I. Love. Job Interviews.
Call me crazy. Some people get super freaked out about job interviews. I love them, because not only are they a great way to convince companies to hire you, but they are also a great way for you to learn about them. This requires preparing for all sorts of interview questions.
In my professional career, I believe I have attended more than 75 interviews as a candidate. This includes in-person interviews at a placement exchange or on campus. I’m not counting phone interviews. But if you count those, I’m easily over 100.
Having worked in 9 different jobs in 7 different states in the past 25 years, I’ve learned a few things about the questions I need to ask in order to determine if the organization is a good fit for me. Ultimately, there is one little thing is more important than title, salary, or benefits.
It’s not whether YOU are a good fit for them…it’s if the EMPLOYER is a good fit for you. They’ve already done their initial research, and they already believe you qualify. If you are approaching the interview from a research standpoint, you now need to determine if this place of employment is one where you will thrive, grow, and make a difference.
What I’ve learned over the years is that employees come to a job interview with different needs in mind. I will always be concerned about work/life balance and opportunities for professional development. However, you might be more interested in supervision, your team, the history of the company, office culture, or the job selection process itself.
With that in mind, here are 8 questions you can ask that cover all the bases.
1. What are the biggest challenges that someone in this position would face?
This question is on the job itself. It really helps pull from the interviewer what they are looking for in the new hire.
“Challenges” winds up being a trigger word for “wish list,” so when you ask the interviewer about challenges in the position, you are asking them to specify the type of employee they are seeking; but you are showing the interviewer that you are up to the task and want to push yourself to raise the bar on your performance.
2. What training programs are available to your employees?
This is a basic, simple question that could be expanded depending on the answer. Personally, this is my favorite question about training and professional development.
Whatever specific training is offered or included from the get-go will be illustrated in an answer, but the interviewer may also provide you with details on professional associations, annual conferences, or other training/development that happens in the organization.
If you have room for a follow up question, ask what conferences or seminars other professionals in this position have been able to attend.
3. What will you expect from me during the first day, first week, and first month of employment?
I’ve always loved asking this question as a recruiter, but it will also get to the heart of what your supervisor or team leader is looking for in the early days of your tenure.
General expectations should be unveiled, as well as the spirit and attitude expected as you get to know your team and your department. Pay close attention to these expectations, especially if you are being interviewed by the person who will be your immediate supervisor.
4. What gets you most excited about this company’s future?
Here’s where you’ll get a sense of the organization’s vision, especially if you are attending a panel interview and have the benefit of several people answering this question.
This is one of my favorite questions to ask since it will give you a sense of what makes the employees happy in their work. You’ll also get a possible inside scoop on who might be somewhat unhappy at the moment as there will be a short pause before that person answers the question.
5. What are my direct report’s strengths and the team’s biggest challenges?
If you are going for a management position where you’ll be supervising a team, this is a great place to get started learning about them.
If the hiring manager is unable to share this information with you, tweak the question slightly by asking about the hiring requirements for those folks who will be part of your team. At the very least, you can get a sense of what is required for those employees who will report to you.
6. Can you tell me about the last team (or office) event you did together?
This question will help you determine if you are going to work for a fun, progressive organization or a more conservative, traditional one.
If their last event was a store-bought cake for all the February birthdays, then you know already that there isn’t much socialization outside of the workplace….or that much creativity, for that matter.
However, if the most recent event was a team building retreat and ropes course out in the woods, then get ready for a very team-driven and close knit community at work.
7. What are the next steps in the selection process?
This may seem obvious, but not all employers have this information together during the interview, or the hiring manager may not know it.
If you are interviewing with a traditional selection committee, they should be able to outline exactly what’s going to happen next: a second level interview, checking references, and so forth. They may even let you know how soon you’ll know any updates.
But be prepared to leave the interview without this information and know that you’ll need to follow up. At least by asking it, the potential employer will know that you are still interested and want to be kept up to date.
8. What do each of you enjoy the most about working here; and what is one thing you would change if you could?
This is my very favorite question to ask at the end of the interview. It is best utilized if you have a full panel interviewing you. This was one of the questions that really made me shine at my most recent interview, which was for the position I have now and have had for the past 6 years.
In my years of job searching and interviewing, I have found that this one question lets me know a good cross-section of the things that make employees happy, as well as the things that bother them. If I hear the same thing more than once, I mark that down.
As a candidate, you may only have the luxury of asking one question; but have these questions on hand and review them often before the interview.
Remember, the interviewing team or manager is not the only one making a decision here. You should be armed with as much data-gathering material as possible, so when you get the chance to ask, you are ready. If not, use these questions as a follow up call or email for the hiring manager.
Best of luck on your interview — you’ve got this!
More Tips for Nailing an Interview
- How to Answer the Interview Question “What Motivates You?”
- How to Ace an Interview: 17 Things That Hiring Managers Look For
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