Working in a Secret Shop Before the Interview

Perhaps the scariest part of starting a new job is not knowing if you’ve made the right decision. For example, you may be tricked into being fooled by an employer who lured you into a job with false promises, or you suddenly feel a buyer’s remorse when you realize that your old job offered a friendlier atmosphere than your new one.

Researching companies on the Internet has its drawbacks; There isn’t much you can learn from past employee reviews of the company on Glassdoor, so it’s best to be proactive when it comes to deciding if the job is ultimately the right fit. To do this, you can shop the company discreetly so that the hiring manager does not know that you are looking for information during the interview.

Here’s how to gather intelligence about a potential employer before you make this crucial decision.

Talk to company employees

Find current or former employees of the company and bombard them with questions, as they have little incentive to lie about their experience. If someone quits their job after a few years and still has a bad taste in their mouth, it could be a sign that there is a toxic culture in the area or that they don’t care about their employees.

Ask questions related to your problem. Don’t be shy if you want to ask about money, vacation time, health plans, and essentially all other vital aspects of a potential job offer. If someone has worked somewhere and is happy to share their positive experiences, take that as a good sign that you are barking the right tree.

When it comes to actually finding these people, turn to LinkedIn and social media. Or just Google the person’s name. Most professionals have websites these days, and they tend to be easy to track down and open for conversations.

Pretend to be a buyer

Try pretending to be a buyer to understand how the people in your intended role are performing. For example, if you are applying for a position in the insurance sales business, try calling a representative and impersonating a potential client. This way, you will gain insight into the tools these sales reps use, how they communicate, and the tones and approaches they can use over the phone. This may work best if you are considering a sales position, but if you find a way to make it suitable for another area, there will be more opportunities for you.

This can be a quick 15-minute conversation in which you pretend to consider different proposals and give up any commitment. But it will be an instructive lesson in how you can approach the interview if you take the call as a signal.

Talk to strangers

Try to understand the broader reputation of your potential employer in your industry. If it’s a well-known player, people who haven’t even worked for the company probably have at least a vague idea of ​​the company’s culture. Moreover, people removed from this potential employer are bound to have a more impartial and unbiased point of view. They will be reluctant to defend friends who may have earned an unflattering reputation in the workplace, and will not mind sharing company gossip that might annoy an employee or flutter the feathers of management.

Interview with a hiring manager

Interviewing is a two-way street. At a minimum, you should show some curiosity about the hiring manager’s long-term vision for your position or how they would like someone in your position to help them become a better person. If the questions you are asked during the interview make you think or hint that you may not like working for someone, it is better to use the more inquisitive side. As John Lees, a UK career strategist and author of How to Get the Job You Love , said in an interview with the Harvard Business Review in 2014 , ask targeted questions that reflect your concerns and curiosity. “Ask about employee turnover and find out what happened to the last person to do the job,” he said.

If they don’t seem interested in talking about it, you might want to consider looking elsewhere.

Trust your intuition

There are certain intangibles that come with an understanding of whether the job is suitable or not. The energy of people in an interview setting is a very real thing. You should evaluate working relationships not only in terms of their professional usefulness, but also on a more human level, asking yourself the question, “Can I really endure 40 hours a week or more with these people?” Of course, no one you work with should be your best friend, but it helps when you treat your potential coworkers well.


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