Thursday, June 28, 2007

Reframing the Interview

By reframing the job interview as both an interview of you and an interview of an employer, you can gain valuable information. Here are four questions that I always explore with potential employers and clients:

1. What do you think good work looks like? By asking to see examples of their product (or discussing examples you've already seen), or asking what a "good sale" looks like, you get an idea about the values of the company.

Very often companies have "public values" that you can find on their web site (or in the mission statement) that conflict with the "private values" of how the company is run. For example, if a "good sale" involves someone screwing someone else, you don't have to believe the mission statement about honesty in sales on the wall.

I've also had people show me examples of their best work that appalled me from an editorial point of view. If they're proud of something that leaves you queasy, this is not a good sign.

2. What are your expectations for the person in this position? It's quite possible to ask this question flat out, and get a recitation of the job description as the answer. It's also possible to ask this question, and have a very confused potential employer. Both responses give you information.

3. How do you deal with questions? If you ask how a procedure or policy was developed, and you get a serious answer, this is a good sign. This means that someone has been paying attention. But often questions make employers uncomfortable or they are simply not knowledgable. Better to know this at the interview.

4. How much money are we talking about? You should never ask this flat out. But I think you can tell a lot about income by the clothing people wear, by the cars in the parking lot, by the sort of building that is rented, by the area of town, even by the vacation photos on someone's desk. You can also tell something about how well people pay (and what the benefits package is like) by asking about how long people stay.