The Interview

    At this point the company has already determined that they need someone to fill some type of as position, but should that person be you? This decision not only belongs to the company, but also to each candidate offered the position. Just because the company makes you an offer does not mean that the job is good for you. Remember the company is looking for someone good for it. So while you are being interviewed, be an interviewer and decide if the job is right for you.

The Lobby

When entering a company's lobby, especially a one site company or a corporate (the term is used loosely when discussing small companies) headquarters, look at what is on the walls. Many companies will have favorable newspaper or magazine publications decorating their lobbies. Many service companies in an effort to impress potential customers may have employee credentials and/or thank you notes from satisfied customers everywhere that one can turn. Any type of awards won by the company may also be prominently displayed.

Also displayed in the lobby may be plaques or other such items showing the company's commitment to the community. Read to see who was really behind such an accomplishment, as to see what your role may become. If the award was given to the company, you may never feel any pressure to participate in such extra activities. Awards given to the "employees of..." the company may indicate that extra efforts may be required of "team" players. (Read as extra work, not for the company so there is no pay)

When looking at certificates of accomplishment such as diplomas, of specialized training, licenses, etc... keep in mind that no company can posses any type knowledge. Only people, the employees, can possess knowledge. If the person whose name is on the certificate is no longer with the company, the certificate should come down. Leaving the certificate up is a way of falsifying the company's capabilities. If a company does not take down such certificates when the named employee leaves, then you should not stay. Also when looking at the certificates, look at the dates. Are the dates reasonably recent or are they relatively old? Active companies (especially in rapidly advancing fields such as technology and medicine) should have relatively newer certificate. Remember the company is looking to fill the lobby, so they can impress people. Companies looking to deceive people will try to keep a person in the lobby long enough to see the certificates, but will make an effort to get you out before you're able to start reading them.

Nicer companies will have other materials to keep you busy in the lobby, such as magazines. As an applicant, many companies will immediately hand you an application, even if they have a copy of your resume. Don't just sit there in the lobby and start filling it out - take the time to do some quick research. You can either finish filling it out after the interview or the company may not care if you've completed it.

Location Of the Interview

    Once beyond the lobby larger companies may have a set location for first interviews, like the personnel officer's office or conference room. Smaller companies may conduct the first interview in the first quiet space found. For the first interview that is OK, but unacceptable for a second interview.

The second interview should introduce you to the position's work environment. Where are you going to work?
Those questions should be answered by your second interview by your observations, not by someone giving you their opinion.

The Initial Interviewer

Larger companies may have you talk to a person who is somewhat clueless as to the questions they ask and the answers you give. The more clueless they are, the more effort they will make to write every word you say. If such is happening, take a moment to explain the answers in simpler terms, so that they may understand and possibly paraphrase the answer themselves. If the clueless interviewer is interested in learning more, take the time to talk to (not at) the interviewer, making sure that you get your point across. This will make them feel that you are a team player. For people interviewing for a computer position, the personnel person may be looking for someone to work with him or her on his or her system. Remember the purpose of a personnel department is to work with people or handle employees. The difference between working with people and handling employees is their attitude towards you - the employee.

The Interview's Time

The more interested a company is in hiring you, the more flexible the company's interview schedule becomes. Companies looking to hire people who have solid work experience realize that such individuals are most likely to be found working at other companies rather than the unemployment line. First interviews are usually done like piece work, as there are usually at least a dozen to be done. Smaller companies may be more accommodating as a hiring manager may stay late or come in early. Larger companies may have one of their interviewers work irregular hours as to accommodate working applicants. In cases where distance is a major factor, the first interview may be done over the phone or other inexpensive alternative means. Second interviews are much rarer as the search is narrowed to 3 to 5 applicants. Thus the company should be much more flexible as they are now more interested in you. At the second interview you should be talking to the hiring manager and someone who knows what you are talking about. In a large company that will most likely be the hiring manager or supervisor, while small companies may bring someone who they feel is qualified to interview you. At the second interview you may end up talking to many different people, who may become your coworkers if there is a mutual interest, as the hiring manager is looking for many qualified opinions.

