Nerves have a habit of getting the better of us when we attend interviews. But if we can put those nerves to one side, there’s something to be said for paying close attention to the workplace and people while there.
Doing so will help provide a good sense of the company culture which will determine whether or not it’s a good fit for you. Interviewers can tell you anything and everything about the working environment and its people —but your own first-hand observations will prove far more useful. These are the crucial areas to consider:
1. The first greeting
Does the first person you meet greet you with a smile? More often than not, the first point of contact says a lot about the business. And remember, it goes both ways: Make sure you give the best possible first impression – you never know who is paying attention.
2. How employees interact with one another
The ways in which employees interact with one another will tell you a lot about the business culture. Ideally, their behaviour should be respectful, friendly and warm. Alarm bells should ring if you witness anything unpleasant.
3. Do the people look happy?
This may seem obvious, but again, this speaks volumes. If you’re shown through the office, are the staff animated, chatty and engaged? Or are they tight-lipped, silent, showing closed body language?
4. What are they doing?
If you possibly can, take thirty seconds to take in the ambience. Have staff personalised their desk spaces? Are they talking to each other informally in the communal areas? Does the office feel tense or relaxed? Are they hunched over their desks mesmerised by their screens?
These small observations will paint an honest picture of what it’s like to work there.
5. How committed is the business to staff health and wellness?
Ask your interviewer if they have a wellbeing policy. Is there an onsite gym? Are there showers for cyclists? If there’s a canteen, is the food subsidised? If your interviewer exhibits a reluctance to respond to these queries, it’s likely there’s nothing to offer.
6. Is it an organised place?
Does the interview start on time? While they may have legitimate reasons for lateness, if your interviewer is late and unapologetic, consider this a red flag. Are they prepared and focused, or distracted with calls and messages? Regardless of how busy they are, they should have arranged uninterrupted time with you. Failure to do so shows a lack of respect and, in my opinion, calls into question the overarching business values.
7. The physical environment
Is the office open plan? Are there communal spaces and break-out areas? These small details signal the extent to which the businesses values things like teamwork and open communication. Isolated cubicles might be indicative of a less collaborative business.
8. Work-life balance and expectations
Many interviewees are hesitant to ask about work-life balance, but if it’s important to you, you should absolutely feel comfortable to speak freely. Ask about the options to work flexibly and what the expectations are around overtime. An employer that values employee wellbeing will proudly elaborate further.
9. The experience doesn’t match the recruiter’s description
Your recruitment consultant should have prepped you with what to expect from the interview, the role specification and the culture. If, for whatever reason, your actual experience doesn’t align, it might be worth going back to the recruiter to find out why.
10. The reasons why the position is available
Ask the interviewer why the position is available and how long the previous incumbent has spent in the role. Before you proceed, you should have clarity around turnover in the position and why.