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What is a Realistic Job Preview?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A realistic job preview is a discussion about the positive and negative aspects of a job to give an applicant an idea of what to expect. This helps people decide whether they are a good fit for a given position. Making informed choices can reduce employee turnover, and people will be less likely to start their jobs and experience disappointment or confusion as a result of not knowing about key details of the work. Many companies offer a realistic job preview early on during the application process and it can take a number of forms.

Some companies have videos to provide people with a day-in-the-life glimpse of the workplace. The video will document working conditions and may include interviews with employees who talk about things they enjoy, like employee benefits and a pleasant working environment, as well as drawbacks, like working long hours or having to work on weekends. Other companies may offer written testimonials from employees, often with a frequently asked questions supplement to address specific concerns prospective hires may have.

The realistic job preview can also take the form of a series of questions. The questions provide prompts about various situations and working conditions. Based on the answers, the interviewer can provide the applicant with more information about the job, as well as advice to help the applicant make a good decision about moving forward with the application. For example, if a workplace expects self-direction from employees and an applicant says she prefers to be closely supervised and mentored, the interviewer might make her aware of the independent nature of the work, as this could make the job less appealing.

Realistic job previews can help employees prepare psychologically, in addition to establishing trust at the onset. Rather than painting a rosy picture, the employer is frank, and this makes employees feel like they can rely on the word of their employers and supervisors. Honesty about less exciting or unpleasant parts of the job assures people considering the company that it is not hiding information in the hopes of enticing people to accept contracts and then springing unpleasant surprises on them.

Companies can contract with consultants to create a realistic job preview. The consultant will interview employees, review workplace manuals, and wander through the workplace to learn more about the working conditions, level of satisfaction, and culture at the company. Using this information and acting as an outsider who may have a more neutral view on the company, the consultant prepares a realistic job preview to assist the company with the application process. Companies can also work internally on such projects.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a SmartCapitalMind researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments
By Phaedrus — On Jan 27, 2014

I wish they would have had more realistic job previews when I first started working as a teen. We'd watch some really upbeat training videos with smiling, happy employees and then get put out into the real thing an hour later. Things rarely worked as well in the real kitchen as they did in those videos. I could tell people weren't really happy to be there, either.

I can see where an employer wouldn't want to just come out and say "You're going to be standing on a concrete floor in front of a noisy machine for eight hours today", but at least they can tell a new employee to wear old clothes or prepare to get dirty. A little honesty goes a long way. If someone had warned me ahead of time about work conditions, I would have been better prepared mentally to handle it.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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