Interview tips beyond the usual

  • Stephanie Clark

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Interview Hot Spots

Posted by Stephanie on August 31, 2012

About 15 years ago, I applied to a prestigious and globally recognized institution, to an opening for the Executive Director’s Assistant. And, I landed an interview.

It was curious: two women conducted the interview and they never made eye contact with one another. I noticed that and began to think “I don’t event want to work here as it is abundantly clear that these two are not happy.” What would be the point of leaving a job that I didn’t love but didn’t hate, for a job that was likely more like the fire than the frying pan?

It’s not always this clear, though, whether a workplace is unhealthy, dysfunctional, a total mess! How is the savvy interviewee to know? Here are a few tips:

1. Experts say it takes about three minutes to determine a person’s baseline of behaviour. During this time you can assess normal behaviours: rate of speech, physical activity that accompanies speech, the rate of “word whiskers,” those umms and so on that find their way into our speech patterns. Spend time chit-chatting about sports scores, weekend activities, or the latest great book you are reading so that you can observe and take (mental) note.

2. During the interview, ask questions about the workplace and watch the person’s response. If you asked “How does the corporation/division celebrate successes?” and the interviewer immediately begins to tap a pen or jiggle a leg or avoid eye contact or purse their lips, your “spidey senses” should be on high alert. Ask follow up questions to be sure of your evaluation.

Judging credibility or trying to figure out if a place is seething with issues is not easy. If my spidey senses were all a-tingle with doubt and suspicion, after the interview I would make a few phone calls to random people who work there to ask their opinion. I’ve done this before, and chose to NOT take a job based on what the employees told me. (And never regretted it. It’s amazing what people will tell you if you’re just plain honest and ask.)

Taking a job with an employer where people are unhappy, overworked, micro-managed or otherwise not productively engaged in delivering their service is unlikely to lead to your own success. Choose wisely and remember: you do have the right to choose! Working to your career’s success, Stephanie


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