10 Questions to Ask Before You Take That Job

Ever start a job and realize it’s not for you? You thought you were hired as a copywriter, but the only writing you’ve done so far is taking notes at meetings. Your coworker turns into a gremlin after lunch and throws peanuts at your head. Your manager, who vehemently denied being a micromanager during your interview, stares over your shoulder while you work and expects hourly check-ins. Oh, and that great office they told you about is actually a cubicle that smells like sweaty feet.

Okay, hopefully your experience wasn’t that bad. Still, you can’t help but feel deceived and resentful when this happens. It seems like they flat out lied to you about this job. In some cases, this might even be true. But maybe you didn’t ask the right questions.

With each interview, I understand more about what I want, what to look out for, and–most importantly–what to ask.

While I’m not an HR professional, I’ve been a job hunter more than a few times in the last decade, due to layoffs, the Great Recession, or just not being satisfied in my current role. A study done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that younger baby boomers had an average of 11.7 jobs by the time they turned 48. I suspect that number may be even higher for us Gen X’ers and millennials. In fact, according to LinkedIn, job-hopping has nearly doubled over the last twenty years.   

…according to LinkedIn, job-hopping has nearly doubled over the last twenty years.   

Given those stats, we should all be interview experts, right? I know I’ve had dozens of interviews this year alone—and I won’t even try to count how many I’ve had over the last decade. Every interview matters, thoughWith each interview, I understand more about what I want, what to look out for, and–most importantly–what to ask.

Here are 10 questions I ask in interviews to help me determine if an opportunity is right for me.

What might a typical day look like for me?

This innocuous question can give you a lot of valuable information. In my experience, job descriptions can be difficult to interpret. For example, they list graphic design as one of your main duties and you think—sweet, I get to design ads, brochures, and websites half the day. But their definition of graphic design is asking you to “pretty up” a Word document once a week.

Asking the hiring manager to describe your day will usually encourage them to go into more detail about your actual duties and the working environment. They may say, well, you come in at 8am and you answer emails, at 9am we have our daily catch up meeting, and at 10am you’ll be working on such and such. In which case, you have to ask yourself if such a structured environment will work for you. Or they may say—well, I don’t know. What do you think your day should look like? Then you have to decide if you’re comfortable with minimal or no direction. Either way, you should get a much better picture of what the job actually is and isn’t. If they are being vague or you still find yourself unsure – don’t be afraid to ask for further clarification.

What personality type and/or management style would work well for this role and your team?

I’m a huge fan of this question, because it helps me find out whether or not I’d be a good cultural fit. If they say they want the “life of the party”, for example, I know I probably won’t be a good fit. Feeling a connection with your potential manager and coworkers is a good sign, but it doesn’t mean that your working styles mesh. Make sure you’re considering all factors.

What is your management style and how do you prefer to communicate?

Your relationship with your manager can have a direct impact on your job satisfaction. A Gallup report in 2015 found that half the people they surveyed left their jobs due to their manager. So, it makes sense to find out if your communication styles mesh early on—preferably during the interview. Are you a self-starter who prefers autonomy? Then a manager who says they want daily status reports or involvement in every decision may not be the best fit for you. Likewise, if you love email and hate the phone and your manager hates email and loves the phone, you may be in for a challenge.

What is the culture like?

It’s always good to straight up ask about the culture, especially if you’re interviewing with more than one person. The answer isn’t just in what they say, it’s how they say it. If they say it’s the best culture ever, does their facial expression or tone match that sentiment? Are they avoiding eye contact or looking at each other knowingly? Is there a pattern to the answers? Are people struggling to come up with a description or something positive to say (not a good sign)? Keep your eyes open and trust your gut.

What does success in this role look like after three months? How about after a year?

Afraid they’ll have unrealistic expectations or you won’t be given clear goals? Then these are great questions to ask. When employers decide to hire for a role, they should have a clear need for that role—problems to solve and goals to achieve. Job security, people.

Are they expecting you to still be learning after three months or are they wanting the answer to the meaning of life? Can they articulate where they’d like the company to be after a year and where you’d fit into that? We all have different comfort levels and expectations, but your employer’s goals should mesh with your own career goals, and you should know from the very start what it is you are working to achieve.

What do you really love about working here and what would you like to improve?

This is one of my favorite questions to ask, because I find—more often than not—it catches my interviewers off guard and gets them off-script. You’ll be spending a lot of time with these people. This question takes the focus off you for a moment and allows your interviewers to show who they are and what they see as perks and challenges in their environment. Can you help them improve what isn’t working so well? Do you want to? Do their “loves” match what you love in an environment (you know what they say about great minds)?

