I’ve been heavily interviewing of late as I’m ready and, dare I say it, I miss working. What I have found this time around is that I’m not looking just to pass the interviews, but to see what kind of company they are. My mindset has changed and I fully embrace the work to live ethos. I’ve had too many roles where I’ve gone above and beyond, giving up all of my spare time to the extent that everything else suffered. This is not life for me. I’m going to be working for at least 30 years more and so the notion of that time being committed to a company that is not as committed to me seems foolish. There are enough horror stories of companies fecking over employees, and I too have had my share. So as I’m interviewing I’m keen to understand the people who I shall potentially be working with.

First Impressions count! 

In one recent interview, I’d researched and done my homework so I had a pretty good idea of how I could add value to the company. This organization actually approached me, which was ironic because I’d also approached them, emailing the founder a week prior. When they reached out to me, I soon realised that it was a different stream who’d contacted me. The first actual interview I was left underwhelmed. I don’t always expect recruiters to know the ins and outs of the roles, but every question I asked was met with jargon. Even when I asked them about why they enjoyed working there, the answer was “it does what it says on the tin, you get what you give”. Few of my questions were actually answered, and I was left in shock that this was the first impression people have of that company. I only hope that he was hungover rather than that’s the company style. 

I also had two other interviews of late where the companies headhunted me. I’m going to be honest I didn’t do enough research about them but since they came to me, I took it as an opportunity to get them to tell me about themselves. On the face of it, I didn’t think much of them, but as we spoke, I realised that they were genuinely nice people, able to answer my questions and not filled with BS. One of the companies I’d written off in my head and was just curious about, is now at the top of my potential future job. I’m genuinely excited to progress to the next stage and surprised since my first impression may not have been that great in my mind. It does mean that the next one I will level up.

First impressions do count, but they are not everything. It’s part of the compatibility process- can you work with them?

Being Human.

I used to have armour and was scared of showing any weakness within the workplace or during interviews. I also thought that showing strength meant you had to do everything your work demanded, which is how I ended up giving up many weekends and evenings. It was so I could hit my targets, as well as for the idea that it was good for the team. This outlook is often encouraged, as companies tout “We’re more of a family than just a job” or the “work hard and play hard mentality” which on reflection, in most cases, is a fallacy that encourages toxic practices. Having spent most of my life feeling like an outsider, I was drawn to companies that said that, believing that if I gave them my blood, sweat and tears, I’d be rewarded and treated with warmth, kindness and respect. If they really cared, they’d have offered more money instead of free drinks and free food. They’d offer flexible working, healthcare and more benefits. Yes, they are there to make money, but countless studies have shown that a happy workforce is more dedicated, loyal and achieves better results.

Which brings me to another interview I recently had. The company itself has an amazing product, I’ve worked with some of the people already at previous roles and I was excited at working there; or I was until my final interview. There when I asked them what it takes to succeed they said dedication. Standard. When I delved deeper, they said that they are impressed by those who work all hours to get the job done, even giving up their weekends. We will all do what it takes to make sure we deliver for clients and targets set, but already, to me this was a red flag. They were laying the foundations so that they expected me not to have a life. This role would invariably mean that work would become my life. Nah, I’ve let go of my fear of being vulnerable so disappointing a company by having a life is fine. I’ve got healthy boundaries now, I’m happy to be human.

Systems not silos!

Does my unwillingness to forfeit an extensive social life filled with many experiences mean that I’m lesser of an employee? Of course not! What it means is that in high stress roles with lots of demand I have to have systems in place to make sure that the work is done to a high standard and within the time allocated. It’s about being as efficient as I can possibly be.

I’ve noticed that companies who all work together in near frictionless systems, with great communication and understanding have a better ability to drive success. Companies who work in hubs or silos with parts of the business not interacting with each other are problematic, and it is often these that have a high turnover. Rather than learning from each other openly, they promote a maverick culture on the outdated notion of sink or swim. I love healthy competition, after all, I chose sales as my career path. I love being at the top of the leaderboard and wining clients over. There is a right way to compete, one that doesn’t undermine colleagues by pitting them against each other. These companies with empathy, understanding of healthy boundaries and who empower their employees are the ones that will do better. They have the systems in place to realise that by providing for their staff and encouraging happiness, they get loyalty and advocacy from past staff. This too is important because I do contact people who used to work with particular companies to get their feedback. I’ve been contacted on a number of occasions too by people wanting to know my experiences with my past companies. Being armed with knowledge is key to making the right decision.

Reviews & research.

I like to google the people I’m interviewing with as I want to see what other information there is about them. This is so obvious to me that I presumed everyone did this. As such, I took to making my social accounts private incase they didn’t like a particular tweet. I even locked a few posts on this site for fear they may not like something. What I’ve noticed is that those hiring don’t actually do this. They go via your CV & LinkedIn. I am currently the only Fifi Pottier online. It’s their shock when I say I created a website, published a book that had more downloads than Dracula for one weekend whilst working out my personal issues that I realise they don’t bother finding out as much about me as I do them in most cases.

My references are great, of course they’re gonna be because these are from people I’ve worked with/for whom I respect. But what I think is important, is normalising getting references from past employees of companies or at the minimum looking up what they have said on glassdoor. Reviews give you an idea of the company as well as the person. I’m always suspect if lots of positive ones happen within a couple of weeks of each other as that has meant it’s an internal push by the company, rather than organic praise. However, product reviews from their customers are also invaluable as it gives you an understanding of how they are seen in their market.

As I continue, in most cases, to find out as much as I can about my potential future employer, to ask relevant questions, the bad interviewers will continue to ask me generic questions which highlights that they haven’t read my CV or that they don’t understand their own market. Yes, I want a job and my role is to show you I’m capable, however, it’s also an opportunity for the company to highlight to me the reasons people want to work there. Why should I chose your company over another? This is a two-way process. The money is important, but it’s not the only reason I’d work for you.

What am I looking for in my next job?

Of course money is at the top of the list. I’m confounded when I get ask why it’s important- money provides you freedom. If I’m interviewing with a company, it’s because I can see the commercial reasons why customers would chose them. But they have to offer more than that. I want to be engaged and know that my positive contributions are appreciated. I want to learn and be surrounded by people who are extremely intelligent so that I’m kept sharp and grow as a person. I want diversity so that my thinking is challenged. I want respect and autonomy, after all I am an adult and it’s my job to achieve success in that position.

However, I also want to have fun. I expect work to be hard and challenging, but it should also be fun!

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