Job interviews as investment research


There are a constant string of “how to interview well” articles that keep showing up on LinkedIn. These are usually written by recruiters in some way or another trolling for potential hiring candidates. These kinds of posts evaporated during the last 5 years of the Great Recession, but are now showing up at least two or three times a day.

The reality, as well documented, is that the chance of being hired through the “front door” recruitment process is dismally small, as most jobs are filled through personal networks. Companies have many reasons for trudging through an apparent “open call” process – from creating an internal appearance of fairness to fulfilling foreign national visa requirements for internal candidates that they want to sponsor.

Rather than looking at the interview game as a time sink and emotional roller-coaster driven by the company, is there a way to take back your power and use this process for some personal advantage beyond becoming a better interview candidate?

As it turns out, interviews are perhaps one of the best ways to gauge the short term and long term health of a company. For example:

It is apparent almost immediately how truly excited employees are about their jobs and their future prospects based upon how they interact with candidates. In the process,  you are in a great position to learn things like whether they love what the company stands for, how they get along with their peers and  managers, is there opportunity for growth and training, is the compensation fair, and do the CEO & CXX staff act with integrity.

You also have the opportunity to explore the company’s strengths in product roadmap, rollout strategy, growth plans, product quality, manufacturing capabilities and customer service. In an interview setting, it is essential to approach these types of questions in a non-threatening way, but as a potential new-hire, interviewers do feel some obligation to provide a snapshot of the critical issues that are being grappled with, prospects for growth, and areas of particular strengths and weaknesses.

At a “meta” level, the interview process itself is filled with information on the company’s culture. Do you spend a lot of time waiting for hurried, disorganized interviewers? Are you being tightly managed by the HR department or the real hiring manager? Is there a real position in mind? Do all the interviewers ask the same questions? Does anyone take notes? Are you asked to take personality tests (often an indicator of general trust issues and poor EQ on the part of managers)? Do interviewers start out by saying “the place takes a while to get used to, but then it’s OK” (translate: RUN, RUN NOW! )

There are many other cues as to the actual internal organizational condition, but it is clear that, as an interviewee, you can get a very good sense of the “real” status of a company – information that outside investment analysts and board members will never learn.

You can use this information to guide not only the most important “investment” decision of all – your career, but also as a potential investor in the company. This is an empowering position to come from, and completely changes your mindset as you approach an interview. No matter what happens with the job, you benefit from the experience.