In my job interview course, I talk a lot about investigating the company in question. What are their values? And that includes their actual values, not just the ones they ostensibly adhere to. What’s the latest news from them? And what’s happening with their competitors and with the industry as a whole?
The answers to those questions can give you an effective framework for your own answers to interview questions, and it’s still the case that they’re all good themes to pursue. But I also talk about the importance of the questions you ask them, and that’s where the pandemic has made a difference by making the remote work issue an obvious area of concern for many people.
In pre-pandemic times, you may have been a bit of an outlier if you were honing in on work from home opportunities; now, it’s become just one part of the lay of the land.
At the same time, there’s a distinct lack of consistency among organizations when it comes to opening offices to all, remote work, and the use of virtual options like Zoom as part of standard working procedure.
And there are clear distinctions in terms of organizational willingness to support WFH rather than requiring in-person attendance at a physical office space. There are plenty of managers who remain skeptical of WFH even if the numbers don’t support that skepticism at all. Despite all evidence to the contrary, some managers just don’t believe that WFH can work, and, at this point, nothing will convince them otherwise.
So it’s certainly natural to pose some questions for a prospective employer about the kind of environment you’d be walking (or not walking) into. Just as there is a range of organizational attitudes about in-person versus WFH, there’s a wide range of attitudes among candidates. For some, the ability to work from home is critical. For others, it’s a nice bonus but not essential. And some people, perhaps a distinct minority, long for a return to full time in-person office life.
Only you know how important the chance to work from home is to you. But if it is important, you need to ask those questions in the interview if there’s any doubt at all about the company’s approach. But what if working from home is at the top of your list of criteria and the organization has other ideas, yet this is something of a dream job for you in every other way?
Clearly, you have a decision to make, but you may have options beyond simply walking away. There may be trade-offs you can make, like giving up some WFH time for better hours or increased educational opportunities. In other words, it can be part of a negotiation like any other, and only you know what might fairly compensate you for losing some WFH flexibility.
In addition, companies can be much more accommodating once you’ve been there for a while and proven yourself. Once you establish your value to the organization, management may be more willing to see less of you in person. If there’s interest on both sides, it’s another question worth asking.
If you need assistance preparing for a job interview, I can help you. Check out my online course, The Expert Guide to Job Interviews with Paul Freiberger.