There are many companies looking for the right candidates. Maybe some of them caught your eye. Some of them look like great places to work. Others don’t matter as much since their vision or the way they present themselves is not relevant to you. The companies, of course, are assessing candidates through different interview processes to see whether he/she is a good fit for them. But are those interviews enough for you to find out whether the company is the right choice for you as well?
How can you check that you are interviewing with the right company? Do you need to first start working there to get a clear idea during your probation period? Sometimes, this brief period is not sufficient for you to find out if you are going to be happy in the long term. Perhaps you’re not a job-hopper, and you don’t have the spare time to waste testing every company one by one.
So how to transform a good-enough feeling into “this is the right place for me”? As HR and hiring managers are keeping an eye on you while interviewing you,
you can actually do the same with a simple checklist to find out if you are dealing with professionals or empty promise-givers.
In a future article, I’ll cover how you can impress a company with your profile. But let’s say that already happened, they are interested and you are invited for a face-to-face interview. What to do then when the game is on?
You should be already familiar with your vision and values for your life. If you are not, maybe it’s time to take a deep breath, sit down and figure out what is important for you. This is what you’ll use to determine whether the company matches your values. You’ll evaluate the types of questions they ask you as well as their answers to yours.
Interviewers want to know what you know about their company and why are you interested in the role you applied for. They need to evaluate your culture fit, loyalty and flexibility as well as your hard and soft skills, experience, desires and abilities. They are already interested enough in you to to set up an interview — clearly, they see the potential for a match. But are they really interested in you as a person, and are they also explaining why you should be interested in them? Are they talking about themselves, their company, business and products? Do they want to see your eager interest in them only, or do they also care about you? Are they offering you a stellar career opportunity in exchange for your expertise?
To begin, it is very important for you to define what you really want and expect. Are you looking for a company that will just pay well and provide you with a low-stress role, or are you looking for challenges with potentially less pay?
If you are not clear on this, you are not going to be able to properly evaluate the company, and this is a topic for another discussion. Let’s assume you’ve already identified your motivation, desires and expectations. If not, I’ll soon have another article where I explain how to do so.
So, let the game begin.
It does not matter if you are interviewing with a startup or a big corporation. The people you are meeting with must be professional in all matters. Your on-site interview should be accompanied by detailed information from the recruiter or HR representative — whomever is communicating with you to lead you through the interview process. You should know in advance who you are meeting with and what the content of the interview will be. If you’re going into the meeting room and you are not sure what to expect, who you’ll meet with, or if the questions will be related more to your hard skills or soft skills, there is something wrong. The company has failed to communicate effectively to you.
A pre-interview email or other form of confirmation should consist of the following:
- A thank-you for your time regarding the pre-screening call with by a recruiter/HR/hiring manager.
- Confirmation of the role, position and title including the job description attachment.
- Information and relevant links regarding the company and their business, products, vision, mission, achievements, YouTube channels, Github and any other social profiles that are relevant for you to explore prior to the interview.
- Project samples, especially if you are interviewing with companies which are developing software and applications or providing consultancy/PR services to other companies.
- A contact name for the person you should address upon your arrival, ideally with a phone number in case of any problems or need for directions.
- Interviewer’s social network profiles, such as LinkedIn, and their job title.
- Request for additional documents, such as your resume, social networks, links, code or work samples, presentation and references.
- Description of the interview: whether it will be formal, technical, checking your soft or hard skills, or a combination.
- Length of the interview.
- Location and address, including the parking or public transport options.
Are the interviewers interested in your motivations only, or are they taking time to explain the company’s values and mission? Have they explained the product, business and company goals, and also why you should be interested in joining such a company? Are they trying to sell themselves to you? Are they good speakers, but also good listeners? Are they giving you an opportunity to ask your own questions? Are you feeling confident? Do you feel that you are able to be honest? Is it fine with them if you explain something less than positive about your situation? Are they willing to consider it and help you with it? Or, are they making faces and notes without really saying anything important to you?
If you are being honest, which you should be, but you aren’t getting the same feeling from their side, you can confidently assume that this is common practice within the company. They do not really listen to employees’ needs, nor do they care. If your interviewer is not responding to your own motivation and excitement, they’ll act the same way after you begin working for them. If their responses are confusing, and if they keep saying, “we are going to discuss or solve that later,” you’ll still be waiting for their response even when working there.
