Job interviews are an exciting part of the hiring process, and not just for employers. When you’re invited to interview for a role, you are given a chance to make sure the hiring organization is the right fit for you—that means paying attention to any green (or red) flags that come up during the conversation.
To help you evaluate your next job opportunity, we’ve compiled a list of 11 things you should hope to hear or observe during an interview, and why they matter.
1. The hiring manager asks questions about your hobbies and interests
Sure, a job interview is supposed to focus on how your background and experience match up with the role, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also share outside-of-work interests. When hiring managers ask about your hobbies, it can show that they value the person behind the resume and want to get to know you—the whole you.
2. The interviewers ask follow-up questions
It’s disappointing when an interviewer spends the majority of your time together reading a list of predetermined questions without seeming interested in your unique responses. Not only do you lose the chance to elaborate on a project you spearheaded or share a “win” you’re proud of, but they can miss out on uncovering all of the specific ways you’d excel at their organization.
When an interviewer does ask a follow-up question, you can bet that you’ve piqued their interest. Take this as a green flag that they care about how you would perform in the role and want to make sure the job is a fit for everyone.
3. The interview feels more like a conversation
Even though you’re likely excited about an upcoming job interview, it’s possible that you may be feeling pretty nervous when you first sit down for the conversation (like, palms sweating, legs jittering nervous). That’s why it’s helpful when a hiring manager eases into the conversation with an icebreaker or asks about your day before diving into their list of questions.
These small things can help you relax so that you’re better prepared to show off your expertise later in the interview (you know, when you aren’t feeling your heart pound through your chest).
4. The hiring manager speaks positively of former employees
It’s possible that the role you’re interviewing for was left abruptly by your predecessor, so pay attention to how the hiring manager speaks about past employees. This can reveal important information about the organization, such as whether they value professionalism, respect current and former employees, and recognize that the job isn’t the right fit for everyone (and that that’s okay!).
Even if someone wasn’t right for the role, the hiring manager should never speak negatively about a former employee, especially in an interview with their potential replacement.
5. The hiring manager emphasizes work-life balance
Maintaining an optimal work-life balance is essential to your career and health, so it’s fantastic when a hiring manager clearly outlines expectations and recognizes that you have other commitments. If the hiring manager seems wishy-washy about the hours you need to be available, then you may want to consider whether they’ll respect your time should you become a member of their team.
6. The job comes with opportunities for professional development
Professional development and mentorship programs can greatly influence your career path and goals. It’s definitely a green flag when the hiring manager lets you know how the organization supports your professional growth and is upfront about the different ways you can expand the role in the future.
7. You’re given the opportunity to speak to other employees
When the organization allows you to speak with current employees as part of the interview process, take it as a sign they value employee interactions and promote a collaborative atmosphere.
8. You notice that many employees have grown with the organization
If you have the opportunity to speak to current employees during your interview, don’t be afraid to ask about how their career has grown. You may find out that many of your potential future-colleagues have stayed with the organization for years—and have been promoted during that time.
9. The organization respects your time and any work you prepare for the interview
Many organizations ask applicants to spend time in multiple interview rounds or provide sample work, both of which could interfere with your current schedule—so it’s a bummer when a hiring manager doesn’t show you the proper attention or respect.
Keep in mind that there are many ways an organization can signal that they value your presence throughout the interview process, and will continue to do so should you become an employee. From the simple things (like starting the meeting punctually and acknowledging the effort you put into preparing sample work) to the more complex (such as offering compensation for your time), these actions should give you a clear indication of how seriously the organization takes you as a potential hire.
10. The interviewer focuses on “culture add”
You may be familiar with the term “culture fit,” which organizations have long used to determine whether a candidate will adapt to their core values and behaviors. While some hiring managers may still screen for culture fit during the interview process, we encourage those that post roles on Idealist to leave this thinking behind and instead focus on how candidates can add to their organization.
“Culture add” can be determined when the hiring manager asks for your perspective on organization-wide processes, or encourages you to share how your work style allows you to efficiently carry out tasks. When these questions come up, you should feel good knowing that the organization is open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives.
11. The organization publishes a salary range for the role, with guidelines on how they got those numbers
As salary transparency laws are implemented across the country, many organizations are getting ahead of the trend by including salary ranges in job listings. Do your research ahead of time to make sure these numbers are in line with the role, and don’t be afraid to address your salary expectations during the interview.
If the hiring manager is upfront about how compensation is determined, then you should get a good feeling that they value equity and diversity (and recognize that compensation deserves transparent discussion).
Whether you observe one or all of the above flags in your next interview, the best way to know if an organization is right for you is to trust your gut. If you get a bad feeling from a hiring manager or organization, keep your head up and continue the search—your next social-impact job is waiting.
Have an interview coming up? Prepare beforehand with our post, 4 Tricks for a Successful Interview!