The savvy candidate knows that the interview is an opportunity to not only be vetted by a hiring manager, but also to vet the company. Think of the interview as a fact finding mission not only about the position, but also about the company culture. The job you're interviewing for may be everything you want, but is the company?
Arriving early for an interview is always good advice - it prevents rushing into a meeting flushed or frazzled - but it also allows you some time to watch the company at work. Consider the lobby as a window into a company’s soul - take this moment to look around and listen.
Are employees friendly toward strangers and each other, or are they rushing about with sour expressions? Is the receptionist rude and dismissive or does he greet you with a smile? You’re not looking for a Stepford Wives experience here, but you will get an idea of what daily life is like just by sitting in the lobby and watching the flow of people in and out.
Your Network Knows
Just as you might research a potential employer on Crunchbase to better understand their growth, funding and growth trajectory, you need to mine your social connections to find out what it’s really like on the ground. Contact 1st or 2nd degree LinkedIn connections who have worked for, or do work at the company. Write them a polite note explaining that you have an interview set up and would love to ask them a few questions.
Keep your inquiry specific to their experience. You’re looking to hear what kind of person thrives there, what the feel in the office is like, how do they perceive the work culture, and do they find it a good place to work.
A word of caution: this is not an expedition to weed out office dirt - what you’re looking for is a peek into the culture.
Separate The Wheat From The Chaff
Company policy is one thing, how it’s actually implemented a whole other. It’s all fine and well for an employer to state that they support employees working from home, or that they always try to promote from within. But whether or not they actually operate in accordance to these policies is what you need to be looking for. Ask for specific examples of people who have moved up the ranks, as well as attrition rates.
Who leaves and after how long can tell you a whole lot about the tenor of the company.
Be watchful also for aspirational policies - perhaps they are programs a young start-up might hope to one day implement but are not in the position to follow through on at this time. If this is the case you’ll have to weigh the company they are against the company they hope to be, and decide if it’s worthwhile.
What It's Like Interviewing For A Company Is What It's Going To Be Like To Work For Them
The interview process can take a very long time from start to finish, in fact according to a recent article in Fast Company, a software engineer may have to endure 35 days or more during the interview process. So judging a company by how long they take to make a hiring decision may not be the best metric.
What you do need to look at is how they operate during the interview. A company's vetting and hiring processes are highly valuable data sets to consider. Everyone knows first impressions matter, but when considering a new employer, it’s the 2nd, 3rd and 4th impressions that reveal how the company operates on a day to day basis.
Keep your eyes open throughout the hiring process to make certain that the company is a good fit for you. For more on company culture, read here.