I'm thrilled to join many of my career colleagues in the Career Collective, a community of bloggers who share thoughts and post on a similar topic once a month. This month's post: how to prepare for Interviewing interviews before you're asked to walk in the door.

Here's my take on this question: Prep in advance for your interviews by honing in on what you want from your next work environment--and writing down a list of questions that you need to know before you accept an offer.

Many people--myself included--talk and write about the analogies between interviewing and the process of finding a mate. Interviewing is similar to a round of speed dating in which all too frequently the interviewee cedes the controls to the interviewers. After all, wouldn't you agree that most people go into interviews wanting to be picked? Isn't the goal of most interviews to go in with your best foot forward? Have you ever accepted a job and then kicked yourself later for not observing problems at the organization during the interview process? Have you ever thought, "If only I had asked that question while I was interviewing..."?

It's easy to get swept up in the interview process and to feel powerless. It's easy to miss cues of dysfunction in an organization--and to find yourself in a less than ideal work environment. Here are three steps you can take in advance of the interview to give yourself more of the control.

  1. Research the organization. Beyond the website, see what's being said about the organization in the news. My favorite sources are Google News and OneSource (available from many library systems). Got a question on how to do employer research? Take a trip to your local library, the reference librarians are great! (Bonus points: Send a follow-up e-mail to the organization congratulating them on positive news mentions and reminding them of your application.)

  2. Identify the ideal environment for you. In my work with clients, I use the DISC assessment, an instrument which measures how people tackle problems, work with others, enjoy rules and compliance and prefer the pace of a work environment. The assessment helps my clients envision their ideal work environment and define language to discuss their skills and interests. Knowing this information helps them identify the best organizations to apply to and identify optimal job functions and work environments.

    The assessment process has worked well for my clients, but you can do this more informally as well. Know what you want, and what you are looking for. Write down your preferences and keep the list on hand throughout your job search. Ask your friends and family for their observations. When have you been at your happiest? Are you most comfortable working with a handful of people or with many? Know what you are looking for?

  3. Develop a short list of things you want to observe during an interview. My short list: How do co-workers treat each other? How frequently does the group have meetings? How often will I be working with the individuals who interview me--and in what capacity will I be working with them? One of my all time favorite questions for a group interview: If I am offered this position, what will my first priorities on the job look like--and how will I work with each of you to get it done?

Follow these three steps--as well as the advice of my Career Collective colleagues on how to prepare for interviews--and you'll be set to level the playing field. Remember: Interviewing is a mutually selective process: you pick your employers, and your employer picks you!

Here are the posts from my colleagues:

  • Sit Down and Panic. The Interview is Yours @GayleHoward
  • How to Stand Out in a Job Interview @heathermundell
  • Avoid These Reference Mistakes @DawnBugni
  • Unspoken Secrets of Job Interviewing Prep: How Your Nonverbal Presentation and Behaviors Impact the Impression You Make @KatCareerGal
  • What Should Job Seekers Do Now to Prepare for an Interview @erinkennedycprw
  • Take a Ride in the Elevator Before You Interview @barbarasafani
  • Are You Ready for the Elephant in the Room? @WorkWithIllness
  • "Tell Me About Yourself" (Oh, Yikes!), @KCCareerCoach
  • The job interview as a shared narrative @WalterAkana
  • Prepare your references for job search success @Keppie_Careers
  • No Pain No Gain In Job Search and Interview Prep @ValueIntoWords
  • Job searching? Take a cue from the Boy Scouts @LaurieBerenson
  • Preparing for Career Success Starts with Interviewing the Employers @JobHuntOrg 
  • Cross-posted at The Emerging Professional.