Job interviews aren’t just about selling yourself and proving you’re the right person for the job, they’re also an important opportunity to get to know the company deeply and think very carefully whether the role suits you or not.
Asking smart questions at your interview gives you the information you need to assess if you agree with the company’s core values, what opportunities you’ll get for personal development, and whether the culture will allow you to perform at your best.
Here’s a list of the most important questions you should ask in every job interview.
1. How do you see this position evolving in the next 3 years?
This interview question is a favourite of Jared Brown (co-founder of Hubstaff) because it politely and subtly shows the candidate is looking for a role where they can blossom long term. It’s an important question to ask since it can help you gauge whether or not the role will help you achieve your long term career objectives. For example, if you’re looking to move up to a more senior position, this question can help you identify whether the vacancy will see you take on new responsibilities, and broaden your appeal among other employers, or get promoted internally.
It can also help to identify whether the role may be unsuitable for your own goals. For example, if the interviewer cannot give you a clear answer, you might consider it as a dead-end job. Alternatively, the role may evolve in a different direction to your own career goals, such as leading you down a very specialized path that could actually make you less employable outside of that specific business or industry sector.
2. How will the work I’ll be doing contribute to the organization’s mission?
This is a great question recommended by Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likable Local. This is not a question meant to simply give you an ego boost, but it will help you understand whether you’ll be considered a vital part of the operation or not. The fact is if the role you’re applying for is not of significant importance to the oganization’s mission, the management may give you and your department less resources for completing projects, and smaller budgets for pay rises and bonuses. Worse still, it’s these non-essential departments that often are the first to see redundancies and cuts should there be a downturn in business. It could be simply because the business doesn’t see them as important to their survival.
As a result, this question helps give you some clues as to whether or not you’ll be provided everything you need to be successful and contribute to the company’s growth, or if you’ll end up struggling for internal resources and receive less job security in a less important part of the business.
3. How would you define success in this position?
This is one of the most important questions you can ask, as the answer can give you “insider information” about the role that isn’t readily available elsewhere. When answering this question, the hiring manager will give you some clues as to how your career goals align with the role. For example, you’ll discover more about the specific skills that you’ll require, the true priorities of the role, the workplace culture, and (most significantly) an insider’s perspective of what it takes to secure the role.
This will help you piece together a benchmark for the standards the company will expect you to work towards, as well as an understanding of whether you have the right skills.
4. What’s the company culture like?
Since you’ll be spending much of the day at work, it’s important to ensure you take a role at a business with a culture you’re comfortable with. A key reason to ask this question is to establish what the work-life balance is like in the role. For example, will you have the opportunity to work at home or get flexible hours, or will you need to stay in the office? Similarly, do workers typically work longer than their contracted hours, or do they often get asked to work weekends? This question is critical to ensure you’re comfortable with the demands of the role, ensuring you don’t get burnout or begin to resent going to work.
5. Do you offer continual training and professional development?
This is an important question to ask, as it will give you key information about how you’ll be able to progress your career. Good businesses invest in their staff, so you’ll want to be sure that you’ll receive training on new skills. This training will help you secure promotions, as well as open up new career prospects elsewhere. This is a great follow up to Question 1, as it helps dig a bit deeper about how the hiring managers see your role moving forwards, and whether you’ll be on a fast track to success or stuck in the same role for years.
6. Why has this position become available?
Finding out why the job is available is a subtle way of finding out about any challenges or opportunities the business may be facing. For example, the role may be brand new, suggesting the company is growing. It could be that the previous holder was promoted, indicating the role is a route towards promotion. Conversely, the vacancy may be as a result of someone leaving; or downsizing with two former roles turning into one. Therefore, this question can help show what development opportunities are available, as well as if the company isn’t doing too well.
7. How does the role relate to the overall structure of the organisation?
This is a great question to find out who you’ll be working with on a day-to-day basis. It also shows you have a preference to teamwork and contributing to the success of the firm. The answer will help reveal who you’ll be reporting to and who will be reporting to you, or conversely whether you’ll be reporting to several people through matrix management. This is a great way to discover whether or not the role will suit your style of working. Look for an answer that matches your preference, like whether you’re more comfortable working in a team, or prefer to take full control over projects.
8. What concerns do you have about me for this position?
While quite direct, this is a good question to wrap up the interview with because it reveals right there and then any reasons why you may not get the job, giving you an opportunity to counter these. For example, the interviewer may suggest you lack the experience of other candidates, which you can counter by discussing your experience in more detail. Similarly, they may have misunderstood a point you had made earlier, allowing you to resolve this before it’s too late.
Featured photo credit: Alan Cleaver via farm5.staticflickr.com