This is also a great way to discover any hidden deal breakers. For example, maybe you’ve found you can’t concentrate in loud, hectic environments and you’re looking for a quieter, more low key environment. If one of your interviewers says there are more distractions than they’d like, you may want to ask them to elaborate.

What equipment is provided?

As someone who works in the creative field, a lack of resources has been a common theme. The computers, software, and equipment needed to produce quality videos, for example, doesn’t come cheap. Sometimes you have to work with the bare minimum and be creative and resourceful. Resourcefulness is actually a great skill to learn—it can help you as much as your employer.

But you also want to know if their expectations are realistic. Can you actually do your job with what they can provide and—if not—are they willing to give you what you need? If you’ve only used OSX and they’re a Windows-only office, are they willing to provide you with a Mac? If they’re not willing to work with you, chances are the role isn’t a good fit.

Can I see where I’d be working?

This is actually a really important question—one I didn’t think to ask for a long time. And there have definitely been a couple times where I wish I had! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a diva. But I also know I don’t work well in small rooms, sitting nearly shoulder-to-shoulder with my coworkers. The constant noises and ongoing conversations distract me, and I start to feel rather claustrophobic. On the other hand, some people thrive in close-knit environments like that. Given you’ll be spending 8-10 hours of your day in this space, it’s important that the space works for you and allows you to be productive. If they aren’t willing to show you where you’d be working, that’s a huge red flag!

Is overtime expected? If so, how much and how often?

Are you looking for more work life balance? Then this is a very important question to ask. Sometimes the topic of overtime never comes up unless I ask about it. If they give a vague answer like “sometimes” or “once in awhile”, ask them what that means. For me, “once in awhile” means a few times a year. To them, it might mean once a week. Try and get an estimate of how many hours they expect per week. Is this a 40 hour per week job, in general, or is the expectation more like 50 hours a week?

Do you see room for growth in this position?

Unless this is your dream role, and you’re looking to do it for the rest of your career or you’re a newbie looking to gain some experience, you probably want the answer to be some form of “yes”. If their eyes seem to be searching the ceiling for an answer or they say something non-committal, like “it’s a possibility”, consider whether or not this is the best move for your career right now and how likely it is you’ll get bored after a year or two. The ideal answer here is one that includes specifics, like we’re planning on this Marketing Specialist role growing into a Marketing Director role within the next year. While nothing is ever set in stone, at least you know they’ve given your role some thought and have a plan for the future.

 

 

 

 

15 Jobs With Surging Demand Near Houston: The Economic Chaos of Natural Disasters, Part I

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma devastated Texas and Florida, killing hundreds of people, causing hundreds of billions of dollars in damage, and displacing tens of thousands of families. It wrecked the economy, wiping out 110,000+ jobs in September alone.

On Friday, the Labor Department released its October hiring report, showing that hiring had rebounded to normal: 261,000 jobs added. But, here’s what they missed: not only did it rebound, but hiring increased dramatically beyond 2017 norms in hurricane-affected regions.

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In coastal Texas, for instance, demand for project managers surged by +179%, nurses and counselors by +140%, and architects by +114%.

What’s the deal? Let’s dig in a bit.

Nursing & Counseling Jobs

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We all saw the horrifying videos of flood waters coursing through Houston, and many of us read about dangerous chemical contaminates leaking into the rising waters. As health concerns rose, so too did the demand for medical-related professions. We found a +94% jump in demand for nurse practitioners, +140% jump for registered nurses, and +110% jump for nursing aides.

Simultaneously, as people were returning home and seeing the devastation, the demand for mental health counselors rose too: we saw a +180% jump in demand for counselors, peaking in early October.

Although demand is dropping back down, if you’re in a medical- or mental health-related profession, and want to help in future national disaster crises, upload your resume to TalentWorks and we’ll alert you whenever we detect an imminent surge.

Hotel, Food Service & Property Management Jobs

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Wait. I know what you’re thinking… “Didn’t I just see something about the hotel industry getting decimated by the hurricanes?” You’re right, they did.

There’s a big difference between tourists canceling plans and residents moving back: 1,000 tourists might cancel vacations right before a hurricane hits, but tens of thousands of residents will come home a week later and discover they need a place to stay. FEMA estimated that up to 53,000 people were living in hotels because of Hurricane Harvey.

