A reader writes:
I’m hoping for your insight on a strange job interview experience I recently had.
I’m applying for an IT role at a small company with five people on staff. The position is a new one, and this will be their first hire outside of family and personal connections. Here’s how the application process has gone so far:
• A recruiter I’ve been working with sent this company my resume. (No cover letter, no additional information.)
• They arranged for a 30-minute in-person interview with me.
• During the interview itself, the hiring manager talked at length about the company, what they do, and what they are hoping for with the role. I was asked one question during the entire interview, to the effect of “do you have any questions for us?”
• I was told by the recruiter that this was the only stage of the application process — the hiring manager would make his decision based on these 30-minute interviews with me and some other candidates.
This seems really weird to me. This is weird, right?
But other than that, the job sounds really cool; there are a lot of things in the work that make me want to accept it if I get the offer.
So, how concerned should I be about this interview process that doesn’t seem really thought through? Is this a “proceed with caution” situation or a “run for the hills” situation?
Also, if I get an offer, what questions could I ask the hiring manager to vet this organization better? They are so small that I can’t find any information about them online at all, aside from a one page company website.
Well, it’s definitely true that very small companies often don’t have especially rigorous hiring processes, because they haven’t had a lot of experience interviewing and hiring. And often they haven’t had the bad hiring experiences that often nudge companies toward realizing that they need to change the way they hire.
This can be problematic for you, the candidate, because you want to know that they’ve actually vetted you and determined that there’s a high likelihood that you’ll succeed in the role. You don’t want to end up in a job or culture that you struggle in or end up miserable, fired, or quitting a few months in.
You also want to have enough interaction with them that you’re able to make your own decision about whether you want this particular job, with these particular people, at this particular company. And you can’t do that from a single 30-minute interview.
Since they’re sort of abdicating their responsibility to run a thorough hiring process, what I’d do in your shoes is run a modified version of it yourself: Sit down and think about everything that you think needs to be considered and talked through in order for both of you to figure out if this is the right fit. Then, if you do get an offer, say that you’re really interested in joining them and wonder if you can set up a call with the person you’d be reporting to to make sure you have a thorough understanding of the job. You could even say something like, “I know that especially in small companies, fit is really important.”
Then, on that call, run through everything you came up with earlier: Do you have a good feel for the day-to-day work, how they’re defining success, and what type of person would succeed in the role and in their culture and what type of person wouldn’t? What are the biggest obstacles in the work likely to be? Do you have a good sense of their management style? What weaknesses do you see in your background when you match it up against your understanding of what they’re looking for — and if you call out those weaknesses specifically, what’s their take on them? (For example: “You mentioned that you’re looking for someone with experience in X. My experience in X is fairly light. How do you see that playing out in this role?”)
Then take that information and look rigorously at whether the role is really the right match for you. (And no rose-colored glasses on while you do this! I know that rose-colored glasses are practically the uniform when you’re job-hunting, but your future quality of life depends on you leaving them off during this analysis.)
Also, because there’s a recruiter involved, she might be able to give you additional insight into the company and the job, so use her as a source of information too.
That should get you to a place where you’re more confident in your decision, regardless of how they reached theirs.
One last note: Make sure you’re really thought through what it’s like to work in a company that small, and one where you’ll be the first “outsider.” Some people do just fine in that context, but it comes with a lot of its own weirdness, and it’s not for everyone.