Some people can quickly assess others. Others take a long time to get a clear picture. Many more think they can make a quick judgment, but are often wrong.
One place where the chances run particularly high that we will "get it wrong" is during the interview process.
In interviews, the normal reality is for the candidate to be in hardcore sales mode. "Doing your homework" as a job candidate means understanding what the company is looking for, and trying to "morph" your education, experience, and personality into the required mold. If you can make yourself into an ideal candidate, then at least you get to make the call when it comes time to take or reject the job.
Doing this is probably in the best interests of the candidate, and as a result, I don't fault them for it. It's always better to be in the drivers seat. The downside is, of course, many people end up in companies and positions that aren't well suited to them.
Why does this happen?
Because candidates don't recognize and/or accept the implicit responsibility they are taking when "morphing" for interviews -- they take on sole responsibility to evaluate their fit with both the job and the employer. Then they make poor judgments. Or they abdicate the responsibility completely.
But doing that is a mistake.
By "morphing", the candidate must take responsibility to assess fit. The company can't do it -- you're not really letting them know who you are. Otherwise, you're just asking to end up in a job you hate. Yeah, I know candidates are sometimes desperate for any job they can get, but just recognize that if you ignore the "fit thing" chances are good you'll eventually be looking again.
And even when the candidates accept the responsibility for assessing fit, they often don't execute it very well.
Candidates often see what they want to see, or look only for the things that were missing from their last job. And they systematically rely on their own observations alone, rarely asking for outside opinions or evaluating external sources of information.
So here's a wild idea -- why don't candidates ask to see references from employers? Why not check social media to find out what their bosses and coworkers will really be like? Why not independently track down former employees and ask them why they left, and what the environment was really like? The companies check candidate's backgrounds of employees, so why not the other way around?