Career Advice, Interviews

How to Interview the Company: Part II

There’s an old recruiting joke about the CEO who dies and is met at the pearly gates by Saint Peter. Saint Peter says, “You did a lot of bad and an equal amount of good. We can’t decide where to put you. So it’s your choice, heaven or hell.”

The CEO, being the consummate negotiator, asks and gets the chance to visit both places before making a decision. “I’d like to try heaven first.”

Following two weeks of meditating on a cloud while the angels played soothing harp music was about all the CEO could stand. “Peter, I need a little more action than this, I’d like the tour of hell.”

“Absolutely,” says Saint Peter. Before you can say “Poof”, the CEO is at the gates of hell. He is picked up in a Maybach Limo and squired to a softly lit clubhouse where he sees other CEOs living in luxury. He asks for a drink and “poof”, there it is.

He returns to the pearly gates to inform the gatekeeper of his decision. “I hate to say it, but I prefer hell. There’s more action and all my friends are there.”

“As you wish.”

When he gets back to hell, he starts noticing differences. The fancy limousine has become a crowded third world jitney. Where there once was a clubhouse, there are now thousands of small volcanic mounds spewing flames and noxious gasses. His friends are still there but now they are wailing and moaning as they receive all manner of brutal punishment.

“Let me talk to the boss,” he demands. When he is shown into Satan’s personal chambers he says, “What gives? This place is nothing like it looked when I first visited. The reality has nothing whatsoever to do with the impression I was given. What changed?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” says the Prince of darkness. “On your first visit, we were recruiting you.”

So how does this relate to a job interview?

When you interview a company, it is really important to gather quantifiable data. Just as you put your best face forward during the interview, so does the company. The excitement of the interview process can produce a halo effect. That means that you are likely to see the company in a more positive light than it might deserve. But, the company has procedures set up to help reduce this effect on their side. You should do the same thing. The more you can quantify your decision, the better off you will be in the long term.

It’s not that the company is trying to deceive you. Everyone, you included, puts on their best face for the initial encounters. You want to look good to them, they want to look good to you.

Like any first date, your initial encounters with a company are going to give you a distorted picture. You can correct for this by:

  • Researching the company culture
  • Tracking down and speaking with ex-employees
  • Thoroughly checking out your new boss

We’ll cover these deeper investigative techniques in coming articles.