Is the company more formal or does it seem to be more easygoing and chilled out? This is something that should be clear to you when searching for a new job, far before you start interviewing with any of your new potential employers. If you are looking for a freer culture with flexibility, but you see they do things by the book, this should be a red flag for you. However, you should be realistic about why these policies are in the place. If you are not sure about anything, do not hesitate to ask. Actually, never hesitate to ask about anything that is unclear or that differs from your own experience. They might provide you with interesting answers you did not think of before. And, well, if they do not want to provide clear answers, there is probably something they are hiding from you.
Checking your chances
It is absolutely fine if you ask about your chances of getting hired. Feel free to ask them how many candidates are interviewing for the role, or even how many of them are in the final stage. You can even ask if they are considering any internal candidates, or if there is a deadline by which they must fill the role. What they are going to do if they do not find a suitable candidate? Are they going to lower their expectations, or will they postpone hiring until a later time?
Why is this important for you to know? Well, for many reasons. To name some:
- You can assess how highly they prioritize filling this role.
- You’ll learn how much time you have to finish the interview process, in the event you are asked to perform an at-home skill assessment. You’ll know if you should decide quickly or if you can take your time.
- You see where you stand, and if you are not already wasting your time. This actually shows you if they value your time as well. What if they have two other candidates in the final stages? Why did they invite you in the first place? You want to know. Is it because they consider you very interesting? Or is it because HR needs to improve their KPIs?
With these innocent questions, which you are in the right to ask, you can find the hidden truth behind the corporate-speak. You’ll be able to develop a much clearer sense of the company, how they value the time of others, or even how serious they are in finding the right candidate.
Why are they looking?
What is the reason for hiring? Did someone resign? Was someone fired or promoted? Maybe you do not really consider such information relevant, but actually, it is. Let me explain.
If they are finding a replacement for someone who was fired, it’s beneficial for you to know the reason. Was that person not performing well, or were they not a team player? Whatever the reason is, it is important for you to know. It can show you when the company is letting its employees go as well as what your managers will value most. It actually tells you a lot about the company. And what if their response is that “the reason is confidential”? It might be a red flag for you. However, they might be also protecting the privacy of their former employee.
I usually do not see people asking what is in my opinion a very important question. How will the company evaluate your performance within your first three months? This question is going to reveal a number of crucial facts:
- How clear are they on who they are looking for?
- Did they think about challenges and milestones for you to achieve within your probation period?
- Did they consider a learning path for you?
If the feedback from the interview is that you are a worthwhile candidate for them, but you need to expand your skill set within your first few months, have they provided any guidance? They must know what kind of skills and in what level you need. What kind of support are they are going to provide for you? Will there be a buddy assigned to you, or at least a senior team member who will mentor you?
Managers use interviews to check the level of your skills before you join their company. Based on the results, a competitive salary and perhaps equity should be offered. I am not mentioning bonuses, as they should be equal for every employee. Of course, there is a big BUT. A manager should have an idea of what they expect from you and how you are going to develop, but also show you how you can grow within the company if you meet their expectations. Employment is a partnership.
In the interview process, you’ll be assessed as to whether you are bringing value to the company and what your value is worth. However, companies should think differently. In my opinion, this is an investment in you and extends past the entry value you bring. You want to give the company a clear idea about your potential for growth and development, and they should communicate this to you within the final interview stages.
You need to find out when your engagement starts. Does it start on your first day at work, or even before? Do you need to get involved in some important team meetings even before joining the company, or learn about the business ahead?
This is very simple. A company that does not provide feedback is not worth your time, unless they have a very strong reason for not doing so. The common practise, and what pros do, is to give a response within two working days, but the maximum is five days. If your feedback comes later than that, the company should explain what took them so long.
After every meeting, call, Skype call, interview or team lunch, there must be a follow-up by a person you’ve been communicating with — even if there is no news at all. That person MUST communicate to you what is going on and what the next steps are. You should also take five minutes to write a thank-you email to the people you met with. But you should not be the one chasing HR, the hiring manager, or whoever the interviewer was for follow-ups.
If you don’t hear back from them, do not take it personally. I’ve seen this happen even with candidates the company was dying to hire. Because of the lack of communication and feedbacks, the candidate had no choice but to move on. Don’t be afraid to look elsewhere if you aren’t getting treated fairly.
- Have you got any, both positive or negative, experience you would like to share? I am curious :)
- Is there anything you would recommend to companies to follow / change?