An interview can be a nerve-wracking experience.
The job seeker feels pressure to answer questions and make a good impression.
But career experts say interviews need to be two-way streets if job seekers want to make sure they won't hate their new jobs in six months.
Specifically, job candidates must be armed with questions to really learn what an organization is all about. They've got to ferret out information that can help them avoid a boss who channels Attila the Hun or land in an organization that is a poster child for dysfunctional companies.
"People think an interview is when they have to sell themselves," says Alexandra Levit, co-founder of the Career Advisory Board. "But I think it's also a time to ask questions and find out more about the employer."
You should ask to talk to other employees who would be colleagues if a job is offered, Levit says.
"Ask them questions about what sets the organization apart, what they really like about the company and their jobs," she says.
Companies are likely to offer "rah-rah" employees who will say only good things about the employer, but Levit says they still can offer valuable information.
Carol Kinsey Goman, a business coach and expert on non-verbal communication, agrees.
You should look at what employees aren't saying with words but indicating with their body language, she says.
"Probably the biggest mistake people make when trying to read body language is that they take one signal for having a ton of meaning," she says. "But what you want to do is look for a cluster of signals."
A hiring manager looking at her watch doesn't necessarily signal that she wants an interview to conclude because she thinks you're boring. But if she begins tapping her foot, looking at the door and glancing at her watch, you should move on because you could be making her impatient or bored, Goman says.
Engage in small talk during an interview because hiring managers can gauge your "likeability" and see how you might fit into the workplace culture. But this chit-chat is also a chance for interviewees to get a feel for a company's culture and management style.
You'll also have opportunity to spot when an interviewer is being less than honest or masking true feelings about you and what you're saying.
Specifically, to spot a hiring manager who may be hiding something or being evasive, Goman advises you to look down. Most people are savvy enough to cover evasions with smiles or eye contact, but they forget about their feet.
When people try to control their body language, Goman says, they focus most with their face, hands and arms, but "gestures below the waist are often left unrehearsed."
Watch for these examples, Goman says:
? If you're speaking with a hiring manager who has his or her legs crossed, pay attention to the foot on top.
If it's angled toward you, that means the manager is interested in you. If the top leg and toe are pointed away from you, the person may be withdrawing.
? If you're in a negotiation and you notice a lot of foot-jiggling, or rocking back on feet and raising toes, the manager doing it probably feels he has the upper hand.
? If a colleague angles only her upper body toward you but keeps her legs and feet shifted away, she is telling you she wants to leave.
"You may not know it, but you've been reacting to foot gestures all your life," Goman says. "Next time you want to know what someone's thinking, take a closer look at their feet."
That way, if you don't like what you're hearing and observing non-verbally, your feet can take you to a better opportunity.