By: Jordan Koletic, Program Assistant, PCDNetwork
In my short professional career between my undergraduate and graduate degree I have held two jobs in a four-year span (one of those is currently with PCDN)! Technically, I suppose, three jobs if you are counting a promotion where I stayed with the same company and team. I am disclosing this information because, well, if you as the reader are especially interested it can all be deduced from my LinkedIn profile for one, and for two, to remind readers that I am by no way an expert. This posting to meant to merely regale readers and perhaps my minute experience can translate into words of wisdom.
Today I am talking about interviewing for a prospective job! No, this is not a tip sheet to landing that whooper of a job, the great white whale to launch your professional career. This is meant to discuss an aspect of interviewing that is not widely talked about… you are interviewing the organization/team/manager as well. Graduating in 2012, during a time which was arguably one of the most difficult years for recent millennial graduates to find full-time occupations, the advice I received went along these lines: ‘take whatever job you can get’, ‘it doesn’t matter if you like the work, only that you are getting a paycheck’, ‘it’s easier to find another job when you have a job’. Now, the latter of these ‘nuggets of wisdom’ is true, it is easier to look and be recruited for other positions when you already have a job title. That could be because your current position adds legitimacy to your work ethic and skillset or it just makes the stress of job hunting a little less arduous given you don’t have the financial burden of being unemployed at the same time.
If you look back at the first two bits of advice it is easy to delineate why there is an apathetic workforce or maybe why millennials get a bad-rep in the workforce. According to the 2016 Gallup survey, “millennials are the generation most likely to job-hop, 55% of millennials are surveyed to have low engagement in the workplace”. This could be part of low inducements by the organization or it could be that job panic across a generation has caused millennials to grasp at straws and take the first job to be offered. Again, I am no expert, I am just a millennial who graduated at a tough time, established my 10-year plan for professional, personal and academic growth, identified my weak areas and pursued opportunities to strengthen those areas and was hired into a high-growth opportunity position in a fortune-500 company. I am, however, the benefactor of excellent advice, advice that I will impart to you:
Notice I did not say ‘interview for the job’ but ‘interview the job’. This is the aspect of the interview process that gets lost amid the chaos. Those reading this may be sitting at your desks, looking at your phone and wondering who is this person and what stable does she keep her high horse once she gets off of it? I promise I am not speaking from some pedestal of favor and opportunity and to prove it I will tell you something that thus far only my family, husband and one close friend know. The fortune 500 company offer was not my first job offer out of school it was in fact my second offer. The first offer I accepted hastily because I wanted to be able to say I had a plan, I had a job, I knew where I am going after graduation! Very exciting stuff for a 20-something. During the interview process for this particular job I allowed the interviewer to court me in coveting the position. Yes, of course, I asked questions about the job and the organization, as any good-little interviewee does, but I did not spend time crafting the questions so that I would understand the organization’s mission, vision, values, expectations. During the interview, I did not fully absorb what the interviewer was saying, my mind was on a single-track… be the best candidate for this job! I did not stop to think whether this job, this organization, this manager was the best candidate for me. The end result was that I graduated, moved to a new city and started this job. I absolutely hated the job after about 30 minutes of arriving in the office and to be honest, it was my fault. Granted the interviewer had completely misled me into believing the job was something else but I hadn’t stopped them. I didn’t clarify. I didn’t ask questions and I didn’t take the time after the interview to step back and reflect on whether this was the right position for me, for my career, for my future. Ultimately, at the end of the day when we sat down to do the hiring paperwork I broke down and said that this was not the job for me and that they could take this day as a volunteer day and that I would not be back in the morning. It all sounds very clean on paper but it was not, it was messy and embarrassing and scratching the surface of 100% avoidable. I didn’t take the time to interview the job and so I ended up wasting my time and theirs, something that as an employee you should never do.
Below I have listed out a few example questions and areas of information you can gain by asking these questions.
- You can always find an organization’s mission and vision but an interesting and often times salient question is what is the team’s or organization’s purpose?
- As a student receiving their masters in Human Rights and International Politics this has become an increasingly important question. In class, we often joke that the purpose of human rights jobs is to work yourself to unemployment. Meaning there would be no rights abuses and thus no further need for rights centric jobs.
- How does your team plug into the overall fabric of the company culture?
- Helps outline priorities for the company as well as the team. For example, does the organization provide paid volunteer time? If so then community and involvement is important to the company culture.
- What motivates you to get up in the morning?
- This is help you form an idea about the projects the team works on as well as what inspires and excites your potential manager.
- How does this organization operate at a high level?
- This gives insight into how the company makes money and in turn can help identify red flags. Personally, this will tell me how important making a profit is to the organization (granted in the non-profit world this question might not be applicable) and where the goal of my work hours will be focused.
- What does the vertical growth potential look like for someone coming in at my level?
- Answers will give you an idea of what your career path looks like and also an inside view of what the company thinks of you. You should also ask what the timeframe looks like for any future promotion.
- What is a common problem faced by this team and how have you worked to resolve it in the past?
- Discover where the pain points are for the team. For example, does this team face funding issues or problems around team cohesion.
- How important is work/life balance?
- This might give insight into how intense the team is or even how social they are! Does the team do regular teambuilding exercises? Are informal, after hour meet ups (happy hours for those over 21 years of age) important to maintaining business and friendship relations among team members?
This is not a fail proof plan but it will help you as the interviewer think thoroughly about whether the job and organization is the right fit for you. The right fit may not be your ‘dream’ job but it could be the stepping stone you need to getting there! Or it could be you have done some soul searches and found weaknesses in your artillery and this job is one that will help you fill the gaps to become a more holistic and well-rounded employee. The bottom line is only you can determine whether this job will help, hurt or stall your career and it is up to you to decide your path forward. The moral of this story is to have fun with the experience and always interview the job! Take the time to ask the hard questions that will afford you the knowledge to determine whether this position is the correct one for you. It goes without saying that all questions you ask should be in your own words otherwise they come off rehearsed. Finally, always pay close attention to the interviewer when they are describing the team and position. Additional questions can be gleaned from these discussions and it shows the interviewer that your listening (which is an added bonus)! I would like to end this segment by inviting readers to share their experiences (anything truly dramatic is always welcome) and perhaps questions they typically ask the interviewer.
 See http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/191459/millennials-job-hopping-generation.aspx for the full Gallup Survey
Jordan Koletic is responsible for posting, generating content as well as supporting PCDN´s senior team in various administrative tasks. Jordan is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Human Rights and International Politics at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom. Her research interests are focused on the mediation of humanitarian activism through social media platforms. Previously, Jordan worked for four years as a Strategy/Analytics Consultant on Wells Fargo’s Wealth and Investment Management Strategy team based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. Prior to joining the financial services industry, Jordan interned as an investigative reporter at KosovaLive 360, a major news agency located in the capital city of Pristina, Kosovo. While there she researched, interviewed and reported on a variety of key issues for this freshly minted country, including its push for United Nations recognized sovereignty and efforts to field a 2012 Olympic team. Jordan holds dual BA degrees in Journalism and International Relations from Miami University. While at Miami, Jordan was a member of the Varsity Swim and Dive team and spent five months studying in Eastern Africa.