What no one tells you about…decoding the interview!

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Your big day is here! You’ve polished your resume, You’ve followed up to companies You’ve applied too, and your resume finally landed on the HR representatives desk. Guess what! they liked what they saw and have called you in for an interview! woo hoo!

You think the interview went well. You’re well qualified! But the questions are so simple and vague at the same time…

I have been in your shoes my friend, believe me! Before I landed my first job out of college, I had twenty four interviews. A combination of first, second, and third interviews at various companies. Interviews can be nerve wracking, I know!  It was a learning experience. Interviews can be tough to decode, its almost like trying to deal with doublespeak. I’ve got a few tips for you to try to decode what is really going on, and what to watch out for. You can find a ton of information online of how to answer interview questions. All are quite useful, here is a link with some examples: Top 10 Job Interview Questions

Hopefully, what I’m able to provide to you is my insights from my many, many, job interviews. What red flags to look for so your not immediately on the job hunt again too soon 🙂

Red Flag: If you are female and the company asks you if you plan on getting pregnant, that is illegal. It’s time to get out. You may want to report it to the EEOC too. They can send testers to the interviewer.

I’ve actually gotten that question before from a temp agent who said the prospective employer might ask that.  If they are willing to ask you an invasive question during the interview, are they going to be an employer that respects you and your privacy? Are they even an ethical employer? You don’t want to get mixed up in that.

Red flag: If a hiring manager asks you a weird question like are you willing to drink the kool-aid for this job?

Remember this cult? Jonestown, the People’s temple, mass murder suicide. They drank the kool-aid. If the ship goes down, you go down with it. Not just your job, but potentially your entire career. The company that asked me this during an interview was um… “merged.” ie a lot of people lost their jobs. If you ever get asked a question like this expect peer pressure to do really stupid or dangerous things. Expect misery. Huge red flag!!

Red Flag: The interviewer tries to tell you are worth less than what you are currently making.

I got that one from another temp agency. I was still employed but looking, and I needed to get out of my current position. The agent told me what the job paid, and it was $2000 less per year than what I was currently making. The agent told me “its not like you have that much experience why would you be worth more?”. Well, because I was currently making more, thus I am worth more. duh! This screamed “I’ve been trying to fill this position for a long time, and it’s going very badly!” I think there was a reason for that. But, that’s not my problem.

This also goes for your experience. Let’s say you’re mid-level. You’ve got five or so years of experience under your belt in your field, and the interviewer is just talking about your education. Or telling you that you don’t have that much experience (despite the fact you are more than qualified) this company is cheap. They want your experience, and insights, but they don’t want to pay you a fairly for it. And, they want you to feel OK with that because ‘you don’t have that much experience’. Don’t second guess yourself, walk away.

The interviewer tells you that the person you will be working with can “be a little tough, but is really good”.

No, the person you will be working with is a jerk. Chances are there has been a lot of turnover for the position you are applying for because the person is a jerk. Managers may use this tactic as an “opportunity to learn from someone really good”. You can learn from someone who will treat your fairly. A little tough, is doublespeak.

Good sign: The question where do you want to be in 5 years. Your answer is in your bosses shoes, and that’s a positive!

What!?! doesn’t your boss value his or her job? Yes, of course. Here’s why it positive. It shows that the company has room for advancement! Your boss wants to advance within the company, so when your boss gets promoted and someone will need to take his or her spot. Someone who wants to advance to that spot is a good person to have around. However, if your interviewing with the CEO, you might want to change up your answer a bit 🙂

Good Sign: The interviewer asks your salary expectations, and is impressed that you did your research!

A good rule of thumb is to always wait until the manager brings up salary to go into this. Otherwise, you may look like your only in it for the money.

An employer who is willing to pay you a fair salary is the one you want to be with. The employee who is willing to research to make an informed decision is one a company wants to keep. Turnover is expensive. Most companies have a lot of morale policies in place to avoid turnover. It is perfectly acceptable to research your worth, and ask for what you are worth! A good company pays fair. When push comes to shove, they need someone to do a job, and you need a job. It’s a two way street.

The best good sign: When can you start? 🙂

Important questions to ask, what they really mean?

When the interviewer asks you if you have any questions, the answer should always be YES! Just like the interviewer is interviewing you, you are doing the same thing to ensure that the company is a good fit for you.

What is the company’s most important asset?

There is only one right answer to that, it’s people. It’s people making the company run, thrive and grow! If they say anything else, I would at least try to get more information, or think twice about the position.

What is your management style?

If a manager tell you they have a hands on management style that means they are a micro manager. That gets annoying real quick.

What type of skills are your looking for that you do not currently have?

If the job opened up because the current person took a promotion, the interviewer may see it as a jab at that person. But its not, its a simple question and every company should be constantly striving to improve. It’s not out of the question to want to present some new skills into the job.

Do you have any concerns about me being successful in this position?

This one is a scary one to ask, you’re really putting yourself out there! But, if the job appears to be one you are really interested in, its worth asking. This gives you the opportunity to discuss any concerns, and assure the HR department you are the right fit for the job. For example, if they are concerned about your experience, emphasize how you are able to pick up new concepts quickly like when you quickly learned new software or something. Or use it to your benefit because it will be easier for you to adapt to the company’s procedures when you don’t have to “unlearn” what you did at your last job.

Here is a link with a few more good questions to ask. 9 Good Questions to Ask in an interview

Once you’re done interviewing like a champ! Write that Thank you note and you’re in business. I hope this has helped you navigate what can be a very nerve wracking time! If you have additional questions feel free to ask.

I love discussing this topic, what are your favorite interview stories? What are your favorite questions?