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Asking the right questions in a job interview can reveal whether a company is a good place to work, or not


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When hunting for a job, most people think they can tell whether a new employer is right for them. They check if the new job pays a higher salary, ask about dental benefits and map out the morning commute.

But if that’s all they’re doing, they may not find out what the job is really like until it’s too late. Human resources experts say data on employee satisfaction show the most crucial aspects of a good employer are the things you can’t see in the job description: the company’s culture, environment and attitude. “Absolutely, you want to do the due diligence on [questions such as], ‘Am I being paid fairly?’ ” says Neil Crawford, a partner at human resources consultants Aon Hewitt. “What’s much harder to get at is, ‘What kind of manager am I going to have? How committed is the organization to having good managers who really work well with their employees?’ ”

Often people find themselves in less-than-ideal jobs; a recent report from Gallup found just 16 per cent of Canadian workers feel engaged in their jobs. But there are some relatively simple ways to suss out if a company has a suitable work environment. Job searchers should try to speak to someone who has worked in the department they’re applying to, say experts. A number of websites, such as Vault and Glassdoor, list insider reviews of companies by people who have worked there, and they can be helpful—although there can be an overrepresentation of disgruntled former employees.

Once the interview process begins, prospective hires should remember that it is “a two-way process,” says Crawford. That means interviewing your interviewer. Ask difficult questions, he says, such as, “Do I get to evaluate my supervisor?” and “What happens if things aren’t going well with my manager; whom can I talk to?” Pay attention to clues that an employer cares about ensuring a good fit between you and your job. A big one is a company that wants you to experience the work environment before being hired. Crawford recalls one company, a corporate uniform-provider, that let applicants see what a day on the job was like.

Finally, ignore signs that may make you feel good about an employer for the wrong reasons. Having a great corporate culture isn’t the same as having a cool brand or making products you like, as counterintuitive as that is, Crawford says. “It is not necessarily about what’s sexy; it is often about the hard work of good leadership and good management to create the right environment.”

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