“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” . Anyone who answered this question in 2015 with, “Global Pandemic, Economic uncertainty, and a modern Civil Rights Movement”, please reach out, as I would like to know how far your psychic abilities can project and who will win the Super Bowl this year (and if we will even HAVE a Super Bowl this year).

2020 is teaching us a lot about ourselves, both as individuals and as members of the greater whole. Sometimes that whole is as local as your family unit or neighborhood, and sometimes as large as your country. Given that my experience lies in the matchmaking process between Candidates and Companies, the monumental changes that have occurred here will forever alter the paradigm between the two, and how we as Recruiters can serve both sides.

There isn’t enough room in this post to cover all of the changes, so as a Specialty Chemicals Recruiter, my goal is to share a reflection that will be most helpful to the greatest number of people, and that is how to make the most of the interview process. Whether over the phone, via video conference, or in person, the interview process in Specialty Chemicals is a mission of discovery for both sides, and the analogy I use most often is that of dating. A first interview closely resembles a date: Both sides know a little about each other and are seeking to understand if there is enough mutual attraction for a second date and beyond. An offer letter can be compared to a marriage proposal, and so on. You truly don’t know someone until you live with them, like how company culture is not evident in many cases until you work there.

How to get the most out of the interview process? From a candidate perspective, there is one approach that can help you decide if the role is something you CAN do, and something you WANT to do. This involves consistently asking FOUR questions across different levels of the organization, and how the answers align with your interests and career goals.

  1. Goals: “Mr. Manager, what are your goals in filling this position? How does this role fit into the long-term goals for the department/company?” The goal should always be greater than simply filling an open slot. This question helps align your background with the goals in filling the position and helps you understand if there is truly a plan surrounding this opportunity.
  2. Challenges: “Mr. Manager, what would you say the greatest challenge is for this position. “What are the obstacles to success in this role, in your opinion?” Classic interview question, but the trick is to ask it consistently across a hiring team. Different individuals may have divergent opinions on the challenge, or how this role relates to their department. Collating these answers can help build a cohesive picture of the challenges you may face in a role. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate a time where you have overcome a similar challenge, elevating your odds of being a strong candidate. This question can also inform you of just how challenging a role might be, and if this level aligns with what you are looking to do in a job change.
  3. Expectations: “Mr. Manager, how do you measure success in this role?” This answer can vary based on the nature of the role (i.e. Sales vs. Engineering) but the key is to understand if there *is* a measuring stick for success, and if you are familiar with those measurements and if the expectations align with the goals and challenges from the previous two questions. If specific metric doesn’t exist, then how is success measured? If someone has trouble articulating what success looks like, this can be a red flag, as there might be insufficient resources or support and you may have to spend time defining the role.
  4. Culture: “What gets you excited to come to work every day?” “What do you brag on about your company?” “How would you describe the company culture?” There are several ways to diagnose company culture, but this is the hardest metric to measure. Ideally, you should seek an organization with people that are passionate and energetic about what they do, versus a boilerplate answer about “family” and “teamwork”. Some things to look for her can include retention rate (how long do people stay?) and growth potential (how often do they promote from within?).

These questions are designed to be open ended and to spur back and forth conversation. Consistently covering these topics should not only lead to better conversations but should ultimately help you gain actionable intelligence as to whether a job and a company is a fit!


Written by Kyle Johnstone, Engineered Materials and Specialty Chemical Recruiter