How to Interview Your Prospective Employer

By, Patricia Brehm

I recently sat down with a friend of mine who is a recent college grad looking for a job. We’ve talked about different job search strategies, networking, and life in general when either one of us is spazzing out. Suddenly I had an epiphany via a friend in human resources who stated, “Remember, they may interview her, but she’s also interviewing them.”

What does this mean? It means although you might be sitting in a chair across from a human resources representative writing down notes (or play Tic-Tac-Toe) on a clipboard, you should also be interviewing the company. Human resource representatives don’t ask,”Do you have any questions?” just for the fun of it. Instead, the interviewer is opening the door for you to conduct an interview of your own and learn more about the work environment.

As my human resources friend says, “You spend too much time at work to be unhappy there” and she’s right. Think about it, although we are in a recession or the recovery of a recession, you’ll be spending eight (or more) out of twenty four hours at your job. In a total week that’s forty hours of your time, so choosing the right work environment can either make or break how you spend your time.

Step One: Know Thyself or Realistically Identify What You Want From A Work Place

The first step to interviewing a prospective employer is to realistically evaluate what you would like from a work place. A desire to work for a small business that also gives you complete access to a pool and has a massage parlor, is clearly unrealistic Wanting to work for a small company that has a casual dress work environment? That’s more realistic. Figure out what’s the most important factor and work from there. Are you a people person? You might need a workplace that involves a high amount of client or coworker interaction. Do you work well independently? Maybe a work-place where you are self-sufficient will be best for you. Part of identifying what you want from a work place is knowing thyself. A good exercise is to make a list of personality traits and then think, “What kind of work environment would fit me the best way?”

Step Two: Ask the Right Questions

After reviewing what you want from a work place, you’ll be ready to ask questions, but make sure you ask the right ones. For example, asking about dress code and client or co-worker interaction is fine, asking when you’ll get a $100,000 raise….not fine. Making a physical or mental list of questions you want to ask will help you get the information you need to determine if the workplace is best for you. Also, be sure not to ask too many questions. Instead, pick one or two that really matter to you, your “dealbreaker” or “dealmaker” questions. Try to figure out what the atmosphere at the company is like. What can you figure out from the department you might work in, how is the retention rate of the company?

Why This Matters

Although beggars can’t be choosers sometimes, you do have the choice to walk away from any interview with more information than you previously had. A website or Internet reviews won’t tell you everything you need to know about a company, neither will someone else’s opinion about the workplace. For example, an introvert and an extrovert may work in the same department at the same company. The introvert loves the job because she enjoys a quiet restful work environment. Meanwhile, the extrovert is going bananas sitting in her cubicle. If the extrovert works 40 hours a week, over a five week period, that’s2,400 minutes and 144000 seconds she spends being miserable each week. Again, this all boils down to the fact that you spend way too much time at work to be completely unhappy. There maybe aspects of a job you might like, but by¬† interviewing your prospective employer, you’ll discover what you like and don’t like, sooner rather than later.

Patricia Brehm

Patricia Brehm works as an associate editor for two trade publications. Her past career experiences have included working as a marketing associate, social media guru, and copywriter for a series of small businesses as well as an editorial and marketing intern.