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.

The Job Interview Research You Didn’t Know You Needed To Do
[Image: Flickr user Tim Sheerman-Chase]

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

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.