Let’s face it: the recruiting and selection process in most organizations is hardly a shining example of open and honest communication. Candidates naturally avoid revealing too much truthful but negative information and organizations often soft-pedal unpleasant realities (or are completely blind to their many deficiencies). You might look at places like Glass Door to see what employees are saying about the organization, but the information posted there can range from messages from those who have drunk the Kool-Aid or comments by those with serious hidden agendas.
The best way to evaluate whether or not a workplace is worthy of your sacrifice is to ask direct questions of the people interviewing you and listen to both the content of the answer and the way they answer it. As total honesty is often rare in an interview process, you will know when you’ve heard it. When you hear dissembling, stuttering or avoiding the question entirely, it’s a very bad sign.
Here are some questions you can use to help you get more of the truth about what it’s really like to work there:
- How much time and energy do you expect me to contribute to be successful on this job? (If you get “Whatever it takes,” press for a specific hours-per-week figure.)
- What are the priorities of this organization right now? Of the workgroup? (Check those against the mission statement for a disconnection.)
- What kind of support does this organization give its people in terms of technology, training and career movement? (Listen for what they’re actually doing, not what they’d like to do.)
- What kind of people do you want working here? (Listen for underlying sexism, racism or other kinds of bias.)
- What kind of people do you not want working here? (Same as above.)
- How do you see me contributing to this company? How do you see me making a difference?
- Is it possible for me to interview with the people I will be working with? (If they decline, that’s a big red flag.)
- What other commitments beyond an honest day’s work do I need to make to achieve success here? (After-hours engagements, checking email at midnight, learning to play golf, etc.)
For your supervisor, try these questions:
- Tell me what your hot buttons are. (This will reveal their true values.)
- Tell me about the leader you worked for that you admired the most. (This will tell you about the kind of leader they see as a model.)
- Tell me about a problem employee you had and why that person was a problem. (This will reveal any biases and blind spots.)
- Now tell me about a great employee you’ve had and what made them great. (If you can’t get more than a general answer, that’s a very bad sign.)
Although it’s tough to turn down a job when you need the money, the truth is we often settle for jobs we don’t want because the job search has drained our confidence. You can’t let that happen. If you find your confidence sagging, review your resume and remind yourself of all the times that you have delivered great results. Whatever you do, don’t settle for a job in an organization that simply isn’t worthy of your time, energy and talent.