?

To learn how SGEi can develop onboarding schedules, testing, and feedback surveys to ensure your newly energized staff can deliver great customer experiences for your organization please connect with us at connect@sgeinternational.

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