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Alicia Blain

Job Hunt


I know that in today’s challenging economy, college grads are concerned about finding a job.  You are spending a lot of time preparing for your interviews & making sure you are ready to answer the tough questions employers will throw at you so that you can stand out.

Well, guess what?  That’s only half the battle. What steps are you taking during the interview process to determine if your prospective employer is a good fit for you?  Here’s a reality that most college grads are unaware of when they are seeking their first job: over 80% of college grads wind up hating their first job.  That’s a LOT of people that are unhappy.

How do I know that?  I spent the last year, interviewing college grads that were working between 1 and 5 years. Most of them – 80% – said they had either left their first job or were unhappy there and were aggressively looking for another job. When I asked them why they were unhappy they all said the same thing:  we didn’t do our homework on the company hiring us.  Like most of you, these young professionals currently in the workforce did not take the time to really ask the employer some penetrating questions to determine what it would be like to work there.

All of the young people I interviewed said they were just laser focused on getting into a company & starting their career.  They did not focus a lot of attention on asking their employers some penetrating questions.  Whatever questions they asked was to show the employer how much they knew about the company. After they started, they realized what most experienced employees already know.  Finding “a job” is often not the right approach to take even though you may be extremely tempted to do that. 

Most of the young people I interviewed said that taking “a job” had not been a good decision for them.  Many wished they had taken the time to question their prospective employer (and boss)  instead of just trying to be as prepared as possible for the employer’s questions.  Most interviewees felt sure that if they had taken the time to ask better questions they would have either chosen not to take the job or, if they needed to, they would have known ahead of time what they were getting themselves into. 

That’s good advice.  The difference between an inexperienced interviewee and an experienced one is that the experienced one knows that getting “a job” is not the answer.  It’s finding one that’s a good fit for you.  That’s why people that have been working for some time make a list of probing questions to ask during an interview.  They know the importance of putting their prospective boss and employer under the microscope.   

A job search is an exhausting process and not something you necessarily look forward to.  Experienced job seekers don’t want to be in a situation where they look for “a job” and are unhappy and have to look for another one soon after. Being prepared for the interview by asking a series of good questions to determine if there’s a fit is what experienced job seekers do to prevent that situation from happening.

Take your cues from the pros.  Being prepared to answer an employer’s probing question is an important part of getting a job.  Asking the employer your own probing questions is an important part of finding the right fit and wanting to stay on the job.

Here are 3 tips to finding the right fit.  

Tip #1: Take some of the questions I’ve highlighted in my previous blogs as a starting point to preparing your list. 

Tip #2:  Ask your friends & family members who have been working for a few years, what questions they wished they had asked when they interviewed for their first jobs.  Everyone will be more than happy to give you their set of questions. 

Tip #3: Take the questions that have been repeated by most people and add those to your list.  That’s going to give you a huge advantage over other job seekers.  While they are busy finding “a job”, you’re busy finding the “right job” for you .

When we graduate college and start looking for our first job, we rarely think about our relationship with our boss.  After my interviews with young people this past year, many of them indicated that they actually always assumed they’d have bosses who’d mentor them and guide them through their career.

Nothing can be furthest from the truth.  Here’s an insider secret:  As a college grad in your first job, you have a higher chance of working for someone who isn’t a very good mentor nor is interested in becoming one.  Many of today’s managers are overworked, stressed and dealing with their own career issues. They don’t have any time left over to dedicate to their staff. Some managers are simply not mentoring types at all and try to avoid that part of their role.

The good news is that your boss doesn’t have to be the one you turn to for mentoring.  Once you start working you will quickly find out who are the managers in the organization that not only like mentoring but that find the time to do so.  Those are the ones you want to align yourself with and pick one of them as your mentor.

Believe it or not, the interview process provides you with a unique opportunity to ask questions of your prospective boss to see if he or she would be a good mentor and a good fit for your personality.  As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs,  there are a lot of batty bosses out there. All of us have different tolerance levels for the different types that exist.  Wouldn’t it be better to know ahead of time whether you may be working for one or not? Most college grads don’t grab this opportunity because they are focused on making a good impression on the employer.  Although that is very important, it is equally important to ask probing questions as well.

Here are 5 good questions you can ask your prospective boss to determine what type of boss he is. 

1. Give me an example of a famous leader you admire and what are the traits you admire about him or her?

2. Give me an example of someone you’ve mentored in your team and what you liked and didn’t like about it?

3.  How would your employees describe you?

4. What are your top 3 pet peeves?

5.  What are 3 things you enjoy about leading your team and 3 things you don’t enjoy?

From the responses, you’ll get an indication whether your future boss is a good and caring boss. If (s)he is, you hit the jackpot! Count your blessings . Do everything you can to get the job and stay with him for as long as you can. If they don’t, well, welcome to reality. You have to ask yourself these questions:

  • What batty boss type is he? Is it one of the types I can tolerate?
  • If it’s not a tolerable type for me, is the job opportunity worth the aggravation of learning to deal with that type of boss?
  • If so, what steps can I take now to prepare myself to handle this type of boss so I don’t derail my career?

The best way to excel in your first job is to be as prepared as possible so that you are not shocked at the world of work and lose precious time trying to figure it out.  While others are doing that, you will be focusing your effort on creating value and showcasing your skills as a high performer.