I wrote a post a couple of months ago on some good job interview questions you should ask. Coming up with things to ask interviewers is very hard, and I thought that the questions I came up with were some of the best you could do. Turns out, I left a really important one off my list.
Melissa Cooley, who runs an excellent blog called The Job Quest, wrote a post today suggesting job seekers ask the following question of interviewers: "Why do you enjoy working here?" I have to admit, I never thought of asking this question. It never even entered my mind. Melissa does a great job of explaining why you should ask this, so I'm not going to rehash what she said. Reading her post did get me thinking, though. What are some other ways you can find out about an organization's work environment?
You can sometimes find out some of this information without even asking. Take a look around when you walk into the office. It should be pretty easy to see whether the employees are enjoying themselves. As much as people might try to hide it, it's pretty easy to tell when someone is bored. The body language signals are simple to spot: Slouching back in the chair, head in hands, staring into space. If you find that a lot of the employees look bored, that should throw up a red flag.
That doesn't mean it should automatically disqualify the position. That's where questioning comes in. Asking a direct question like the one Melissa suggested can be very tough, but it's a surefire way to find out the information you need. The beauty of this question is that it's not often expected, so you should get as honest an answer as is possible.
You really need to find out all you can about a company before committing to join it. This sort of direct inquiry will not only help you out, but it will also demonstrate to the employer that you have solid critical thinking skills. The next time you go for a job interview, keep this advice in mind.