Tuesday, August 16, 2016 Gabby Bill 0 Comments

When I was itching to leave Disney and move on to a new opportunity, I had identified "issues" with my current workplace (i.e., I wanted to be a people manager, wanted more money / a better title and disliked the seemingly age-based hierarchy). Thus, when I applied to, and was interviewed for my job at Capital One, I had immediately honed in on evaluating those aspects of the company. When Capital One offered me a Manager title, a nearly 40% salary increase and the promise of direct reports (plus, not a single person on the team was over 35, including the Director), I thought, "Bingo!" But my approach had been short-sighted.

What I neglected to do in the course of my interview was interview them, and do it thoroughly. I spent so much time preparing my answers, bringing out my best examples and ensuring I came across as the candidate they'd want to hire that I completely forgot to evaluate whether the job itself was truly the right fit for me. I was so laser-focused on fixing the ills from my previous job that I found myself blinded and wearing rose-colored, tunnel-vision glasses. It meant I jumped at an opportunity that, within weeks of starting, was revealed to be a poor match.

Of course, I'm not the only person to make this mistake. In the process of recruiting my own team at Capital One, and even in my previous role recruiting interns for Disney Vacation Club, I saw time and time again how candidates would bypass the opportunity to ask me questions. Or if they did ask questions, they'd be shallow and meaningless; questions that in no way, shape or form would actually contribute to their understanding of the day-to-day responsibilities of the job.

My least favorite question of all time is touted everywhere as a "smart" question to ask, and that is: "What are your expectations for this person in the first 6 months?"

Can I tell you how much cockamamie is embedded in the answer I gave people? No matter where you work, be it a start-up or Fortune 500 company, I can promise you that very little is predictable, and what you expect someone to be working on today could completely change the next day, week or month based on business priorities and results. So trying to lay out expectations beyond the obvious is just B.S. People ask that question because they think it makes them look smart or like they're prepared to tackle challenges, but in reality, it doesn't give them any true insight.

What people forget is that the interview stage with a company is a two-way conversation where you BOTH are determining whether the fit is right. You'll only be doing a disservice to yourself (and your potential employer) if your focus is on landing an offer for the sake of getting an offer.

Let's use dating as an analogy here. You wouldn't date someone for 6 months simply with the goal of being able to call them your boyfriend/girlfriend if you didn't really like them right? Those first few dates are critical for assessing a person's basic match with you, and if you find that there are things that are true red flags or show-stoppers, you usually pass and continue hunting for someone with whom you're more aligned. Why do we forget to do this when it comes to work?

Here's what I'm suggesting:

I'd like to see each and every one of you taking inventory of yourself and making a list of the things that are most important to you in a job. Then, when you're faced with an upcoming interview, ensure you craft questions that allow you to assess the company and opportunity along those dimensions. 

Here's an example:

Judy has identified that she really works best under the tutelage of a supportive, gentle boss. She enjoys working in teams, but really gets the most done when she's given the individual space (both physically and mentally) to process through her assignments. She gets tense when dealing with big, loud personalities or pressure to deliver before she's had her "process" time. Her personality is soft spoken, and although she has lots of ideas, she probably won't be the first to shout them out in a meeting.

In this scenario, what should Judy ask in her interview?

1) "Hey there boss lady/man, tell me more about your leadership style?" Or "When your direct report does not meet expectations on an assignment, how do you deliver your critique?"

For Judy, her relationship with her manager is going to be critical to her ability to feel successful in her role. This question allows for her to assess how her future manager handles conflict, whether or not she/he works with the person to find a solution and the extent to which they seem to express patience and care with those under their supervision.

2) "How much teamwork is involved in the day-to-day role? Can you give me an example of a project I might have to work on in a team?" OR "To what extent is collaboration and a democratic decision-making process valued at this company?"

Judy likes people, but she also knows that she does her best work when she's given the chance to individually assess and problem solve first. So, if she hears that the organization prides group thinking and brainstorming, or really pushes for teams to decide on action steps together, Judy may start to feel frustrated. Asking for specific examples of projects forces your interviewer to pull from the real world, rather than answer in vague terms. You probably know yourself that it's much easier to "fake" an answer when you're talking in suppositions and much harder to falsify or create a rosier-than-normal picture when asked to get specific.

3) "What are the personality traits of those that tend to succeed in this organization? What traits are usually identified as areas of opportunity?"

Lots of people like to ask about the promotion process, but let's face it: getting a promotion is only one way of evaluating success in a role. Sometimes people don't want to be promoted -- they enjoy the detail-oriented work of an individual contributor and couldn't be bothered to shift to managing people. Others may want to be promoted, but still want to feel successful in the here and now. Shifting focus away from the promotion process and toward the way success is evaluated wholly will tell you a lot about whether you're a good culture fit. If successful people are aggressive, outgoing, and opinionated, in this example Judy's soft-spoken nature might make her feel invisible.

At the end of the day, what I hope you'll take away from this post is the idea that you have every right to interview your employer to the extent that they are interviewing you. Don't just ask questions to fill time or because you know you "should" do it, but really dig in and get a 360-degree view of the organization, the job and the culture. You'll benefit by leaving the interview with a clearer picture of the opportunity, and it'll make accepting the offer or moving on to something better that much easier.

What other questions do you have about interviewing that you'd like me to address in a future blog post? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

Want to learn more about how we can work together on your individual interviewing skills? Request a free, 30-minute meet and greet and we can chat about you and your goals!

Gabrielle "Gabby" Bill is a career coach and consultant who believes everyone should be working in a job that leaves them feeling fulfilled. She coaches groups and individuals through a reflection process, uncovering often hidden motivations, values, goals and skills as they relate to their career. These reflections are then parlayed into concrete action plans to guide clients through the process of finding, creating and landing their dream jobs. You can learn more about her services by visiting www.gabriellebill.com