The Tour

A tour of your future environment is very important, and by your observations you should be able to answer a few questions. Don't let someone else answer these questions for you.
Though these items may seem trivial now, but in time these items will make your cubical or office feel either like a jail cell or a second home.

The Boss

At an interview, you may not be the only one putting on a smiley face. You may sell yourself as having just a bit more experience or knowledge than you feel you really do as to entice the company into making you an offer. Could not the same be said the other way around? Is the boss overstating some of the benefits and/or understating (if stating at all) some of the disadvantages of the job? Remember, the company most likely needs someone to fill a position just as much as you need a job, so you might not be the only less than 100% honest person in the room.

An interview to your advantage will allow you to meet with your boss before meeting your coworkers. Ask the boss about topics that you are concerned with, for example the position's hours. The boss may state that the company offers flex time, but how flexible is your boss to be? The boss may state that there may be a few early morning meetings or a few late nights may be required as to meet a deadline, making flextime look more like "stretch time".

After talking with the boss, ask the same questions to the coworkers and see how much the answers match or not. If the answers sound too exactly alike, the coworkers may have been coached on what to say. If they are too different, then the boss is either a liar or a workaholic. The answers you will be getting from both the boss and coworkers may be opinions. What a coworker feels is late, may not be so to the boss. Few to a boss may be many to a coworker. If you can, get numbers, so you can form your own opinion based on what you are looking for in a job. If you can not get numbers, then go with the opinions of the coworkers as you are investigating weather you should become one of them or not.

Also ask yourself if the boss is the type of person that you can deal with for a major part of the day? Though you do not have to like each other, there should be enough respect between you and your superiors and/or subordinates as to make the workday pleasant and productive for everyone.


What tour is complete without meeting some of the natives? Depending on the situation, your coworkers may be a bigger factor than the boss. When being interviewed by the natives or by the boss in front of the natives, watch for attitude! When a debate emerges over an idea, are they looking for fresh blood or fresh meat? People looking for fresh blood will want to know how that idea and you may benefit the company. Natives looking for fresh meat will try to make themselves look good at your expense; animals protecting their own territory. Even if the boss likes you, these people may influence (read as back stab) the boss's perception of you in time (read as set you up).

Sometimes at the interview, but more often on the first day, political parties will try to recruit you. Jokes, comments or insults about other people will be tossed as coworkers check you out. Snicker to show you have a sense of humor, but keep any opinions to yourself. If asked if you agree, downplay any opinions you might have by stating ignorance; most people will back down. "I dunno - I am new here" usually works well and you may get a response that goes like "I've been here four years and I still don't know..." or "Get used to it…"

Another important thing to look for at an interview is a mentor. Even if you are going in at a senior level, it's nice to have someone show you the ropes rather than watch you get hung by the ropes. It's even better if your boss can be your mentor, as the advice he or she gives will not conflict with what you are told to do. When looking for a mentor, find someone that people respect. Keep in mind that many people who are respected are not always the most loved, but it's up to you to determine weather respect or popularity is more important.


At most interviews, the candidate will rarely ever meet one of the most important groups of people connected with the company - the customer(s). Depending on what the company does and your position in the company determines how much of a role the customer will play in your business day. Feel free to ask about the company's customer base and what amount of customer contact your position requires. Unless you are applying for a job as a counterfeiter or the government, all your company's revenues come from customers who have the ability to take their money and business elsewhere.

Try to see what your boss's attitude is about the company's customer contacts. Sure it's nice to know about the companies that is your customers, but you are going to be dealing with individuals within those companies. Some of your contacts are going to be peons, people in the same position or lower than you. Other contacts may be the people that make the decision on weather to keep your company as a vendor or client.

