3 Tips for Interviewing the Interviewer

Interviewing for a job feels kind of like dating–the excitement, the nervousness, the prospect of life-changing possibilities. But unlike dating, interviewing can feel emotionally one-sided, especially if you are new to the dance. It may seem like those in the interviewers’ chairs are the ones who hold all the cards. Sometimes in your efforts to impress them, you may forget that you have power in this conversation: what you think of the organization and the staff that facilitates the meeting matters, too.

You are not the only one being interviewed here. You are doing that very same reconnaissance to see if you can be happy at this organization and in this role, so take full advantage of the opportunity. Ask your questions and be aware of any red flags you notice about the staff, the company or the position. Viewing the meeting as an equal exchange between interested parties will boost your confidence and calm your nerves.

You bring value to this meeting, and if all goes well on both sides perhaps you will reach a mutually beneficial agreement. If it’s not a fit, you will have that much more experience as an interviewee, and that is always helpful to have in your toolkit. Try not to emotionally inflate the meeting. Life is full of interviews. Do your homework, and do your best. Then be at peace; your work is done.

Keep in mind

Organizations recruiting new staff are eager to find qualified candidates. The staff you are meeting with is probably swamped with work because of the open position, and they are anxious to get their team up and running at full speed. It’s very likely that one or more people conducting the interview are temporarily doing the work that they will give back to this position once a candidate is hired. If that’s the case, they want to fill the position ASAP. It’s helpful to identify who on the interviewing team is currently filling this role because that clues you into who will be training the new hire. That also tells you who can answer your most targeted, task-based questions.

The hiring process is a long road, and employers are as eager to make the right hire as you are to get the right job. They are looking for the person who is a good fit and also whom they think will be relatively easy to onboard. They also hope to find someone who will stick around for a while, so they don’t have to go through this process again anytime soon. Institutional knowledge is a precious commodity, and turnover absorbs a lot of time and resources. Qualities that make you easy to onboard and likely to stay are always attractive to an interviewing team.

Do your homework

An interview is like any other professional meeting, so use your time and the interview team’s time well. Research the names of any interviewers you receive in advance. Learn about the company. Don’t wait to be asked for relevant materials; bring a simple writing sample, lesson plan, diagram or report as long as it’s not cumbersome, no set-up is required and it enhances the meeting by concisely demonstrating a particular skill or example. Be prepared and mindful of everyone’s time–including your own.

Ask questions that will inform your decision

You are invited to ask questions. Use the invitation well. Ask about the history of the position for which you are interviewing. How long was your predecessor in the role? How about that person’s predecessor? If you learn that the position has had a lot of turnover, you want to learn more about that. You may find that the job was just restructured and you may think that the revised position sounds like a great fit for you. Don’t be shy about asking direct questions. Be professional, of course, but get the facts you need to make a good decision. A job change has a huge impact on your life and even if you are unemployed, you don’t want to take a job that has a poor track record of success.

Often, you get the chance to meet with various people on the team including peer staff members. This is a great opportunity to learn what it is really like to work at the organization. Get down to the nitty-gritty with them and find out how long they have worked there and what they like about their jobs. If you have questions about work-life balance, this is a good time to ask those. It is also a good opportunity to ask about the leadership at the organization in high-level terms; for example, what is it like to work for the manager and what is his or her leadership style like?

Identify red flags

Just like with dating, be honest with yourself about things that don’t sit well with you, no matter how much you like other things about the company. These red flags may not be deal-breakers, but they are issues that you need to resolve as you grapple with your decision, so pay attention to them and trust your instincts.

If you find that there have been five people in the position you are applying for in the past eight years, that is a serious red flag. If you find that there are four open positions on a 13-person team, you may want to ask about that. If the interview team indicates that the president or CEO of the company is difficult to work with, and the position you are interviewing for directly supports that person, you need to consider whether or not you want to invite that stress into your life.

There are toxic relationships on the professional front just as there are in the dating world. Know your value and trust your instincts.