Jackie Schaffer’s 8 Tips for Interviewing Potential Employers

Filling open positions is not easy; likewise, finding a new job isn’t easy. Employers tell the story of a lack of qualified candidates, and job seekers tell the story of not enough quality positions. But when the two are lucky enough to meet, it’s important to validate that they’re a good fit for each other.

Obviously, during the interview process employers are evaluating candidates for positions within their company. Employers are considering experience, technical skills, professional skills and intangible items such as “culture fit.”

While the candidates are under evaluation, they should also be evaluating the company as a potential employer. There are easy things to consider: compensation package, benefits offerings and role fit. But there are other items candidates should be “interviewing” the potential employer about—some things overtly and others more discretely:

If you haven’t been shown a department organization chart, ask to see how this role fits into the overall department structure—including who the head of Creative Services reports to. Does Creative Services feed into Marketing? IT? Finance? Any of these things is possible and impacts how the group is viewed.

  • While it may not change your opinion on working there, it’s an informed question and demonstrates industry knowledge.
  • If the group does not report to Marketing, you may want to ask if there is an impact to the group not reporting to Marketing.

If your ambitions go beyond the position you’re interviewing for, seek to understand the opportunity for advancement.

  • Be cautious not appear impatient to receive a raise or promotion. Be genuine in saying, “In 3 to 5 years I hope to be doing x, y and z, does that opportunity exist here?”
  • It’s important not to say “I want ‘x’ role in 3 to 5 years”—saying the things you want to do appears less aggressive and doesn’t seem as black and white as a specific title.

Ask who would be your manager.

  • If not someone involved in the interview process, ask if you will have the opportunity to meet him or her.

Ask how the position become available.

  • Is the role new this year, or are you back-filling a position?
  • If back-filling, why did the person leave?

Ask what the average attrition of the department is, and what the most common reason people leave is.

  • Seek to understand the good and the bad about the opportunity—you want to go in with your eyes wide open.

If you haven’t been given a tour of the team’s space, ask to see the work environment.

  • Use this as an opportunity to evaluate the environment and the people who would be your colleagues—it’s superficial, but do these people look engaged? Like they enjoy the work? Do they look like people you can spend 40+ hours a week with?
  • Also look at the hardware—what size are the monitors? How many? Are people on laptops or desktops?

Ask about the technology—is the team on Macs or PCs? How often are they upgraded? What version of the Creative Suite are they on?

  • You don’t want to seem aggressive or singularly focused on this, but it’s important to creatives to work on fast machines with the latest tools. Ideally you will be going to work for a company who understands the benefits associated in doing so.

What is the company or department philosophy on professional development?

  • Tell what you do on your own to demonstrate you invest in personal time and resources to grow your skills, but also show you are seeking an employer who values the same.
  • Your goal is to find out if they have money for conferences and external training.

At the end of the day, no single non-ideal response to these questions will rule out an employer, rather their responses will better inform you about the company you may work for.



About In-HOWse Guest Jackie Schaffer
Jackie Schaffer, Vice President and General Manager of Cella Consulting, is a former in-house leader who has consulted for teams of all sizes, including Fortune 500 clients, government entities and educational institutions and has the unique opportunity to speak with hundreds of creative leaders each year. Cella helps creative leaders and their teams identify and execute strategic priorities, so they can increase their effectiveness and focus on creating high-quality creative. Cella is a co-author of the In-House Creative Services Industry Report and authors weekly blogs on business operations topics pertinent to the role of creative leaders.


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