Preparing for a Job Interview: Is This Employer for You?

Surfing the NetThe working world is more like the dating scene than most of us would like to believe. Research suggests that interview decisions often come down to attractiveness and perceived similarity to the interviewer. Job seekers often focus on prestige or the material benefits of working for a certain employer.

At least compensation and prestige do have implications for a candidate’s career growth; managers using interviews as a way to recruit a fantasy football team aren’t doing much for their organizations. Still, one legitimate complaint that hiring managers raise repeatedly is that candidates don’t do enough (if any) research on the organization beforehand, and often don’t even understand the job description. Admittedly, a lot of job descriptions out there are (intentionally) vague, so it’s impossible to understand all that will be involved in a particular role, but it’s good to have at least a general idea.

Here are some tips about what to look for when you research prospective employers to determine if a job is a good fit for you:

How big is the company? Is it public or private?

  • Where to find this information: The company’s website (usually under “About Us” or “Careers”) or on LinkedIn. Or do a general web search.
  • Why it matters: Small (under 500 employees) companies are usually privately held. This often means a less formal work environment, with the possibility of employees being directly involved in shaping business decisions. The downside is small companies don’t have the cash reserves enjoyed by larger, particularly publicly held, companies. They also tend to reflect the whims and idiosyncrasies of the owner. New graduates often find it easier to get jobs at small companies and move up to larger ones. Large companies usually can offer higher salaries and a more comprehensive benefits package than small companies. If a company is publicly held, most of the decision making about key changes has to go through a lengthy approval process, so change tends to occur on a longer timeline in larger organizations. Typically, the company’s performance, names of all members of leadership, as well as compensation information is available for everyone to review, so there is a greater sense of transparency with public companies. They also tend to be more stable than small companies.

What are the demographics of the company’s workforce (particularly age and level of education)?

  • Where to find this information: If it’s a small or new company, you might need to wait until the interview. Some websites can also shed light on this type of information.
  • Why it matters: While diversity is good for organizations, being the token anything (young person, woman, racial/ethnic minority, 50-plus person, etc.) can be stressful. Plus, working with people who are similar to you in age and educational attainment means that you are more likely to develop close bonds with your coworkers. This can be valuable if the work you do involves a lot of team projects and late nights at work.

What are some potential career tracks for you within the organization? Or, if you are pretty sure this is going to be a “stepping stone” job for you, how is this position at this company going to help you progress in your career?

  • Where to find this information: The company’s “About Us” or careers page, or LinkedIn.
  • Why it matters: Staying in the same job for a lifetime is rarely an option anymore. Hiring managers want to fill the positions that are open now, but a new employee is a big investment, and organizations typically want all of the training and experience you gain to translate into someone who will help them gain an edge in the market at some point. If you do some research and realize you don’t see yourself at that company beyond three to five years, it’s good for you to know. (It’s also good to keep that information to yourself.) The better you understand your career goals, the clearer and more compelling your responses will be when interviewers ask about your future plans.

As you research employers and prepare for interviews, use the guidance suggested here to ask yourself how you see the company fitting your needs and expectations. If you see you need to compromise while you’re in the honeymoon stage, that relationship isn’t getting off the ground.

© Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Amy Armstrong, MS, NCC, MCC, LPC, Career Counseling Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • joe

    January 12th, 2015 at 10:20 AM

    This is all well and good but there are other times when beggars can’t be choosers, and when you need a job to pay the bills, that might be one of those times when you just have to hold your nose and jump in cuz you might not have much of a choice.

  • Rylee

    January 12th, 2015 at 3:34 PM

    Sometimes you have to think about it like this:
    Is this going to be just a job for you or are you looking at this a place to fulfill your long term career goals?
    If it is just a job to tide you over then I don’t think that you need to put that much thought and research into it. You know, you will get a check and pay the bills. The important stuff for sure but for the most part you will know that eventually you will be moving on.
    But if this is somewhere that you would like to stay for a while, then I think that it is critical to determine if this is a good fit for you and if this is somewhere that you will be comfortable with for along time. Nothing to sneeze at for sure.

  • Bennett

    January 13th, 2015 at 3:49 AM

    This is probably the biggest mistake that potential employees make, they don’t do enough ahead of time to prepare for the interview. They don’t find out anything about the company or what the position would entail, or they over prepare and try to anticipate what the employer is looking for. Either way I think that there is a fine line between being prepared and being TOO prepared.

  • erika

    January 14th, 2015 at 3:55 AM

    I know that the employers get to ask questions and granted all of the interviews that I have been on have given me a chance to ask questions too but it never feels quite like I have the time or the go ahead to get quite as in depth with my questions as they do.

    Which somewhat seems a little unfair. I guess that I am expected to do all of my homework ahead of time and that this is the time to sell myself and not the other way around.

  • Donald

    January 14th, 2015 at 2:34 PM

    THere are always going to be things that you will like about a job and things that you might not.
    The thing is that I think that you have to ask yourself is being in this place for 40 hours a week going to make you happy? Or is it going to make you agitated and upset?
    And then consider the person that you would like to be.

  • beth anne

    January 15th, 2015 at 3:04 PM

    I was just happy to have a job there for a while- doesn’t anyone else have that same feeling anymore? It might not fulfill all my dreams but hey, I have a house and food to eat. Isn’t that enough?

  • Floyd

    January 17th, 2015 at 9:22 AM

    Hopefully you will have a pretty clear idea of what this employer is all about before wasting their time and yours on an interview that might not pan out.

  • Stellen

    January 19th, 2015 at 3:18 PM

    tHere will be jobs that you might have to change a little bit for and conform to but you don’t want to feel like you have to be a sell out either. There has to be some two way compromise for things to feel like they are going to be the right fit for each other.

  • Rohai

    April 15th, 2015 at 9:58 PM

    In applying for jobs, you need to consider many things. You have to ask yourself if this job is a long-term or if it’s just temporary. You need to ask yourself first of you’re only joining the team because you want to have an extra income or it’s because you really like the job. Because working on something you really love is way too different from working for the salary.

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