Ask about the contacts, and not only note the answers, but note the attitude. Bosses who feel that the customer is always right may offer you as the sacrificial lamb when (not if - when) there is a conflict. Any honest person with half a brain will tell you that dealing with a customer is not easy. A good manager will tell you how certain individuals have been dealt with successfully, how a few customers were lost and how others were won. If your boss describes how he handled a situation, note his role and behavior.
A good manager will realize that some customers' money is just not as green as some other customer's money. The manager will note that some customers are very rarely heard from, while some do have ligament problems with a product or service. Ask how such issues were handled, noting the customer's attitude and how the involved employees were treated. A honest manager looking out for the welfare of both the company and its employees will also give some detail about the problem customers. Problem customer's money is just not as green or can even be red, costing the company profit margins or actual revenue. Customers who don't pay their bill hurt the company (Duh!). Other customers will try to squeeze $1.05 worth of product and service from the company for every $1.00 they pay. Ask about if there are any policies in place about such customers as such a situation can get you in trouble with both the customer and your boss. The cheap customer will complain about value while your boss will be upset about the expense as time is money in any business.

When dealing with customers, do not look at a set of rules as being something to confine you, but rather protect you. Many customers will put more pressure on you - the new guy, the person who may give in first as to avoid conflict with a customer. Again, you will very rarely ever meet a customer on an interview, but depending on your position, they may be the most important people to learn about. Ask the boss and the coworkers about the customers, noting attitudes. Remember, your company's customers and vendors may be good companies, but you are going to be dealing with individuals within those companies, so try to keep the focus on the company's relations with the contacts.

Pre-Employment Agreements

Although there is more detail about pre-employment agreements in another chapter, this issue should be brought up by the second interview. During the interview you should ask for a complete copy of the pre-employment agreement to take with you for your inspection. While at the interview, take some time skim the agreement and ask questions about any points that you do not feel completely comfortable with. Not only do you want to clear up such points, but try to find out why such points are in the agreement.

As I have stated throughout this chapter, you should be interviewing your boss and the company while you are being interviewed. Before getting into the detail of the agreement, you should find out why certain items are in the agreement. Take the time to ask about issues that may not affect you, just to see what type of boss this person will be and what type of company you are thinking of working for.

On issues that affect you, press for a specific answer. Everything in a company is done for a reason; mostly for a better bottom line. For example, a company prohibits employees from wearing personal pagers on company time. Ask why. An answer such as "I had problems in the past with employees who had personnel pagers..." is a good start to an answer, the boss to be realizes that company policy must change every so often. Now ask why, and you will see the type of person who is interviewing you.

If they do not answer that question, then be prepared to be controlled from the minute you walk into their door until the minute they let you leave their door - provided you are not on call in which case until you quit. The same holds true if the answer goes like "we had employees who took 5 minutes to answer each page 20 times a day". Sounds like a good reason, but why should you have to give up your privilege? "I prefer to have all calls go through the secretary...", should sound a major warning bell. At this point you may have to negotiate some of the terms of the pre-employment agreement, and get that revised copy! If you are a on call fireman (volunteer or something as such), auxiliary cop, paramedic, etc... state such, and you should be exempted from the rule. GET THAT EXEMPTIN IN WRITING! If the boss still persists in routing such calls through the secretary, ask him if he'd hold his breath for 2 minutes, the time a busy secretary may leave an important call on hold. We are talking about life and death here. If you have your own "little side business", then forget bringing in your pager - people like you are why such a policy developed.

After Thoughts

In short, what kind of taste did the interview leave in your mouth? At this point your head is spinning and you are being asked to make a major decision about that which influences your life. Note your immediate impressions, think later. When you do think, think about every impression that you had - do not dismiss any impression no matter how unreasonable it may seem. Keep in mind that at the interview you did not have time to think, so feelings and instinct is what got you through. Think about:
  1. What you said and why - were you trying to impress someone, cover something up, what did you have to justify or explain
  2. What did you NOT say and why - who were you afraid of offending, were you afraid of being questioned
  3. How did each person make you feel? a. What role will each person play in your day?
  4. Do any of these people remind you of other people and how do you feel about that type of person? (Can you work with a fleabag, bleeding heart or stick in the mud)
  5. Did the people who interviewed you seem intelligent or stupid?
  6. Is the company looking to hire the real you, or will you have to become that someone else? (through training, classes, etc...)
Taking a job that you are clearly not qualified for will work towards your disadvantage most of the time. Some skills can be easily acquired and practiced, while others skills may require permits or licenses. When making your decision, balance all aspects of you, the job and your coworkers and the relationships between all elements. Again - it's up to you weather you decide or you let someone else decide for you.