Date Published: 9th December 2015

As a new year approaches, many people will start to pursue fresh career opportunities. Interviews play a key role in that process. Whilst it’s largely recognised that an interview enables potential employers to assess a candidate’s suitability for a role, people can often miss the chance to ensure they are equally assessing these organisations on their suitability for them. With this, if it’s the dream job you are seeking, here are a few ideas for carefully defining what that means for you and how you can measure potential employers too.

Start with why.

Career development, culture, flexible working, or pay; there are lots of reasons for changing roles or companies. Clarity on what’s important to you and why is not only helpful in the likelihood of having to respond to an interview question, it will also empower you to question your potential employer on these factors too.

If you can’t communicate it, you don’t understand it well enough.

Be sure to reach a point where you can clearly articulate what you represent, why this drives you and the contributing factors that keep you engaged at work.

Set clear expectations from the outset.

When you choose to enter into a hiring process, it’s critical to set expectations from the outset. By ensuring the recruiter or hiring manager understands you’re as committed to finding the perfect role as they are to hiring the right person, you should be in a stronger position to influence a more tailored experience. For example, if you’re looking for a great company culture, explain what that means to you and seek examples from them as well as opportunities to speak directly with potential colleagues or teammates about this. If it’s about leadership, provide context around why and investigate if you are able to spend time with the organisations leadership team.

If a potential employer is open to helping you explore these aspects of their business, this immediately provides a very positive sign. These suggestions apply as much in an informal, exploratory career conversation as it would to a formal set of interviews.

Social signals.

With a significant percentage of the professional workforce now plugged into social media, you have access to unprecedented levels of information about employers. Customers, candidates, employees; many are social and active. Be sure to leverage this insight as another measure of how others feel about the organisation. This can be as straightforward as a simple Google search, or as comprehensive as identifying potential colleagues via channels such as LinkedIn.

Understand what success looks like.

The grass is never greener… Every ‘perfect’ opportunity has its challenges and all new, exciting things can quickly become old and boring again if not properly understood. Simply changing company or role won’t always solve your current career frustrations. Be sure to properly comprehend what success looks like to your potential boss, both in the short term and long term, so that expectations are aligned from the start.

If career progression and professional development are really important for you, get clear on what opportunities exist beyond the role you’re applying for and the requirements for getting there. As you’re seeking this information, be sure to clarify each answer (in a non interrogative style) until you feel comfortable you’ve grasped the detail.

The decision. 

The risk of making a wrong career decision is always greater if you don’t take time to properly understand the choice. There’s a number of useful tactics and frameworks for thinking this through, but finding the right method for you is key to ensuring you reach a positive outcome.


Whilst every situation is unique, it takes two to tango, and interviewing should be a collaborative process that leaves you with as much information about your future employer as they have about you!

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