Sometimes you just need a job.
And in tough times, many people will take virtually any job that comes along if it means they can collect a paycheck.
I get that. Do what you have to, at least temporarily, to provide for those who depend on you.
But what if you don’t have to take the first job that comes your way?
In that case, you can afford to pay attention to those alarm bells that sometimes go off in your head during an interview — the kind that make you wonder if this job is really right for you, or if you’re about to join the office from hell.
Here are some ways to prevent you from moving from the proverbial frying pan into the fire.
Knowledge can be power if used properly. Do your homework on a company. Perform Web searches, not just of the company’s website, but look for other places where it’s appeared in news stories. Seek out people who can provide a sense for its corporate culture, how the company deals with its customers, vendors, etc.
Armed with that knowledge, you can ask open-ended questions during your interview. While you can’t say, “A friend tells me your company treats its employees like indentured servants,” you can weigh the employer’s feedback against what you’ve heard or read.
Maybe seek out a third source before deciding whether to accept the job. An employer will typically put his best foot forward. Part of your job is to determine where the land mines may be.
Listen to how a manager describes his team. Does he use words like “them” or “those people” frequently? You like to hear terms like, “us, our, we.”
Ask about corporate culture. Answers will vary. Does the answer sound plausible? Ask about training and opportunity for advancement. Be sure to qualify that latter question by saying, “Assuming someone comes in and performs up to expectations, what do you see as future opportunities?” This should give you a sense for whether the company promotes from within.
Take a look at your physical surroundings while on the interview. How clean and new does the place look? A rundown facility might reflect on company ownership and leadership. While you can’t always judge a book by its cover, a decision to work for a company is a biggie, and you need to take all aspects into account. If they don’t invest in upkeep of their facility, what does that tell you about how they’ll invest in you?
Listen to the employer. If all he does is talk in glowing terms about the company, he might be trying to “sell” you on the place. An interview should be a healthy exchange of information. Be wary when the employer seems to go out of his way to impress you.
Other questions to consider asking include why the position is open, how long it’s been open, why they haven’t been successful in hiring to this point.
Remember, it’s best to ask open-ended questions, such as “tell me about” or “help me understand how.”
If the company and/or the job content isn’t to your liking, ask yourself why you’d trade a known entity for an unknown you don’t feel good about. The mere fact someone wants to hire you is an ego-booster, but is it truly a positive career move?
Do your homework and ask good questions. Good luck!
Director, Professional Center at Goodwill Industries of Northwest NC