Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Katherine Gredley. Katherine is an elementary teacher and freelance writer. She enjoys working with others to find career solutions through various degree programs.
Starting a position at a new company can be overwhelming; a quick description on the job advertisement, or a summary of the daily responsibilities during an interview, doesn't go very far to let you know what to really expect. In a perfect world, employers would let you come in and observe for a few days before you get a chance to accept the offer. Unfortunately, that's not the world we live in, but there are ways you get test the waters and predetermine if it will be a good fit for you or not. Discovering your career path is always a long journey, and that's all the more reason to do all you can to make sure that you're using your skills in a way that leads you down a happy and successful career path.
Ask important questions in the interview
It's easy to concern yourself so much with what the interviewer thinks about you that you forget to ask important questions of your own. Before going into an interview, make a list of things you want to know (i.e. details on compensation, benefits, promotions, atmosphere, values etc.) and find a way to address the issue subtly. For example, instead of asking if the company treats the staff members well, ask how their employee retention is. Finding a way to ask the nitty-gritty details in a way that's professional will help you get a feel for what to expect.
Pay attention to the details
While most employers do try and give their most polished image in an interview, true colors have a way of shining through. It's very important to pay attention to the details and to trust your initial instinct. Does the interviewer have pictures of family around? Inspirational quotes on the wall? The way someone decorates the office can hint at their character as well as the general vibe of the office. Also, try to pick up on if you're really being heard. Being cut-off while trying to explain something, or being rushed onto the next question, can be signs that the supervisor isn't good at listening to the staff.
Research the company
It's important not to limit yourself to what's said in an interview; just as you're trying to sell yourself to the company, the company is trying to sell the position to you. You omit details about yourself that might make you an undesirable candidate, so you better expect that employers do the same thing as well. Getting an outside perspective is a helpful way to dig up some background information on the business. There are sites that are set up for employees to rate the individuals they work for, so see if your potential boss is listed, and even client reviews can be useful as well. If the majority of posts are saying that someone is hard to work with, short tempered, etc., it might be a good indication to keep your search open.
Similarly to reading online testimonials, knowing someone personally who works for the company, or someone who has, can be an excellent way to clear up anything you want to know. No job is flawless, but any personal account will help you get a better idea of whether or not the situation would mesh with your preferences and strengths. If you get a general consensus that the office is a high pressure atmosphere that pushes numbers and deadlines, you can use that information to either decline or accept the offer, depending on what you're looking for.
Look deep into the position
Even if the company checks out just fine, it's important to try and find out as much as you can about the individual position. Will you be using the skill set you've worked hard to attain? For example, if you went to school for marketing, would having a marketing degree be a vital part of your job? Is there room for you to grow? Will you be working in a team or independently? What exactly are you expected to do from the time you start the day to the time you leave? These are all questions that are important to find the answers to before you decide to go hop on board.
The only way you're going to know without a doubt you'll like a job is if you try it out, but there are steps you can take to weed out the positions that are a glaring misfit for you. By asking questions, researching the company and position, asking around, and most importantly, trusting your instinct, you'll pave the path to your ideal work environment.