Interviews are not only a chance for hiring managers to get to know you, but they're also an opportunity for you to evaluate different roles and companies. Read on for our suggestions on how to use an interview to determine if a role is right for you.

Man and woman looking at computer screen

When you first arrive, or during any down time in an interview, try to get a feel for how everyone interacts with each other and the overall energy of the place. You likely want to work at a company where the employees are busy but not overwhelmed. If you see people sitting around doing nothing or frantically running around with frowns on their faces, that may be a red flag. You can pick up on the subtle inner workings of an organization just by taking a minute to soak in your surroundings.

Observe the physical office space

  • Note if it is an open floor plan, if there are cubicles, or perhaps it is based out of a co-working space. Are office doors closed or open? Would you have the privacy needed to work efficiently yet not feel isolated?
  • Is there enough natural light for you?
  • Are cubicles, offices, or workspaces personalized?
  • Are there common areas where coworkers congregate?
  • Do you notice any additional perks such as stocked kitchens or game areas?

Look for culture cues

  • Do people eat lunch at their desks or take a break together?
  • What are employees wearing?
  • Are there casual conversations in the hallways or do people seem stressed?
  • Do coworkers respect each other? If there is a receptionist, do people greet him or her with a smile?
  • How do employees answer the phone - are they engaged and happy or on autopilot?
Two people sitting at table talking

Ask questions

Determine what’s important to you in your next job and ask for concrete examples about the company and role. Hiring managers typically leave time to answer questions at the end of the interview, so take advantage of this.  

You’re likely to talk to a few different people over the course of your interview process. Take this opportunity to gain insight from employees at different levels of the company.

If you're speaking with an executive or co-founder:

  • How has the company changed over time and where do you see it going in the next few years?
  • What personalities excel here? Do you have advice on how to succeed?
  • How often does the company or team meet as a whole?
  • How do you ensure a culture of transparency? Of feedback?

If you're speaking with your potential manager:

  • How is success measured and recognized?
  • How would you describe your management style?
  • Why is this role open - are you growing the team or did the previous employee leave? What is the company’s turnover rate?
  • What’s the typical career trajectory, and are there opportunities for professional development?

If you're speaking with a peer:

  • Are there activities offered outside of the office?
  • Do you have friends on the team?
  • Can you walk me through your typical day?
  • Why did you choose this opportunity over other jobs?

Remember that the people you're interviewing with will try to portray the company in the best light possible. Questions like these will help you gain a more realistic view of the role, especially when you get responses from multiple team members at different levels.

Reflect on the entire process

How hiring managers treat their candidates during the interview process is telling of how they treat their employees. Did they value your time, have clear next steps, and keep you informed? If you completed a case study or whiteboarding exercise, did you enjoy it or find it tedious? They chose that assignment for a reason, and it’s most likely indicative of what you’d be doing on the job. Lastly, can you see yourself getting along with your manager and coworkers? They will be putting on their best faces during an interview so if you pick up on any friction, that’s probably a bad sign.

Interviewing isn't one-sided; you need to judge the experience for yourself and determine if you'd be fulfilled and happy at the company, on the team, and in the specific role. Here’s to finding a job that excites you!