If you’re one of the millions of undergraduate and graduate degree earners hoping for a smooth landing, your timing is impeccable. Why? You’ve just entered one of the best job markets for eager applicants in years.
As of June 2022, more than 11 million openings are waiting to be filled. This doesn’t include roles in other countries, either. So it’s a great moment to jump into the workforce. It’s also an opportunity for you to be the one choosing your first employer (instead of the other way around). Make the most of this unusual situation by choosing wisely.
Because there are many more open positions than candidates, you can afford to be a little picky. Though you don’t want to wait forever to accept an employment offer, you will probably have more space to weigh your options. Make the right match by asking lots of upfront questions.
Being curious during your interview doesn’t just show a potential employer that you’re serious about making the most of the experience. It allows you to gather critical information that will tell you whether to move on with your search. In fact, if they aren’t receptive to an applicant who asks questions, that alone is a sign that you will have a hard time being heard and respected at that organization. Below are some starting-point questions for gleaning insights during your conversations with recruitment and hiring professionals.
1. “What’s the management style at this firm?”
Most organizations embrace a specific type of management style. For instance, some may be very authoritarian, traditional, and top-down. Others may be more meritocratic or democratic.
Bryan Adams, CEO and founder of Ph.Creative, recommends finding out everything you can about your bosses’ expectations. As he explains, “Applicants like knowing what they’re walking into. They’re less likely to leave a new position in the first few months if they understand upfront how the corporate ladder does — or doesn’t — work.”
Let’s say you have two offers on the table. Wouldn’t you rather pick the one that will foster amicable relationships between you and your team leaders? Any other approach spells an uncomfortable stress load that can quash your attempts to learn and grow.
2. “What would my path to promotion look like?”
Career pathing involves mapping out a journey that will allow you to move from one role to the next. Ideally, you don’t want to bounce around with different employers or stay stuck in one entry level role forever. It’s much easier to stick with one company if they make it easy for good employees to move around internally.
Not all organizations have clear paths to promotion, though. For example, the company may not approve many lateral moves or may hire more often from the outside than from the inside. Being aware of this lets you get a better sense of what your near future will look like.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t take a role at a place without promotion opportunities. It may be worth it if you’re going to gain truly valuable experience. Just realize that you won’t be as likely to plant roots and will have to go through the job-hunting process again within a couple of years.
3. “How do you support your employees’ emotional wellbeing?”
The pandemic has normalized talking about mental wellness. As a Monster survey 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 initiate the conversation is to ask what the company does to help employees bring their best selves to work each day.
Employers have many means at their disposal to help their workers stay OK psychologically. These can include employee assistance programs, free and low-cost mental health counseling services and programs, access to telemedicine platforms, and onsite screenings.
It’s a red flag if an employer stumbles when answering this question. After all, this is a concern that’s been talked about widely in the media for two years. Consequently, be wary of any company that seems to be baffled 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 says, “As a job applicant, you want to find a culture that aligns with your values, or the ethics that guide you, fulfill you, and make you feel a sense of purpose.” Working in the right culture makes every day feel a little brighter. You get along with your colleagues and feel like you’re a perfect fit. On the other hand, being in a culture that doesn’t match your personality, values, and vibe can be like wearing an itchy sweater eight hours a day.
To be sure, it can be tough to sum up a corporate culture. Even expert hiring managers may have trouble defining what makes their cultures tick. Do your best to gather direct and indirect hints. You may also want to check out the “careers” page for the employer if it’s available. Many employers have started adding videos that can provide clues. As an added hint, ask for a tour if you’re working in an office. Trust your instincts and take notes to review later.
Your first job should be one that you remember fondly because it launches you in the right direction. Asking the right questions can ensure that it does.