27 Feb

Are Your Interviewees Checking You Out?

If you’re looking to hire someone, you’ve likely done–or at least had your HR department do–some serious background checking. Nobody wants to end up with a bad employee, especially when there are red flags before hiring. But have you ever considered that it might go the other way around, as well? Most of us have, at least once, worked for a Class-A jerk; smart interviewees should be checking you out as much as you’re checking out them.

This is not a reason for you to panic: the more both parties know about each other, the better chance there is of avoiding a bad fit. But people are seldom 100% upfront when we meet them–if you think about it, that’s the premise the entire online dating industry is based on. Being interviewed is stressful, and candidates will be minding their Ps and Qs. But the fact is, you’re going to be on your best behavior during the interview, too…it’s human nature.

Unfortunately, everyone pays the price for working with a bad apple. One recent study indicated that a single bad employee could cost a business $50,000 or more. All the more reason that having an interviewee doing his or her homework is a sign of thoroughness and maturity.

With that in mind, here are some ways they could be checking you out, and how you can prepare for it.

They want to know about you

Smart candidates want to know who they will be working for. This isn’t just a matter of what you can do for them, but also how they feel they can contribute to the company. Interviews are the best time to talk about a career path and figure out how much you, the manager, are willing to  contribute to your employees’ personal growth and development.

Your job is to make sure these types of questions aren’t dismissed or evaded: it’s crucial that your own expectations and objectives fit with those of the person you may hire. The best potential hires will ask questions about you as a person, as well as a would-be boss. For example, if you’re in the office 11+ hours a day, it may signify the kind of job devotion you expect. By the same token, many managers are passionate about a hobby, which could show a good understanding of work/life balance.

They’ve done research on the company

If a candidate can’t be bothered to research your company online before an interview, you probably shouldn’t even be talking to them. There’s no excuse for not checking the obvious places, like your company’s website and social media sites. But smart interviewees don’t stop there: they continue on to feedback sites like Glassdoor, trying to get a feel for what current and former employees have to say about the company.

There’s a bit of danger here, as there is an inherent bias to online reviews: typically, the only people who write them either really love or really hate a company, whether it’s justified or not. All the same, if half the reviews are negative and the rest are so-so, it’s a pretty good sign a company is not all it should be.

You want to make sure you’re monitoring what people are saying about you so as not to get blindsided during the interview. You also want to be aware of any patterns of bad press: high turnover, slipping stock prices, trouble with government watchdogs, and so on.

They’re checking out the employees

It’s easy to do a quick check on a company’s employees just by following links to social media. Smart candidates are looking at LinkedIn profiles. How long to people stay at your company? Do they follow and share information from the company? Is there anything in their profile that feels negative about you, the potential employer?

Sometimes a potential hire will simply observe. For example, arriving five minutes early for the interview is professional; arriving 15 minutes early and paying attention to the activity in your lobby may indicate they’re trying to get a feel for the ways employees interact. What’s the energy level? Are people friendly or perfunctory? Do they witness behavior or overhear conversations that make them ill at ease?

Again, this is a show of professional maturity on their part; for you, that means being aware of the activity in the office beforehand, and trying to keep up the positive energy vibe.

The key thing to remember is that the interview is a two-way street: it’s not just a matter of you deciding if you want to hire someone, it’s also about that person deciding if he or she wants to work for YOU.