Getting that Next Job
Finding the best company to work for involves knowing yourself—and knowing them. Do you know what you want?
- By T. M. Kerrigan
- September 01, 2000
The interview is going well. He’s asking all the
questions the headhunter and the interview books
said he’d ask, and you’re giving all the properly
corporate answers. You’re going to get a job offer,
but do you know what it offers you?
Finding the best company to work for involves knowing
yourself—and knowing them. Do you know what you
Make a list of those things you’ve liked in previous
jobs, anything at all. If the list is "new
computers, big cubicles, and great coffee,” maybe
the people you work with aren’t as big a factor
to your job happiness as how often the company upgrades.
Or maybe your list is longer and includes “working
with great people.” At any rate, the job interview
is the place to ask about those things.
Stop. Look. Listen. Often, we’re too nervous about
the impression we’re making to stop and take a good
look at our prospective workplace. Use all your
senses. Do the people you’d be working with remind
you of your Uncle Bill, whom you’ve never liked?
Is it a chatty environment or silent but for the
clacking of keys? Are people moving briskly through
the halls intent on their missions or is the pace
more leisurely? Take a moment to absorb the workplace
right down to the color of the walls.
Remember this: Human Resources cannot get you the
job or tell you how you can get ahead. However,
they can tell you how long your prospective boss
has been with the company and where his or her office
is. Be sure to fill out their forms and be nice
while you’re asking, however—they can gum up the
works for you.
The main person you have to evaluate is the person
to whom you’ll directly report. If you can’t develop
a good working relationship with this person, you
may get the job, but you won’t have a career. You
have to get this boss to open up to you. The interview
has to become a conversation about working life
at that company. You must ask questions. Ask about
people, not policies. Can you tell me about someone
who has worked well for you? What did that person
do to set himself or herself apart?
Ask about real cases. Can you tell me about a project
that you’re proud of here? Can you tell me about
some challenges you’ve had?
Ask about expectations. What would you hope I’d
know in three months that I don’t know now? In six
months? What do you hope to accomplish in the next
six months? If you can meet your boss’ expectations
and fulfill an item or two on his or her wish list
on the way, you’ll be ahead of the game. Your boss
won’t be likely to discuss pet projects once you’re
on the job—you’ll be in the daily scramble—so
the interview may be your best chance to uncover
Some companies will include possible co-workers
in the interview process. Find out as much as you
can about their experiences with the company. How
did they get where they are? How do they characterize
their interactions with the boss? How much contact
do they have with the supervisor’s boss? What do
they like and dislike about working there?
Somewhere in these conversations your gut will
tell you to nest or run screaming. Listen to it.
T. M. Kerrigan, MCSE + Internet, has worked as a technical recruiter and owner of a recruiting firm in New York City.