If you are looking for a job in this economic climate, you are probably looking for a change in your life and earnings. Two of the most common reasons people change jobs post COVID are to increase their household income, and/or to facilitate a better work life balance.
It is no surprise that people get flustered when they are invited for a job interview. They go in desperate and hoping they would get the job that solves all their problems, but they are wrong.
The only mindset you should have going into an interview is whether the job is a right fit for you. The employer's goal is to recruit someone that can deliver their business objectives. Your responsibility as an interviewee is to ensure the job is a right fit for you, both in terms of your capability and in terms of your needs.
So, how do you ensure during an interview that a job is the right fit for you? The simple answer is "Ask". At the end of the interview, ask the employer questions that will give you the insight you require to make an informed decision about the job.
Do not wait for a job offer to talk about working conditions. At that point it is more likely that whatever the employer promises you outside their contractual offer, is only meant to incentivise you into signing a contract, and leaving your safety net, which is your old job. Once you quit your old job, the only leverage you have is your new contract of employment. Any out of contract agreements is in good faith.
Here are four questions you should ask a potential employer at the end of an interview.
— Is this a 9-5 job?
This is one of the most overrated questions to ask. Some might deem it stupid because they feel the answer is in the job description, but they are wrong. The job description tells you the contractual working hours. It is rare that a job description states when you should start and end your work day. Why is this question important? If an employer categorically tells you during an interview that this job is a 9-5 job, what they mean is they expect you to come to office by 9 am and leave by 5pm. This usually entails no flexibility or control over how or when you complete your work hours in a day.
If work like balance and job flexibility isn't your priority then by all means accept the job offer if you get one. Remember life changes and so do you. You might not need work life balance now, but you might need it later.
— How many days am I expected in the office?
Firstly, if an employer tells you to come to the office 4 - 5 days, we would advise you withdraw your job application. With the growing inflation and energy crisis, you could easily be spending a large portion of your monthly wages on transportation. Not to mention, it would be an inefficient use of your time to drive or enter a train to work, only to attend a Microsoft Teams meeting. The only exception to this, is if the job is operational, so you would normally be expected to be onsite 4-5 days a week.
Basically, anything short of 2-3 days is an unreasonable ask from any employer. Additionally, even if the employer tells you 2-3 days, make sure you confirm this is embedded in the company's hybrid working policy. If they don't have a hybrid working policy, we would advise against taking employment up with them. Unless, work life balance and work flexibility isn't your priority.
— What is your management style?
Is it focussed on delivering objectives or micromanaging an employee's time to the hour?
Is it my way or the highway?
You should want a line manager that is objective focused not one trying to micromanage your time. If they start talking about the job being 9-5 with a 30 mins launch break, then know they will most likely micromanage your time. This is the most unproductive type of line management, and you should avoid it. A modern line manager gives their employees objectives and directions, then lets them get on with the job. They are not interested in how you meet your contractual hours, as long as you do your hours and deliver your objectives.
Lastly, watch out for my way is the high way managers. You can tell from how they answer your questions that there is no room for negotiation or flexibility. With such managers you must be at work by 9 am and leave 5 pm. You must have only 30 mins of lunch. You must always be on your laptop or at your desk. You must work from the office every day. If your work is your life then it probably won't be an issue.
— Is there room for growth and development?
Understanding if there is any head room for growth and development is important. If an employer doesn't have a structured plan for growth or opportunities for development you could remain in one position for 10 years with zero chance of a promotion. A lot of companies have sacrificed investment in developing their employees for other business needs. It is important you understand if the company interviewing you deems your development as a priority or something they can do without.
We all have different priorities in life and only you knows where it hurts the most. If you are just starting your career, maybe asking these questions at the end of an interview could be seen as a red flag for a potential employer. Even if you are relatively experienced, these questions could still be construed as a red flag by employers.
The good news is that if an employer finds these questions uncomfortable then they are probably not the right fit for you. Remember, work life balance may not be your priority. You might be the kind of person that likes being micromanaged or ordered around. It all depends on you, and that is the mindset you should have when going into an interview. It is a two way process, and both the interviewer and interviewee should be assessing each other, to ensure they are good fits for each other.
If work life balance is your priority then these questions are for you. You don't have to compromise family for work if you find the right job that gives the right balance. We appreciate that it isn't that easy getting the right job that matches your work life balance requirements. It might take a few tries or several, but you will hopefully get there one day.