toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

June 02, 2012

ask the right job interview questions

Like many young graduates, Holly is doing casual work while job hunting and has learned from her experiences, and that of others, that if you don't ask the right questions at job interviews then you will end up being stuck in a lousy job.

"If you have no idea what to ask at interviews," says Holly, "then take a clue from the two lists I've drawn up. One is a list of 25 questions that others have found useful to ask at interviews, and the other is a list of 25 questions that are not useful to ask."

"The difference between the two lists," explains Holly, "is that one covers intolerable job situations that you want to avoid, and the other covers tolerable job situations that everyone has to put up with these days."

"Remove from the first list any question that does not apply and add to it any question that is personally relevant to you," advises Holly.

The type of 'personally relevant' question Holly had in mind would be something like: "Do you permit staff to take leave on XYZ religion's observance days?"

Holly is perfectly aware that interviewers do not like being asked too many questions.

"Most employment gurus and 'How to Get a Job' books and articles will tell you to go in there, make a good impression and get that job," says Holly, "but frankly getting a job is not everyone's problem. There are plenty of jobs that are so awful that nobody would want them."

"You will find, too," says Holly, "that the first list does not cover stock interview questions suggested by just about every 'How to Get a Job' book and article on the market."

"If you're a bright young graduate like me than you're not a stock person looking for a stock job," laughs Holly. "You want a job that is not only going to be supportive of your health, well-being and rights but also one that acknowledges your intelligence. That job will not be easy to find. I'm still looking for it!"

"Bearing in mind that the job you are being interviewed for may have every one of the 25 annoying factors," says Holly, "you want to make very sure that you have the least possible number of intolerable factors to deal with as well."

"The interview process is a two-way street. You are interviewing them, too," says Holly, "so you need to ask every one of the 25 questions that you need to ask - and any question personally relevant to you - and if the Interviewer does not appreciate that you want to be happy in your next job, then it is not the job for you."

"I've found that a lot of interviewers become bored or aggressive after the fifth question." laughs Holly. "If that happens, I just smile sweetly, get up and say: 'I can see that this is not going to be the right job for me. Thank you for your time. Good-bye'."

"I take these questions to interviews with me," says Holly, "and as I receive an answer for each question I put a circle around any answer that does not meet my requirements. I also circle any question that the interviewer was evasive in answering, and I take notes about what the interviewer says. Notes are really important because some interviewers are downright liars and my notes may be evidence one day!"

"If I have 10 or more circles," says Holly, "I won't accept the position. If I have less than 10 circles, I then look at the areas covered and make a decision whether I can live with that intolerance on top of what might be 25 annoyances."

"I refuse to be pressured into accepting any position until I have had at least 24-hours to consider my options," says Holly. "Even if the job is just for three months I treat it like a major decision. If I have any doubts, there is no doubt what I should do - I don't accept the job!"

Following is the list of 25 questions that Holly asks at job interviews. They are important because they constitute reasons why many women have been miserable in jobs :-

Is there a problem person here I should know about?

Will I receive a written contract - when will I receive it?

Are all of the terms of employment fair and reciprocal?

Is work distributed fairly?

Is my pay commensurate with those doing similar work?

Is there a procedure manual - can I see it?

Has any staff member been overlooked for this job?

Will I be seated within my section - can I check?

How long do I have for lunch?

Who will be training me and for how long?

Is there a lot of pressure - quotas to fill, deadlines to meet?

Are performance reviews assessed on regular work, or ad hoc duties?

Is there a steady flow of work?

Will I be working alone?

Is it a noisy working environment - can I check?

Are my duties likely to be changed at any time?

Do my duties involve telephone work?

Is there a job specification - can I see it?

Are my supervisor and boss accessible - can I talk with them?

Are any staff in my section related?

Is there adequate lighting in my office or workstation - can I check?

How confidential is my work?

Is there a dust problem here - can I check?

How much of the work involves detail - is it varied work?

How many toilets do you have for staff - can I check?

Following is Holly's list of 25 questions you do not need to ask at job interviews because they are either irrelevant or typical annoyances that everyone has to put up with :-

Can I leave work at 5pm?

What security measures do you use - security pass, cameras?

Do I get my own office?

Will anyone be checking my work?

Will I be given plenty of scope to initiate?

Will I be given plenty of scope to be creative?

Will I be working in natural light?

Will I have plenty of working space?

Do you have cutting-edge technology and a friendly, helpful IT team?

Will my work be interesting and challenging as befitting my education and experience?

What are my prospects for advancement?

Why did the person resign the job I am applying for?

Do I get my own parking space? Is there a bus service to the site?

Is the company planning on refurbishing its offices and expanding its operations?

Will I have an email account?

Is this job permanent?

Will my work be identifiably mine or is it teamwork?

Will I report to one person?

Do I get a 10 minute morning and afternoon break?

Do I have to fill out a daily time-sheet?

Is everyone here tolerant -- of smokers, gays, etc?

Do I have Internet access?

Do you have a policy in place to ensure telephones are answered promptly?

Will my team be moving location soon (is the company restructuring, merging or going into liquidation)?

Do you have skills enrichment training? Can I take time off for study?

"I've been caught too many times to trust in the universe to point me in the right direction," laughs Holly. "I'm following my intuition and taking charge of my own life from now on. If I can help others along the way, then that's cool."

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