If you’re one of the millions of undergraduate and graduate graduates hoping for a soft landing, your timing is impeccable. Why? You have just entered one of the best job markets for enthusiastic candidates in years.
As of June 2022, over 11 million positions are waiting to be filled. It also does not include roles in other countries. So now is a great time to jump into the workforce. It’s also an opportunity for you to be the one who chooses your first employer (and not the other way around). Make the most of this unusual situation by choosing wisely.
Because there are far more vacancies than applicants, you can afford to be a little picky. While you don’t want to wait forever to accept a job offer, you’ll likely have more room to weigh your options. Make the right match by asking lots of initial questions.
Being curious during your interview doesn’t just show a potential employer that you’re serious about getting the most out of the experience. It allows you to gather critical information that will tell you if you should continue your search. In fact, if they’re not receptive to a candidate asking questions, that alone is a sign that you’ll struggle to be heard and respected in that organization. Below are some starter questions to glean insights from in your conversations with recruiting and hiring professionals.
1. “What is the management style of this company?” »
Most organizations adopt a specific type of management style. For example, some can be very authoritarian, traditional and top-down. Others may be more meritocratic or democratic.
Bryan Adams, CEO and Founder of Ph.Creative, recommends knowing all about your bosses’ expectations. As he explains, “Candidates like to know what they’re getting into. They are less likely to leave a new position in the first few months if they understand from the start how the company scale works or does not work.
Let’s say you have two offers on the table. Wouldn’t you rather choose the one that will foster friendly relations between you and your team leaders? Anything else brings an uncomfortable load of stress that can negate your attempts to learn and grow.
2. “What would my journey to promotion look like?”
Career pathing is all about charting a course that will allow you to move from one role to another. Ideally, you don’t want to bounce around with different employers or get stuck in an entry-level role forever. It’s much easier to stay with one company if it allows good employees to move easily internally.
However, not all organizations have a clear path to promotion. For example, the company may not approve many lateral moves or may hire outside more often than inside. Being aware of this allows you to have a better idea of what your near future will look like.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t take on a role in a place with no promotion opportunities. It can be worth it if you want to gain some really valuable experience. Just be aware that you won’t be as likely to put down roots and will have to start the job search process over again in a few years.
3. “How do you support the emotional well-being of your employees?” »
The pandemic has normalized discussions about mental wellness. As a Monster poll shows, 91% of college graduates see mental health as something that should be discussed. If you agree, you’ll want to bring up the subject during your interviews. One way to start the conversation is to ask what the company does to help employees perform at their best at work every day.
Employers have many ways to help their workers stay psychologically healthy. These can include employee assistance programs, free and low-cost mental health counseling services and programs, access to telemedicine platforms, and on-site screenings.
It’s a red flag if an employer stumbles while answering this question. After all, it has been a concern that has been talked about a lot in the media for the past two years. Therefore, beware of any company that seems confused or surprised by your desire for mental wellness support.
4. “How would you describe your corporate culture?” »
Workplace cultures can vary from brand to brand and even from department to department. HBR contributor Kristi DePaul said, “As a job candidate, you want to find a culture that matches your values or ethics that guides you, fulfills you, and gives you meaning.” Working in the right culture makes every day a little more enjoyable. You get along well with your colleagues and you feel perfectly at ease. On the other hand, being in a culture that doesn’t match your personality, values, and vibe can be like wearing an itchy sweater for eight hours a day.
Admittedly, it can be difficult to sum up a corporate culture. Even expert hiring managers can struggle to define what drives their culture. Do your best to gather direct and indirect clues. You can also check the employer’s “careers” page if available. Many employers have started adding videos that can provide clues. As an extra hint, ask for a visit if you work in an office. Trust your instincts and take notes to review later.
Your first job should be one you will remember fondly because it will start you in the right direction. Asking the right questions can ensure this is the case.