What to ask in a job interview

When we look for a new (knowledge worker) job, it’s natural to look for certain characteristics.

We’d like the pay to be good and we’d like the people we’d be working with to be nice. We’d like to get plenty of vacation days and we’d like to have some “opportunities for career advancement”. 

These things are important—absolutely. But I think there are underrated characteristics of jobs that we should pay more attention to:

  • What is the company culture with respect to work hours? (Are people rewarded for output or for hours worked? Are we expected to be available for work at all times?)
  • Are meetings run efficiently? (Or do people waste time attending meetings that run too long or in which half the attendees don’t need to be there?)
  • Is the physical environment conducive to doing work? (Is there some space for privacy and to reflect? Is the office “open” and will people continually interrupt us when we’re trying to focus?)
  • Do people complete their work on time without undue stress? (Or is everybody always busy, rushing, and out of time?)

You rarely see companies talk about these things on job postings, but they have a huge effect on what work will be like day-to-day. So let’s ask companies about these things when we apply for jobs.

Yours,

— Peter

P.S. I can’t stand the phrase “looking for a job”. It sounds like you’re begging companies to “give you” work. Anyone have a better suggestion?

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