You don’t know what you don’t know.  Everybody knows that but what you don’t know can make you miserable later.  That’s what young people working for the past 1 to 5 years told me this last year when I interviewed them.  Over 80% said they just did not do a good job asking prospective employers probing questions to find out what it would be like to work there.

Most of these young people started their jobs right out of college and said they mainly focused on preparing for the questions that employers would ask them.  They admitted that they had  a list of generic questions to ask employers but mainly did so to show the employer that they had done their research about the company. Again to showcase themselves to the employer.

Most young people don’t give a lot of thought to what they are getting themselves into when they accept a job.  After all, the company websites and the on campus meet & greets paint an awesome picture of  what it’s like to be on the inside – an employee – of Company XYZ.  Like everything else in life, there are always two sides to every story.

There is no doubt that working for a company gives you tremendous exposure and great experience as a new entrant into the workforce. There are many benefits to working for a company in your early career. However, there are many things about working that college grads are unaware of and that consequently make them very disillusioned and disheartened once the job offer is accepted.  So much so that 80% of the young people I interviewed had left their jobs, were actively looking to leave or thinking of leaving in the short term. They simply weren’t prepared for the shock of being an employee.

In case you think this is a new phenomenon, it isn’t.  I think you can ask anyone who has been working as an employee and if they can remember back to their early twenties they will tell you how shocked they were when they started working.   I share my own story and tell young people that when I started working in my first job, I came VERY close to quitting after the second week (had to get that paycheck, right?). College simply does not prepare you for the workplace.

The twenty-somethings I interviewed told me that in hindsight they wished they had asked their employers better questions to be better prepared for working there.   Many agreed that given the tight job market they would probably have taken the job regardless of what they discovered.  The big difference that would have made a huge difference as an employee is they wouldn’t have wasted so much time wrapping their heads around the job shock.  Instead they would have been ready and focused on adding value immediately to enhance their employee brand and to stand out.

Here are 2 insider secrets most young people don’t give a lot of thought to but impacts them nonetheless.

1.       You will NEVER work for a perfect company.

2.        All companies have warts and some have more than others. Warts are things that aren’t great about the company but need to be tolerated in order to work there.

During the job interview, you want to gauge what specific brand of warts your prospective employer has because the closer the warts are to things you can tolerate the better your experience will be.

Here are 3 specific questions you can ask to help you get a better idea of their warts. More importantly, it will help you understand the environment you will be working in should you accept the position.

1.    Can you tell me 2 reasons why you work for this company?   What keeps you here?

2.   What are 2 things you wish you could change about the company and why?

3.   What are 3 things people don’t know about working for the company that they should?

Listen very carefully to the responses and jot them down. Your interviewers will not be expecting these types of questions and will most likely not have a pat answer that is not very revealing.  The responses will be more truthful and telling.

Stay tuned next time when I will share more interview questions that Gen Yers on the Job suggest you ask before you accept your first job.