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Is this an interview or did they call me here to vent?

Q. I interviewed with 5 people from the same company. I met with them one at a time, and at the end, I met with the whole group. In my one-on-one meetings they were pretty direct about who they liked and who they didn’t. They told me who worked hard and who I wouldn’t need to pay attention to if I got the offer and took the job. It was really strange, and I wasn’t sure who to believe. When it came time to answer questions in front of the group, I felt like I was knee deep in internal politics and gossip and I didn’t even work there yet! Please don’t tell me not to take the job. I need a job, but I need a job that will last.

A. I am sure the company leadership including human resources would be horrified to hear of your experience. Part of the preparation in an effective recruitment, is for human resources and the hiring manager to coordinate areas to be discussed and questions to be asked by the company representatives. Most employees know they are acting as ambassadors for the company and are eager to represent the firm well. The employees you met with showed their dysfunction readily so before you accept an offer to join this group, you need to find out more about whom and what to believe.

Evaluating work environments, potentials colleagues, and a manager are an critical elements of the interview process. Yet, many job seekers forget that part or ignore it in their efforts to secure a job offer. In the assessment of an offer, I encourage people to think about whether they will be happy in the position , whether they will be successful, and how long they anticipate staying. Conducting a job search is hard work – conducting two searches in a very short period of time are even more difficult.

If you have the opportunity in this process, I would try and schedule a follow up meeting with the manager you would report to, and a human resources person. Without disclosing what happened, probe the relationships within the “team”, assess the managers understanding of the challenges, as well as their plans for the future. Perhaps plans include re-staffing this team and you are the first hire. Try and get the same kind of information from human resources. Without addressing these concerns you may be walking into a job where you (or anyone else) can’t win.

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