Turn the Tables in an Interview

Interview Tips

This week I read a really funny post on LinkedIn while I was at work. It was a fictional advert from a candidate to a job offer, using all of those overly used phrases. “There has been a high level of interest”, “your details will be kept on record in case an opportunity arises in the future”.

It even asked the company to give references for the manager’s direct reports, and to check the director’s credit rating as part of the decision process.

I wish I could find it for you, but alas it’s lost in the giant sinking feed of LinkedIn.

One thing I tell students often is that job applications are a two way thing. For the majority of the application process it’s all about you proving yourself – when you have to submit your cover letter, when you have to take that personality test, when you detail your experience and skills.

But in an interview, it’s equal ground.

You get to see your potential new boss in person.

You can see what kind of environment you would be working in.

You get to ask questions.

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I’m actually leaving my current job in a current weeks, moving to a different job. During this job search I had a couple of other interviews as well as the one for the job I accepted.

One of the job interviews was for an institution that is very well known here. Before applying I had done my research and asked someone I knew who works on that team already what it’s like to work there – she gave me a great review.

However, when I went for the interview there were two reasons why I decided I didn’t want the job:

  1. We walked through the office area to get to the meeting room, and it was dark and ugly and uninspiring.
  2. At the end of the interview they told me that they will call the successful candidate in a few days’ time; if I hadn’t had a call by then, I didn’t have the job. A rejection email would be sent out in a few weeks. I had taken time off of work, parked in central Cambridge (massively expensive) and taken the time out to see them, and they couldn’t be bothered to send out a rejection letter?

It’s only through an interview that you can get to know these things.

But when things seem fine on first glance, it’s up to you to ask those questions that will help you understand if THEY are the right fit for YOU. Here are some of my suggestions:

What do you enjoy about working here?

This is their chance to sell this to you. You like the look of the job, and the salary is a good fit, but there are so many other reasons why working at a particular company is good or bad.

Here are some of the perks that I have particularly enjoyed in my previous roles: employee of the month awards (with bonus), flexible working hours, subsidized canteen. At Nintendo, every Christmas they’d give us each a bag of stuff they’d cleared out from the warehouses. You didn’t know what you were going to get but it could be anything from consoles to merch and games.

These things don’t get written on all job descriptions, but are points in the “for” side when considering a job.

Why has this opportunity come up?

It’s also worth asking how long the previous person did the role for. If they got a promotion – great. If they left for another job after a few months, and the manager cites “a bad cultural fit” then you might be hearing warning bells.

What are the team dynamics like?

I recommend asking a question that will allow you to understand what the office environment is like. When I was at Nintendo, it was very much “earphones in, lots of typing” but then we would also break into themed pun contests from time to time as well. At my previous role in apprenticeship recruitment, it was a very masculine environment and there was a lot of male banter and casual racism/sexism.

It’s really important to understand if the working style of those around you is the right place for you to bloom. If you’d not need the office while you go to the meeting room for your interview, try asking to see the office, or to have the team pop by so you can meet them.


More than anything, I want for people to understand that while we all need/want jobs and we may feel like we’re on the asking end, at the end of the day they also need/want the best person. If that person is you, they should be selling the role to you as much as you sell yourself to them.




  1. This is a really helpful take and having had a few interviews recently is something I am getting better at.
    I had one yesterday in a building which felt like a nuclear bunker. The panel was a total mixed bag so have no idea how I did or how I feel about whether the role is for me. I’m totally ambivalent about it right now but I figure I’ll decide one way or the other if I get an offer – no point worrying about it until I need to!!!

    • Charlotte says

      Exactly, let them make their move then have a think about it. Otherwise, it’s not worth the energy!

  2. I always ask what my typical workday would look like, and I often ask what they like most about working there. I often ask how the team communicates with each other, and I try to get a sense of whether the team truly functions as a team.

    It’s important to remember that interviews are bi-directional: You’re interviewing *them,* too. It’s all too easy to forget that.
    Steven recently posted…Two They Might Be Giants Shows, Twenty Years ApartMy Profile

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