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, demand jumped by +109% for hotel managers and by 71% for food service managers. Although demand has dissipated for hotel managers, demand for food service managers is actually increasing (+116% pre-hurricane levels), likely because people are coming home and realizing their kitchens are unusable.

Finally, hotels get expensive fast. Where do you go if you can’t go home? An apartment. In the past few weeks, demand for property managers jumped by +130% over pre-hurricane levels near Houston and Corpus Christi.

If you have experience in food service or property management and are looking for a job, you really need to look in coastal Texas — they need you and you need them. Let us know if we can help (we’re offering our services for free to anyone displaced by Hurricane Harvey or Irma; see below).

So, what now?

Insurance & Finance-Related Jobs

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You’re paying exorbitant prices for price-jacking hotels, medical bills, eating out. You need to pay for all that — insurance. And insurance companies need people to pay out all those damages. (And people to fix all that damage too, but we’ll get to that in a second.)

In the immediate aftermath of hurricane Harvey, we saw an +72% increase in hiring for claims examiners. Here’s the amazing part: insurance firms began hiring for claims examiners before Harvey had even made landfall! Insurance firms are big corporations who’ve seen this before; they’re putting their disaster response playbook in action.

If you’re a big corporation that knows you’re going to be paying out lots of money, what else do you need? Financial analysts who can help you figure out what it means for your bottom line. Demand for financial analysts jumped by +77% after Hurricane Harvey.

Architecture, Engineering & Construction Jobs

Let’s review some quick numbers: Harvey damaged nearly 200,000 homes in Texas. The shortage of laborers and contractors is well-known, but demand for professional construction-related jobs also surged way up. What do you need to rebuild a city?

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Architects, for one. Not only did demand for architects surge +114% in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, demand for architects is still increasing and at nearly 2x average demand of recent months.

After architects draw up the blueprints, who do you call? Demand for drafters — the folks who make the actual technical plans — jumped by +51%. Simultaneously, demand for mechanical engineers surged by 35% and civil engineers by 28%. 

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Finally, you start building. Beyond construction workers and laborers, there’s surging demand for professional, white-collar workers too. In mid-September, there was a +81% surge for cost estimators.

And, it’s still going: in just these past few weeks, there’s been a +179% hiring surge for construction project managers.


(If you don’t care about the math-y details, just skip ahead to the next section. If you want to nerd out with us, feel free. We’re all nerds at heart here at TalentWorks.)

Our Methodology

We performed a timeseries analysis of a random subsample of 54,826 job postings from the past 5 months in coastal Texas, covering 110 distinct industries and roles. For each role, we then regressed the number of job postings per day using a blended linear kernel and computed p-values using the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test, comparing post-hurricane samples to a 90-day pre-hurricane baseline period. The above is a selection of  jobs that had p-values less than 0.100.

Although the above graphs don’t explicitly control for seasonality, we cross-checked seasonality separately and found that they can’t explain the surges above. We also did an initial perturbation analysis and verified the above surges are robust to noise.

David Blaszka, one of TalentWorks’ data analysts, drove most of the research and analysis for this post. Kushal helped a bit and wrote a lot of this blog post.


Next Steps: What Can You Do?

“That’s cute and all, but what am I supposed to do with all of that?” (You might be thinking…) Here are three things you can do today:

  1. Are you looking for a job? If you’ve been displaced by Hurricane Irma or Harvey, I’m making the executive decision today (perks of being CEO…) that TalentWorks will offer all of our help to you for free, including our Interview Guarantee. (We have an 88% success rate.) [*]
  2. Do you want personalized alerts about hiring surges near you? (So you can be first-in-line for job applications! Applying quickly matters, a lot.) To get real-time personalized alerts, upload your resume to TalentWorks.
  1. Donate to the Southeast Texas Food Bank. Southeast Texas is going through a real food crisis, and their food banks are getting hit hard. If you can, please donate. I’ve already donated $103 and I’ll match the first $1,000 in donations (just forward your receipt to kushal@talent.works).southeast-texas-food-bank-donation

[*] To make this happen, sign up for ApplicationAssistant normally and just email your TalentAdvocate proof that you lived near Florida or coastal Texas. It’ll ask for a credit card but we’ll update your plan immediately and you won’t get charged.


This is an ongoing series about the economic chaos of natural disasters. Next week, we’ll write about the effects of Hurricane Irma on hiring in South Florida. Want to stay up-to-date on all things about your job search? Sign up for our blog!



P.S. We’ll never spam you. We send at most one email a week.

