Reverse Selection

More job seekers are interviewing the employer in order to ensure a better fit

Low unemployment and abundant opportunities are leading more job seekers to screen potential employers as scrupulously as they’re being screened. Many plum offers are getting the thumbs down, and not just because of compensation. Savvy job candidates are also weighing corporate culture, benefits and quality of life and work issues before signing on the dotted line.

After two years with a Chicago law firm, Deborah Telman wanted to expand her legal skills. “I took the job right out of law school and was placed in public finance. I soon realized that there were no growth opportunities and that my career would be stymied,” says the Boston University Law School graduate.

She interviewed with several big Chicago firms, stating her career goals and asking key questions that would help her assess if chat company was for for. “I asked if I would be working on corporate matters and if anyone would mentor me,” says Telman. “I also wanted a firm where I would see successful people who looked like me.” Her assertiveness paid off. After turning down several lucrative offers, Telman, 33, joined the law firm of Winston & Strawn.

For some employers, this turning of the tables has made wooing good employees that much more challenging. “These companies are looking at their turnover rates and trying to build more nurturing and diversified work environments,” says Jean Martin, president of VJM Associates, an organizational development consulting firm in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Before an interview, you should research the company and determine your questions, suggests Martin. The questions should uncover your job responsibilities, performance measurements, management style, organizational culture and the resources that will be made available to you. “They shouldn’t be a battery of detailed queries that might make the interviewer feel uneasy, badgered or drained,” she adds. Other questions Martin says to consider are:

What are your diversity initiatives?

The answer will give you some insight into the company culture and your career path options. If only the human resources person can discuss these initiatives, perhaps diversity management is not embraced throughout the company.

How are new ideas and suggestions viewed?

If your question is met with ‘We never do this’ or the process for implementing them is bureaucratic, then it may mean that the company is not very open to employee input.

What are the short- and long-term business strategies?

Maybe they aren’t in tune with your career goals. If the interviewer doesn’t know what the company’s strategies are, perhaps they haven’t been made public. Do you want to enter into an environment where information isn’t shared freely?

When Doris Mitchell Green, associate director for geriatric services at North-western University Center on Aging in Chicago, was was offered a promotion, it It looked like a coup. She would inherit two additional departments, plus it meant a 15% pay increase, lucrative benefits and a flexible work schedule that would allow her to complete her master’s degree in public health. “During the second interview, I started inquiring about the kind of infrastructure support that I would have,” says Mitchell Green,

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