Often, when you’re interviewing you feel a little like a bug under a microscope. Someone is watching everything you do and assessing everything you say. Did you wear the right thing? Are you smiling enough? Your interviewers are looking for clues about who you are and whether you’ll be a good fit for the firm. It can be intimidating.
But your goals are the same: you want to work at a place that feels comfortable culturally and puts you in a good position to grow professionally. Essentially, both parties want the same things from the relationship.
You need to do everything possible to present yourself in a positive light, from using good body language to having a polished resume. But you also need to realize that you are interviewing the firm as much as they are interviewing you. So let’s look at some things to think about during your interview:
Respect. This is a big topic. It ranges from the obvious to the subtle. Your interview should start on time, for example, unless there is a compelling reason the interviewer is running late. If that happens, someone should explain the reason rather than just letting you sit and wait. Once the interview starts, the person you’re meeting with should focus on you, not incoming emails.
Here’s the takeaway: the person interviewing you should treat you as a valued employee from the moment you meet. You should come away thinking the person is someone who is thoughtful, asks appropriate questions and follow-up questions, and has an overall demeanor you can relate to. To paraphrase Goldilocks, someone who is not too distant, not too overbearing—someone who is just right.
Time. Often, interviews are scheduled for a certain amount of time, especially if you are meeting with more than one person. That isn’t always a hard and fast rule, though. Sometimes interviews are shorter than expected—which is generally regarded as a bad sign—and other times they are longer. Trust your instincts when it comes to this. A quick interview may simply mean someone is signing off on you as a good candidate.
Who’s around. As you’re walking through the office, take a moment to look around. Does it seem like everyone is new or is there a mix of older and younger employees? Do they seem stressed or happy? If diversity is important to you, look for that too.
What’s around. What will your workspace look like? Do you think you’ll be comfortable working in an open space, cubicle or whatever the particular layout. Is there a kitchen or a lunchroom with coffee, etc. available? You’ll want to be in a comfortable environment when you’re working on site.
Questions. Look for the attitude of the person you are speaking with as they answer your questions. Are the answers straightforward or do they seem follow the party line? You’ll want to know things like why they’re hiring, how high turnover is, what they value most in their staff, what kind of training you’ll get, how personal goals are set and how feedback is given.
You’ll get some of these answers from direct questions. For the rest, you’ll have to rely on your instincts.