Remember your last job interview? How was it? Interviews for a new position are often dreaded due to the evaluative nature of it, however, we often forget that interviews are actually a two-way street and there are ways to be more proactive and conscious of that. What do I mean by this?
You’re assessing them as the interviewers are assessing you. You can tell if you are getting a good feeling or not, etc. Yes, generally interviews are structured to be more one way (the interviewers interviewing you), however, it's imperative to start thinking about your questions as necessary and important to ask, not just nice-to-have add-ons if you’ve been doing so. You’re the talent in the equation, and you owe your skills, experience and worth to do so.
When you shift your thinking of an interview being two-way as opposed to one-way, it adds a level of confidence. This confidence often helps you land the position if you choose to accept it. You can ask questions from a place of knowing your value and the contributions you could potentially make.
I understand that this mental shift is easier for some people to adopt than others and that not everybody is in a place to be selective of their positions, however, if you can adopt this attitude, I'd advise it. A lot of my clients got offered a position with this reframe.
Now what about what's unsaid during an interview? Trauma and recovery coach and colleague of mine, Trisha McOrmond, suggests certain dynamics to look out for, especially if you are getting out of a toxic workplace:
1. how do the people on the panel interact with each other? even on zoom, interpersonal dynamics are visible.
- do they laugh together?
- is it stiff and formal? (the workplace will be then too)
- are they mutually respectful? or deferential?
2. how does the interview start:
- do they try to help you feel relaxed?
- do they share information with you? or is it only one way?
3. does the environment feel expansive or oppressive?
by this I mean: do you feel like you can breathe comfortably while you gather your thoughts or does it feel like they're watching the clock/counting the seconds?
4. are they open about what's not great in the workplace? nowhere is perfect, but if people can acknowledge it there's hope for change.
All these are great things to pay attention to and consider in your next interview. If you feel something is off, best to listen to it and try finding something else. I know I didn't listen to how I felt after one interview and learned soon after why I felt that way. Trisha also admits that if she had taken the time to ask herself how *she* felt, rather than question whether she did well in the interview, she could've avoided a deeply challenging work environment. She suggests to "think about what you want to feel like in your new workplace and compare that to how you feel in the interview because it is a good indicator."
Indeed, months ago I had a client who went through five interviews at the same company (meeting different people on the team, etc.). While going through the interviews, she not only felt it was not a good fit, but she also felt depleted by the interviewers and the whole process. She ended up getting another position with a very supportive company and culture and found out that the position she applied for earlier didn't turn out to be as supportive.
Things to look out for during an interview are easier with career criteria in hand. This is a pragmatic and values-based list of what you want out of your new position/career and your non-negotiables. You can base your interview questions on your career criteria, however, to get further insight into the workplace culture, other than observing interview dynamics, you might want to creatively ask questions. For instance, “Can you tell me about the most successful person you ever hired and what exactly they did to be successful?” As I've written earlier about this, this question reveals what the hiring manager is looking for and what you need to do to get promoted. You can go with something else if it doesn't include work/life balance.
Again, interviews are a two-way street even if they seem like one. You can assess the answers you receive to your questions and the tacit dynamics of the interview(s). If you didn't figure it out during the interview, you can ask how you felt after the interview and if the role is compatible with your career criteria. If you didn't feel right about it, and it wasn't a good fit, then no need to wait or accept the position if it is offered to you. You, of course, have a say too.
Ps. If you're struggling with job interviews or with your job selection, apply here for a Get Acquainted Call to see if I can help.