Job Search #IRL: When You’re Laid Off Without Warning

Some of us get warnings when layoffs are imminent, from actually being given notice to rumor mills buzzing. I had no warning. Well, technically I had about 24 hours warning. We knew that some of us were going—we just didn’t know who. I was especially nervous, because my husband had been laid off the month before. We were already struggling with that loss—how were we going to get through me losing my job too?

Then the vague meeting request from my supervisor came. The knot in my stomach grew bigger with each hour of silence leading up to the meeting. What if I couldn’t find another job right away? How were we going to pay our bills next month? Would we have to move? Could we afford to move? Should I sell my car? Wait, I can’t. I’d have no way to get to interviews or another job. Then I’d tell myself to stop thinking so negatively. Maybe it wasn’t what I thought.

But when HR showed up at the meeting, I knew… The worst was happening and I better hold on tight for the ride. As I sat there listening to the information being given to me, trying to keep from having a full-on panic attack, all I could think was how is this happening? How do both me and my husband get laid off during a time when the risk of being laid off is extremely low? Lower than it’s been in years. Not to mention, I live in Colorado, where the unemployment rate is sitting at around 2.4%.

Lesson Learned #1: Even when the unemployment rate is extremely low, there’s no such thing as complete job security. Be ready and have a back-up plan.

They tell you to take a break after you’ve been laid off, and that’s nice in theory. But it’s not really an option when you need to keep a roof over your head. I didn’t take a break. I dove right into applying to jobs. For at least 8 hours a day, I applied to every job I was qualified for that sounded like a decent fit.

One the worst parts of being laid off is you’re already going out into the world feeling rejected and less than. You have to explain, over and over, why you no longer have a job… even when it’s not your fault. There’s also the bias employers can have—preferring the currently employed over the unemployed. That’s an uphill battle in and of itself.

Then there’s the field I’m in, creative/marketing, which is highly competitive. I’m fortunate enough to have a versatile skillset, so I can apply to design, writing, video production, and digital marketing roles. Honestly, having all those skills made a huge difference. If you are in a competitive field, I highly recommend using any down time to take some free courses and gain a wider skillset within that field. Companies love candidates who can wear a few hats.

Getting laid off makes you take a good hard look at your life and your path, whether you want to or not. After a couple weeks of panicking, contacting everyone in my network, and interviewing with several employers a week, I began to question my direction. There was something missing in these interviews. None of these opportunities were exciting me. They all felt…the same.

Was hopping into yet another corporate creative job what I wanted? I’d been yearning for years to break out of the box and see where my ideas could take me. But I was always too scared to let go of that security of a paycheck every two weeks.

Wait, what security?

As it turns out, being laid off might have been the best thing to happen to me, because it has given me a good kick in the ass. It has woken me up to the fact that no job or situation is secure. Why the hell not start my own adventure? Why not think out of the box? Why not go after what truly drives me in life – to inspire and be inspired.

I’m a storyteller and a dreamer who thinks way too much. I want to wake up in the morning and be challenged. I want to tell old stories in new ways. I want to follow my heart and my passion instead of my fears and doubts.

So, that’s what I’m doing. In the two months I was job hunting, I got two very respectable offers for great-sounding, full-time opportunities. And I turned them both down. Did I completely freak out about it and question myself? You bet. But I’d already been down that road. I’ve been working in the corporate world for years, and it just felt like I’d be picking up where I left off. It felt like I was giving up on myself.

I ended up accepting a part-time role with a non-profit that serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a cause near and dear to my heart. With a brother on the autistic spectrum and having ADHD myself, I feel connected to others with disabilities and I want to help them succeed. This is the kind of work that drives me to get up in the morning.

I’ve also started offering creative services to a variety of clients, including the fabulous folks here at TalentWorks. It’s scary as hell – but it’s also exciting and invigorating. Am I still open to the right full-time role, if it comes along? Most definitely. But it has to be the right role. It has to let me break out of that box a little and see what’s possible. Most importantly, it has to challenge my perspective and inspire me to grow.

To be fair, this isn’t all roses and candy canes. This is the biggest risk I’ve ever taken in my career. If I think too hard about the future, I get a little terrified. I’m definitely missing that regular paycheck. But if I don’t take the risk, how will I ever know what’s possible? When I was 14 and writing stories in my notebooks, I wrote this on the inside of every cover: There’s no limit to the imagination.

Call it cheesy. Call it overly optimistic. But I still believe it, and I’m still going for it every day.

Lesson Learned #2: Sometimes, the scariest moments lead to the most rewarding, life-changing opportunities if you face your fears head-on. There is no limit to the imagination.