In 2022, power has fallen into the hands of the job candidate. With so many companies struggling to scout and retain top talent, the modern job-searcher becomes faced with more options and opportunities than ever before.
As a job seeker, how you research and narrow in on your preferred companies or working environments can be a game changer for landing a role that is perfectly aligned with the ideal next step you’d like to take in your career.
Through reverse interviews, you can make use of the power in your hands and let your potential new employer have their turn in the hot seat!
- What is a reverse interview?
- The benefits of a reverse interview
- Tips to have an effective reverse interview
- 10 questions to ask in a reverse interview
What is a reverse interview?
During a job interview, a reverse interview is when you (the interviewee) get to take the stand to ask your potential new employer some questions. This puts control into the hands of the job candidate and empowers them to find a company that suits their goals, culture, and interests. These interviews are typically on a one-on-one basis in 30-minute time slots. There should be enough time for you to answer your most pressing questions.
Show up prepared
Jot down your questions and the interviewer’s answers during your reverse interview to never forget what was said! Try a tool like Fellow!
The benefits of a reverse interview
- You gain knowledge about the company
- You can showcase skills you want them to know about
- You show your interest in the role
- Your chance of landing a role that aligns with you
1You gain knowledge about the company
Just as the company would learn about you when asking you questions in an interview, this is your turn to learn about them. A reverse interview is super helpful to get an idea of the organization’s processes, culture, and future plans. Some areas to ask questions about include:
- Reporting structures and processes
- “Day in the life”
- Perks and benefits of working within the company
- Future plans (short-term or long-term!)
- Team environment and communication styles
- Acceptable working styles
- Required in-office versus remote working opportunities
2You can showcase skills you want them to know about
Showing that you went the extra mile to learn about the company and ideate questions surrounding your new knowledge is a great way to showcase skills like independent research, critical analysis, and presentation capabilities. This will also make the employer feel confident that you will come to your role prepared and ready to do what it takes to succeed.
3You show your interest in the role
Having a series of well-researched questions can show your potential new employer that you already have a base-level understanding of the company’s workings. It demonstrates that you took your interest in the opportunity beyond the industry or role—but you’re actually interested specifically in the company itself! As companies look to build strong corporate cultures and well-aligned teams in the next few years, proving that you’re a great candidate for that specific company can really help you stand out.
4Your chance of landing a role that aligns with your goals and values is increased
When you’re going through the job search process, it’s likely that you have defined your ideal workplace environment, including your preferred working hours, paid time off, reporting or communication flows, and more! Asking questions about these important factors in a reverse interview enables you to have the information early, before you even land the job. This eliminates a lot of the risk of entering into a job that you don’t know anything about or that you’re not even sure you’re going to like. In turn, this helps the company retain more employees as employees are more likely to be happy in their roles.
Tips to have an effective reverse interview
- Know what you want
- Search for companies that match your needs
- Brainstorm questions before the interview
- Use a collaborative meeting agenda
- Look at the company’s reviews
- Give context to your questions
1Know what you want
Do your research. Spend your time deeply investigating your ideal workplace. Also consider researching industry or role-specific requirements that you might wish to seek out in your next position. Sometimes there are differences in accepted working hours or benefits in one industry or role. For example, sales positions often get lower salaries with a higher percentage of their compensation stemming from commissions.
When thinking of your “dream” environment, you also need to maintain reason—what is actually achievable? For example, accountants, lawyers, and many other professions will tend to work longer hours, especially in their first few years of work.
2Search for companies that match your needs
Finding a company to work for can take some “shopping around.” Companies, even in the same industry and size, can have widely different cultures and growth plans which might impact your interest in working for one of them over another. Use a variety of tools and platforms (like Indeed or LinkedIn) to search for companies and narrow down some of your favorites based on what you know so far. Then, apply for the job(s) and get researching further!
3Brainstorm questions before the interview
To stand out in any job interview, you’ll need to be prepared. This is especially important if you’re going to be guiding part of the interview! In most hiring processes, the end of the interview is left for you to ask any questions to the recruiter or hiring manager. You might choose to use this time to ask one of your planned questions, or you might want to probe deeper into something else you learned about the company earlier in the interview.
Researching questions ahead of the interview can also help you learn about the company and be more prepared for your next call with the hiring manager.
4Use a collaborative meeting agenda to write questions and record answers
Communicate with your hiring team about upcoming interviews and try to determine the structure of the calls. Many hiring organizations have structured processes that they need to follow across candidates in order to maintain non-bias policies. From there, you can take your learnings about interview expectations and place them into a meeting agenda (which you can share with participants on your upcoming call). This shows the recruiters that you’re organized and well prepared. For you, having your questions in a meeting agenda can also help ease anxiety since you know when you’ll be leading part of the interview versus when you’ll be interviewed yourself.
5Look at the company’s reviews
Sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, PayScale, and LinkedIn can help you understand what it’s like to work at a certain company. It’s important to look at employee reviews from those who have worked within your potential new department, as well as those within other areas of the company. Look for responses that can provide insight into the company culture, ability to progress your career, employee appreciation and motivation factors, and any other elements that you feel are important in your next role.
6Give context to your questions
Avoid asking an open question with no context such as, “What are the company’s long-term plans?” Instead, add the knowledge that you currently have and be specific about the team, period, or developmental area on which you’re exclusively focusing. For example, “With many companies in the industry currently deciding on how to manage remote work environments, I am curious to learn more about the plans you have in place for managing this in the next 18 months.”
10 questions to ask in a reverse interview
- How is this team structured and how does it relate to other teams within the organization?
- Of your company values, which two do your team practice most regularly?
- What is the biggest risk that the company will be taking in the next 6 months, and how are you preparing for it?
- With more companies maintaining remote-work or hybrid models, what is this company’s view on those work approaches? Are there any plans to adapt certain working models in the future?
- What are the main types of conflict that occur within your team, and what steps are in place to resolve them?
- What steps does your company take to foster inclusion and diversity within the work environment?
- How do you differentiate [X service, product offering, or the corporate culture] from your competitors, and what steps do you take to actively maintain this differentiation?
- What key performance measures are in place to measure success within this role at the 3-month, 6-month, and 1-year marks?
- How do you anticipate the team evolving over the next year? How will this affect my role?
- What is one skill that you didn’t expect to use in your role, but that you use quite often?
Landing your dream role doesn’t always look like getting an offer from the biggest company on the block. In fact, it might be the company that has the greatest growth potential, the best company culture, or the one that fosters experimentation to help you create more exciting projects in your career. Whatever you’re looking for in a company, it’s important to practice reverse interviews to make sure the company is actually what you’re imagining it to be. Getting in contact with recruiters, the hiring manager, or even another current employee of that company can be a great way to start your journey to the next best job!