I know you feel desperate. I know you think you have to get a job, any job. And I know you think getting a job will make you happy.

I simply want to remind you that the job has to be a good fit for you if you are to be successful in the long run. Here’s the thing: it’s hard work getting a job. And I’ll bet you don’t want to have to do the job search again any time soon. So why not structure your job search so you get a job you’ll be happy in over a substantial period of time.

Interviewing the employer is the best strategy for you to ensure your own job satisfaction. Every encounter with a potential employer is a chance to learn something about the company, its culture and its values – as well as about the particular job for which you applied.

Pull out your must have list and generate a list of questions
you can ask the interviewer that could get you information about the kind of company it is. Some questions you can ask in the first interview while others may have to wait until you’re at a second or third interview.

For example, if you want to know if a company respects its employees, ask the interviewer how long he or she has been with the company and what keeps them there. You can also ask directly “what is the culture here?” If they seem not to understand the question, that’s a bad sign: clearly, culture is not a concern and it’s likely that employees are undervalued. If they can answer, then at least they talk about culture.

If you want to know whether the organization values employee work contributions, ask how this particular job will contribute to the overall goals of the organization. If the interviewer can’t tie the job to a larger purpose, chances are employees aren’t aware of how their work contributes to the whole and the higher-ups may not fully appreciate the value of every employee.

Think of what you would want to know if you were interviewing someone to work at your organization or company. Then ask the interviewers that question. It can come up in conversation, or you can ask it at an appropriate time. Questions show you are thoughtful, engaged, and interested in the job, the company, and your potential colleagues. They also show that you are not so desperate to get a job that you’ll forgo any due diligence in your own behalf.

Any time is a good time to ask questions regarding the specific job. Ask what success will look like for the person in this job. It is a great question to get at the scope of position and the kind of impact you’ll be expected to have. If you have a chance to talk with prospective colleagues or subordinates, one powerful question you can ask is what the interviewer expects a person in this position to deliver. You can learn a lot from asking that question.

Several years ago, I was up for a job in California that I thought I really wanted. When I asked the staff what they wanted from an Executive Director, they were shocked because no one had ever asked them such a question. I realized that the culture was probably not as mutually respectful as I initially thought, and my enthusiasm for the job cooled. I expressed some concern about moving across country, yet went on to a group interview with the full Board. That further demonstrated to me that the organization was pretty stratified and not very collegial. I made a presentation and had difficulty getting Board members to engage with me.

By then, it was clear that it wasn’t the right fit for me, something reinforced by the too-low compensation figure they were considering. I was not surprised nor unhappy when they decided to go with someone local. In fact, it was a relief not to have to turn them down. The first sign of a poor fit, however, came after I asked staff what they wanted to see in an Executive Director.

Ask questions, pay attention to the answers, and trust that you will find your right fit job when you are clear about what you need to do your best work.