This week we welcome back guest writer Hillary Vaillancourt to talk about how to find the best fit in a job when you’re going through the interviewing process.
Job hunting can be a very scary process. Sometimes you just need to accept whatever you can get and start earning a salary. But, hopefully you’re in a position instead where you can choose where you want to start your career instead of settling for a job.
If you are so fortunate as to be more selective in your job search, there are several factors you should consider about a firm or company. The reality is, an interview should work both ways. The potential employer wants to get to know you, the potential employee, and see if you might be a good fit. But, you should also try to get to know the employer to determine if it is the kind of place where you want to work.
Whether an employer is the right one for you depends on what is important to you. If you have a family and need to make sure your new job offers a good work/life balance, then that’s what you should prioritize in your job search. If you are single, fresh out of school, and willing and able to work long hours, then maybe work/life balance isn’t your main concern but having an employer-contributed retirement plan is your primary need.
Here are some typical factors you should consider when interviewing for jobs to ensure that you choose the right job for you.
I once worked for an office where a handful of employees would play arcade-style games on sight. They were loud and rowdy. Those same employees would also enjoy happy hours together and nights out at karaoke. In four years working with them, I never once got invited to any of their games, nights out, or get-togethers. And, in some ways, I didn’t want to go anyway. Their style of fun was not exactly my style of fun, and that’s okay, but it made working with them feel quite awkward, especially when they laughed and traded stories I couldn’t relate to.
I have worked for places that were far more inclusive, however. One office invited everybody to dress up for Halloween. That same office also threw a luncheon for me when I was getting married. My current office has lunch together most Fridays and has “Flannel Fridays” where everybody dresses up in flannel.
Workplace culture can often be the difference between dreading Monday morning and looking forward to it. When an environment feels friendly, inclusive, and understanding, employees are far more likely to thrive.
When I was interviewing for my current job, I asked my now boss what the culture was like at the firm. He smiled and said he was extremely proud to have built an office where people genuinely like each other. He explained about “Flannel Friday” and some of the other office nuances, and it sounded like something I wanted to be a part of.
It’s not only okay to ask these kinds of questions, but critical to your understanding of the work and environment you’ll be getting into.
Every employer has expectations of their employees. However, sometimes those expectations are a bit unrealistic. I wasn’t more than a few weeks out of law school when I interviewed for a job advocating for foster children. It was exactly the type of work I wanted to do. I was thrilled to be called for an interview and couldn’t wait to finally meet with my potential new boss.
During our meeting, she described how the new attorney would be expected to take over a case load of almost 300 cases—immediately. The new attorney would have to jump right into these cases, some of them already mid-way through. She asked if I thought I could do the job, and I did what anybody else would do in the situation, I argued that I could. But on my two-hour drive back home, I felt disappointed. No matter how much I tried to convince the interviewer that I could do the job, I had serious doubts.
I was actually offered the job, but I politely turned it down. Had I taken it, I would have been so far over my head. I would have had to work triple time just to learn what I was doing. And, who knows what cases might have fallen through the cracks because of my inability to keep up. The pressure would have been staggering.
I ended up taking another job where the learning curve wasn’t quite so steep.
It’s important to know what you are getting into when you interview for a job. If an employer expects way too much of you to start, it might be in your best interests to walk away.
It is more than acceptable to ask a potential employer what their expectations are for the role. And, be specific. Ask what the expectations are in the first three to six months and the year after that.
The Right Work For You
Working in a toxic environment or simply one that doesn’t fit your lifestyle or personality is difficult. Nobody wants to work in a depressing environment, and in a perfect world, nobody would have to. Sometimes you have no choice and you have to do what you have to do to pay your bills (student loans are a very real thing).
But, if you have any flexibility in your employment decision, make sure to consider what is really most valuable to you in your job search. When you understand what your needs are, you are far more likely to effectively find an employer who meets those needs. And, don’t be afraid to ask about those subjects in your interview to make sure you’re getting into a good situation for you.
When you work in an environment that you enjoy, not only are you more likely to be productive, but you’ll be happier all around.