So you’ve got that interview for that great job. You worked hard to get to this point, and now you’re finally sitting in the room with decision-makers. You are impressing them with your expertise, and everything seems to be going great.

Before you leave the room, ask yourself: what questions are you asking them?

There are a lot of aspects to this question. Today I just want to deal with one: not trusting the job description. Job descriptions, in online postings especially, can be wordy and exhausting affairs. They want to cover absolutely all of their bases, so they can’t ever be accused of asking you to do something that’s “not in the job description.”

That exhaustive nature of the job description, instead of making things clearer, can actually obscure the true nature of the job. They might list qualifications you know you have, and general tasks you know you can do well. But that is not at all the same as understanding what the shape of the job is, day to day.

And the day-to-day is what you will be living if you get this job, not the job description cooked up in some Human Resources CWA laboratory.

Often the shape of the actual job isn’t clear, even after you’ve read every word the employer has written about it. It will take pointed questions to real humans to have an idea what you will be dealing with. And that reality might not be at all what you are looking for.

A personal story:

When I was using a tech temp agency to get short-term work years ago, I once went into an interview at a state agency very confident that I could do the web-based work they were looking for. The interview itself was cordial and pretty bland, as many by-the-numbers interview processes can be.

But by the end, I still didn’t understand exactly what the job would entail, day-by-day. What exactly would I be doing on a typical day? I asked this question point-blank to the ruddy-faced manager who would have become my boss.

Off-handedly but also weirdly aggressively, he barked, “The job is whatever I decide it is.”

OK…good to know!

Thankfully, I didn’t get that job.

Because that would have been a nightmare, right? I’m not even hired and my potential boss is already treating me like an indentured servant, and there’s no clear plan for the job either. Dodged that bullet, big time.

Making sure you understand the day-to-day shape of the job you are applying for is just one of many aspects of navigating your job search. But in the excitement and hard work of it all, it’s one that is often overlooked. Don’t skip this step.

What questions have you found useful to ask in job interviews? Let me know in the comments.

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