Blog

Talk with someone on your level If you really want to know what it will be like to work in a department, ask if you can speak with someone at your level when you come in for the interview. This will give you insight into management tactics, workloads and introduce you to one of your potential coworkers. Hiring managers likely have conducted multiple interviews and have standard answers to common candidate questions, but a potential colleague would simply answer your questions honestly and openly. When you’re trying to determine an interview time and discussing whom you will speak with, don’t be afraid to request some time with someone on your level. Most employers will be happy to accommodate, and if they won’t, their reasons why could also be revealing.
Set up scenarios In interviews, you’ll often be given scenarios and asked how you’d react in certain situations. Don’t be afraid to set up your own scenarios to see how management would react to determine the culture and environment you’ll be joining. Ask about a real-life scenario, such as “If I have to schedule a doctor’s appointment during the day, is that something that would require submitting time off?” The answer will tell you whether you’re joining a more relaxed environment or one that is very structured. Depending on your preference for a work environment, the answer could reveal if this is a team you’d like to join.
Know what you’re looking for A lot of potential employees like to hear about team retreats and activities as part of a company’s culture, but when you’re in an interview, be realistic about what kind of environment you want to be a part of. If you have family obligations or small children, you might want to look for a company that does their team building during office hours only. A good team doesn’t have to spend time together outside of work to have camaraderie. And if you join a department that does a lot of team building on weekends or after hours, you risk alienating yourself if you don’t take part. Make sure the team you’re joining is the right fit for you, not just the one that seems like they have the most fun culture.
Be specific When you’re asking about culture in an interview, be specific about timing with your questions. Ask what the team has done together in the past month, instead of leaving the timeframe open-ended. If you ask “What does the team do together outside of the office,” you risk hearing about a retreat they did years ago or about the company’s past culture instead of their current one. A few new employees or changing workloads can quickly and easily influence the culture of a smaller company, so make sure you’re getting current information on the team you’ll be joining instead of hearing about “the good old days.”  
Create your own business cards It may seem strange to create business cards if you’re thinking of changing roles, but if you have an online portfolio, electronic resume or even an up-to-date LinkedIn page, they can help interviewers remember your name and find your work. Design a simple business card with your contact information, applicable social media links and the path to your online samples to hand out to everyone you speak with during the interview process. They’ll serve as an easy reference if they want to follow up with you prior to another meeting or making an offer. Your resume may end up in a stack with others, but a personal business card will be sure to set you apart.
Read about the company instead of spring cleaning: Don’t limit your online research to the company’s website. Take the time to find current news and articles about your prospective employer, the good and the bad. Maybe they’ve recently completed a merger, or won a promising award in the industry that would make a good topic of conversation. Being up to date on a company’s latest news will prove that you care about the direction and trajectory of the organization you’re joining, not just the position you’re applying for. This tactic will also bring to light any existing red flags if they’ve been named a bad place to work or have recently experienced layoffs.  
Utilize your reasons for leaving If you’re unhappy in your current position, and interviewing for new opportunities, use the reasons why you’re looking to create better interviewee questions. If you’re unhappy with management, ask “what management tactics do the leaders here practice?” If you didn’t see opportunity for advancement, ask “what’s the career path someone in my role would typically take?” Make sure you’re not using your questions as a venting session, but don’t miss the opportunity to find out more about your potential work environment. By asking better questions, you’ll seem more informed about the industry, but you’ll also be able to determine if you’ll face the same challenges in your new position that you’re managing in your current role.  
Don’t proactively point out flaws. You should always have answers ready for gaps in experience or skills that may appear on your resume. If you’ve planned ahead for these questions, you may be tempted to preemptively explain shortcomings to ease the interviewer’s mind. However, you should avoid bringing up any areas of weakness unless you’re specifically asked about them. Maybe a specific skill isn’t critical for the department, or the hiring manager doesn’t question why you would only spend a year at your first job. By bringing up potential red flags, you risk making minor issues seem bigger than they actually are, and you could be making an interviewer more worried about the gaps instead of putting them behind you.
Use your hobbies to talk about skills. You’re probably prepared for most of the standard interview questions about your professional life, but you should also prepare your answers about hobbies and your personal life to highlight other skills you can bring to the position. If you trained for a 5k or half-marathon, you can use that to show dedication and perseverance. If you lead a book club or charity initiative, that shows both planning and leadership skills. While you should mention industry organizations or activities you participate in, don’t focus only on work-specific hobbies. This can make you seem less well rounded. Most importantly, don’t talk about a hobby you’re not active in to try and appear more interesting or adventurous. You don’t want to be caught off guard by any follow-up questions.
Wait to give your two weeks.   If you’re interviewing for a new position and it seems promising, you might be tempted to put in your two weeks now, and take some time off while finalizing details at your new company. However, you should wait until you have a few things in place before telling anyone you’re leaving. Make sure you have a written, signed and firm acceptance letter in hand from your new company. 13% of employers say they’ve pulled an offer during negotiations, so while it may seem like a sure thing, don’t assume you’ve got the job before it’s absolutely final. Also, make sure you have any files, emails and contacts that you’ll want (within your legal rights) before you announce your departure. Certain industries will end your employment immediately upon your announcement - particularly if you work with proprietary information. So don’t assume you’ll get to go back to your desk to gather files or portfolio pieces after you speak with Human Resources.