One of the best ways to determine if a job is right for you is to ask questions. It also demonstrates your interest in the position.
Prepare specific questions to ask at the interview. This post provides sample questions for you to choose from. Use your judgement because not every question will work in every situation.
Here are five broad areas we feel you should learn about during your interviews:
- Your potential job,
- The company,
- Its people,
- Opportunities for advancement and growth, and
- Next steps in the process.
Virtually every interview I’ve either attended myself or heard about from a jobseeker has ended with “do you have any questions for me?” Time is short by this point in the interview, so you may respond with one or two pro forma queries. As a result, you miss an opportunity to complete your research.
Your Potential Job
You should have a lot of information about the job opportunity before the interview. Perhaps you now hold a similar job in another organization, you’ve acquired and read the official job description, or you have spoken with current incumbents at the company. Now that you have reached the interview, you have an opportunity to validate your research with questions such as:
- What would a typical day in this role look like?
- What skills and experience do you consider most relevant for this position?
- What are your priorities in the first 90 days in the position?
- Is this a new position? (If not, what happened to the person who had the job previously?)
My favorite questions are those that are usually not answered in the job description, such as “what is a typical day like?” Then, you can think about whether you can envision yourself doing the job.
Next, it’s useful to know the hiring manager’s priorities. The job announcement may include information about priorities for the new hire. But that information may not focus on the crucial first 90 days at the job. A hiring manager’s response can be quite useful in an organization that has a 90 day trial period for new employees so you know what to concentrate on right away.
Your goal is to leave the interview with a better perspective on the job than you got from reading the job announcement and position description.
It could be even more important to understand the company than to ask about the specific job and the people that would work with you. You may already know the job if you have worked in the field for years, so the work environment and culture may be most important. Questions to consider asking include;
- How would you describe the company culture, and
- What is the performance review process like? (How often are performance reviews conducted?)
Nearly every coach and recruiter I have spoken with over the years has felt that matching the company culture is very important. A client I worked with, for example, came from a large, established, corporation, and then went to work at a family-run company. She was not accustomed to the paralysis that occurred when a family member would not make decisions.
A crucial aspect of company culture is the performance review process. Performance appraisal and evaluation systems vary widely although, to those of us that “grew up” in corporate and government settings, they may seem ubiquitous. A “union shop” I worked in, for example, had no annual assessments for rank-and-file employees. But a government agency I worked at gave assessments at the end of each project, and then layered on a separate promotion-evaluation system!
The Organization’s People
It is important to find out about the people you will work with on a day-to-day basis. So consider asking the following:
- Who would I be working for? (Who will I report to, and)
- How many people, if any, will I be supervising?
The job description or announcement you answered may list the title of the person you would report to. This is not necessarily the person who would supervise you day-to-day, so ask this question. If you are staying in the same industry or function you may find out your immediate supervisor is someone you know. Your prior experience with that person—good or bad–could impact your decision about accepting the job, if offered.
It’s is also important to know whether or not you will be expected to supervise. Find out who will report to you and meet them if you can. You may know whether or not you want to work with this group if you know some of the team from previous jobs.
The people we work with make or break the office experience for most of us, so if anything you learn about co-workers raises a red flag for you, carefully consider whether or not to accept the job.
Opportunities for Advancement and Growth
A reason some of us embark on career transitions is because we are seeking advancement. For example, a recent client found she has no opportunity for advancement at her job because the company is a family business. As a result, she will not be considered for a leadership role.
Questions related to advancement you may want to ask include:
- Does the company typically promote from within?
- Are there opportunities for training in this role?
- What are the company’s plans for growth?
- What opportunities are there for advancement in this position?
Career advancement paths and growth plans at the organization interviewing you may be explained either in job announcements or on the organization’s website at larger companies. You will probably have to ask about the potential for promotions, training, and career growth in smaller o
Next Steps in the Process.
Most of us, I suspect, remember to ask about next steps when we are truly interested in pursuing the opportunity. Specific suggested questions include:
- Is there any other information I can provide? Any final questions I can answer?
- What is the next step in the hiring process?
- When do you expect to make a decision about the role?
Most of us ask the last two questions as we walk out the door or are ready to exit Zoom. We don’t always ask about whether the employer would like to know anything else. It’s similar to the “is there anything else I can help you with” question we ask customers, so it may remind the hiring team of our great client relationship-building skills. In fact, the whole process of turning the interview around and “interviewing the employer” should demonstrate your ability to serve internal and external customers, deal with vendors and regulators, or conduct any other interpersonal interactions the job requires. That’s a “win-win.”