The Job Interview Research You Didn't Know You Needed To Do

Do your homework and ask deep-level questions of your interviewer. Otherwise, you won't know what gig you're signing up for. Let's avoid that unsavory situation.

When Katie Douthwaite finished her degree in management, her heart was dead set on a dream job: "to head up a bakery." Her eyes soon fell upon a posting for a general manager at a cupcake shop in Atlanta. She "jumped at the chance," she shares on the Daily Muse, for her confectionery career was so close she could taste it.

By the time she got to the interview, she was already sweet on the gig:

I arrived at the interview with stars in my eyes, laser-focused on the ultimate outcome: Impress my interviewer and land the job. I nodded enthusiastically to everything she said, remembered all my scripted answers, and asked a couple obligatory questions at the end.

While for many people, sticking to a script may make you sound like a robot, clearly it worked well for Douthwaite, as she soon landed the job. But she did neglect one crucial step: asking the "questions that would actually help me evaluate if the role was a good fit for me."

Looking back on the experience, Douthwaite adopts a frosty tone: For less than a year after landing her "dream job" she was looking for the next gig.

What could have prevented such a conundrum? If she would have asked deeper questions about the company itself and what it would be like to work there. As we've talked about before, a job interview is like a date in that it's two people at a table trying to figure each other out.

But joining a company is much different than becoming part of a couple, because when you join a company, you're now entering into a whole web of relationships--and those relationships are going to shape your working life.

So how can we get a little more context out of interviews?

Use your online resources.

Services like Glassdoor let former employees "review" companies like Yelp does restaurants.

Ask after who your boss will be and how they manage people.

And see if they sound like any of the three breeds of bad bosses: micromanagers, neglecters, or yellers.

Ask if there are any sectors of the company in which you could help out.

Because that's where you can make the most impact. If you can make that impact measurable, it can be a line on your résumé or a talking point in an interview to be named later.

Ask about the skills you could develop.

Because if we're going to get masterful at evolving our careers, we to match our skill development to the (perhaps unspoken) needs of the market.

Ask if there's anyone on your future team that you could speak with.

Because the informational interview is a super direct way to gain understanding of a position.

Ask about culture.

Are they like HootSuite and cool with you making yoga or other exercise a part of your workday? Are they about the quantity of hours worked or purely the quality of work done? And to borrow from Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein at Asana, do they value both the inhale and the exhale?

Why do we ask these questions? Because otherwise we could end up in the wrong cupcake--which is really quite a pickle.

Hat tip: Daily Muse

[Image: Flickr user Tim Sheerman-Chase]

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11 Comments

  • Jeremiah O. Agenyi

    The questions look good, but I will see them as STARTERS to get your juices flowing in thinking about what to ask. Why I say this is, from the part of the world where I come from, you could be labelled TROUBLE when you start popping all sorts of questions. Here it is seen as a huge PRIVILEGE to land a job, so you have no 'RIGHT' to ask questions...just wait for your orders and be ready to run with it. This is mostly the case.

    Though from experience, the companies who are deliberate about their employees and the kind of working relationships/atmosphere they seek to create would really appreciate these questions.

  • Lauren Milligan

    Asking great questions is critical, but it's so important not to ask questions that you should have already learned while researching the company before the interview. A good question for any candidate at just about any level in an organization is, "If I am hired, what would be the most critical project that you'd want me to tackle immediately?" This not only gives you a chance to show enthusiasm for the work, but also gives you a chance to talk about how that project fits perfectly with your skill set. Need more great questions to ask at the end of an interview? Email me at Lauren@ResuMAYDAY.com.

  • Brittany Houser

    Everyone's a critic. But having been on both sides of the interview table and having had to help interview replacements for myself, I can say in honesty it is kind of that awkward blind date feel. Asking exactly the kinds of questions mentioned above opens a door to a much deeper conversation and allows the interviewer to get a better feel for how you'll interact with the rest of the employees when you lead the conversation. They are all killer questions and they show that you have the same interests the company does--making the company a better place to work, and in the process, making the business a bigger success for hiring you.

  • Diana Quartey

    I agree with Timo. You can ask all the questions listed above, research the company thoroughly and yet end up with responsibilities you don't like and colleagues you hate working with. The problem is that an interview scenario is too unnatural and both parties are on their best behaviour, trying to impress the other.

  • Joey

    Thanks for the article. Thanks for the article. I agree with you now that asking interviewers the above self-relevant questions give me a better measurement of my fit to the companies. However, may I can ask too that what are some 'killer questions' that can impress the interviewers?