Chicago — During the hiring process, companies work to sell themselves to you just as you are to them. It can be easy to forget this, especially if we’re pursuing a position we believe that we really want, need or that came after a ton of rejected applications. It can almost feel like a privilege to even be considered and that we’d be lucky to even secure an interview.
While it is important to appreciate such opportunities, it’s also important to make sure the company you’re pursuing actually aligns with your values, your lifestyle, your interests and your goals. Time and time again, people are hired for roles that turn out to be different from what they were expecting, a recipe for disaster.
One of the best ways to align those expectations is during the interview.
As an early career professional, one of the most awkward questions to answer during your sit down with hiring managers is “Do you have any questions for me?” For a long time, I’d say no, not wanting to annoy the interviewer with things I was curious about or I was too nervous to generate any meaningful inquiries on the spot. Over the years, I realized that it’s a great opportunity to understand who you’d be working for, what your day-to-day would look like if you were hired and get a sense of the company’s culture.
Think of it like a first date.
You're both getting to know each other and need to ask each other questions to peel back the layers behind the scripted responses you both practiced in front of the mirror and the nice business casual outfits you frantically ironed out that morning. Essentially, you’re trying to figure out if you’d be willing to spend your life at this place and for how long.
No, you don’t need to ask the interviewer about their childhood or what makes them tick, but you can ask things about their experience at the company that might indicate what it’s like to work there. Ask why they came to the company, why they believe in its products, how they feel supported in their roles and the challenges they face. Also ask about the history of the company, how it’s evolved, where it’s going and how you might fit into its future goals. There’s a lot more you can inquire about but this should be a good start.
It also might be helpful to reach out to other employees who work at the company on LinkedIn. Send them a chat and see if they’d be willing to share their experiences with you. I’ve found that some people are happy to do so and will share information that the hiring managers won’t. Depending on the person, you should still tread lightly. Keep in mind, this is a person who works at a place that you want to work for, so don’t be too casual about things. Just know what you want to ask, be curious and take note of whether the employees’ experiences at the company match the kind that you're looking to have.
Noah Johnson (he/him/his) is a Chicago-based journalist. Follow him on Twitter: @noahwritestoo.
Edited by NaTyshca Pickett