A divorced friend of mine recalled a story of when she had just gotten engaged, back in college. She was watching TV with her new fiancé and his roommates, and stepped into the kitchen for some water. Walking barefoot, she caught the sole of her foot on a nail sticking out of the carpet, and she fell, crying out in pain. Her roommates ran to give her aid, but her fiancé instead bolted out the door. He had gone to yell at the landlord for negligent maintenance.
“I should’ve seen then what kind of a husband I was getting,” she told me.
The job interview is a blind date, from which the employer chooses either to “propose” or pursue a whirlwind courtship elsewhere. It’s likely you two haven’t met before. While the candidate is preparing in every way possible to impress the employer, the idea of a one-sided job interview is about as off-base as a man choosing his bride from a list of eligible bachelorettes. You, the jobseeker, are interviewing the employer too.
In the short courtship of a job interview or two, you can see and hear clues about your future happiness in that position. A bad boss can make the greatest job in the world a nightmare. Here are some clues to look for:
- Conversation is forced between you. You walk out of a job interview, feeling tongue-tied and frustrated. You feel you couldn’t get your point across. But was it you? Did the employer rebuff answers or act like they were insufficient? Did he or she cut you off or were you allowed to fully answer the questions? Remember, communication is a two-way street.
- They’re distracted. Does the employer have a cell phone on the desk in front of him? Is he checking his phone every few seconds, checking for text messages, reading emails, even talking? Or does the employer give you his undivided attention? If an employer can’t even give you a small amount of time for an interview, what can you expect when you are working for him or her fulltime?
- They’re not prepared for the interview. You’re expected to be prepared by knowing something about them—but are they similarly prepared for you? Have they reviewed your resume? Preparation is a sign they care for others.
- Watch their body language. While different cultures have opposing views on things like body contact, smiling or eye contact, there are still plenty of clues in an employer’s body language (such as crossing arms, frowning, not taking notes) that can denote a feeling of superiority, disinterest, or evasiveness.
- Asking obviously illegal questions. A recruiter friend told me of a job interview he had in which he was the one interviewed. The hiring manager asked him if he had children. My friend asked if he meant would there be any reason for not showing up on time every day, and assured him that would not be an issue. The employer casually replied, “No, I want to know if you have kids.” My friend stood up, said he would not work for an employer who purposely breaks the law, and left. Digging into your personal life, or asking other questions that are blatantly not allowed, can show the employer’s integrity—or lack thereof. If they act that way, they may expect you to do so too.
- How they respond to your questions. Have questions of your own. Ask about where they hope to see themselves in 5 years, what their management style is like, or what became of the person that held the position you are applying for. Do they give you a straight answer? Is the management style bordering on micromanagement? Is their 5-year vision different from yours?
- Look at your surroundings. What is the dress code? Are people relaxed and casual or formal? If you love wearing jeans and t-shirts to work, think twice before taking a job that requires 3-piece suits. Ask yourself if you’ll feel comfortable enough in those surroundings to be engaged in your work.
You might also check out some online sites as eBossWatch or Glassdoor to research what others might be saying about your future boss or the company. Keep in mind that your experience might not be the same as what others are saying, but it can help you to determine whether the position might be a good fit for you.