We can all agree that job hunting is the worst. Since most of us need a job to live in society, there’s a level of desperation simmering under the surface of the job-hunting process that makes the experience generally uncomfortable. However, this could be because we attack job hunting as if employers hold all the power. Here’s the secret: They do not. Employers are nothing without employees and the whole reason companies put out job listings is because they need someone to fulfill that role. Reframing our thinking with this in mind can alter how we interview.

While dream jobs are a myth for most of us in the workforce, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a job out there that we can be satisfied with. But what satisfies you as an employee doesn’t always align with what satisfies an employer, which why interviews should be an equal playing field for both potential employees to feel out their potential employers, and vice versa.

This can be scary for most of us, including me. I was told to have the mindset that if a potential employer asks me to jump, I do it—I don’t ask how high, I just jump. But this helps no one, least of all me. How am I supposed to know if a company is a good fit for me, my values, and my work ethic if I spend the entire interview trying to impress the hiring manager? The interviewer should be trying to impress the interviewee in equal measure.

I used to think the sole purpose of interviews was to win over your future boss. This meant that when I had a bad interview, I believed this reflected on me. But this isn’t always the case. I once endured a 45-minute interview in which the hiring manager lectured me on why it’s important not to have an ego in a workplace. I had just met this hiring manager, and they asked me all of three questions before launching into their rant.

At the time, I walked out of this interview wondering what I could have done better. But the longer I thought about it, I realized this hiring manager had done me a favor: They had waved all of their red flags at once. They were rude, dismissive, and uninterested in what I could bring to the table. What this tells me about their company culture is they might not care about their employees enough to listen to their thoughts and opinions. And in a creative role, this is important. Also, they could be a company that expects their employees to fall in line behind managers and do their bidding with no questions asked. I’ve worked for a company like this before and did not enjoy the experience. This is why asking potential employers questions is important.

While this is advice we’ve all heard before, more of us shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it as optional. Questions are a good way to glean more information about anything you want to know. If the work environment is important to you, then you should ask questions that get you a better understanding of that company’s culture. If pay and benefits are important, then you should be asking about what that company offers its employees. Some of these questions might seem like they’d put off an employer, but if they do, then that employer obviously isn’t a good fit for you. If a company isn’t right for you, it’s better to know immediately than after a couple of months of working for them.

When an interviewer asks you questions, it’s important to know the answer to every question isn’t yes. One time in an interview, I asked what the workload looked like and they responded, “Well, we aren’t a sweatshop.” I’m not sure what this hiring manager was implying, but this didn’t tell me positive anything about the company–it felt like there was a “but” coming. By being vague, the hiring manager gave me the impression that what they were saying was, “We’re not a sweatshop, but we will overwork you.” To which my response is, “No thank you!”

The point of interviews is to make a good impression and prove ability and willingness to work, but that doesn’t mean at the cost of your boundaries, health, and time. If we’re more honest about what we are looking for in the workplace, then this honesty could help change the workplace for the better for everyone. Also, it will make finding a job that’s right for you more of a priority, which can be better in the long run for your career. So, be bold, ask questions, and know that an interview puts everyone in the hot seat, including the person who’s interviewing you.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

  • Kayla Webb

    Kayla Webb is a writer with a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. When she's not obsessing over words and sentences, Kayla can be found trying to read too many books at one time, snuggling with her cats, and fangirling over everything pop culture.