Going on a job interview is a big milestone in the job search process. In many cases it is the result of completing a number of applications, networking, submitting resumes, and sometimes just being in the right place at the right time. In preparation for the interview, you’ve done your research and practiced answering questions that you are likely to be asked. And now, you feel confident that you will be able to answer questions with relative ease and will be able to showcase your skills and accomplishments in a confident manner.
What you should also consider, however, is that an interview is a two-way street. It’s important for you to be sure that the role, expectations, and work culture are ones that you will be able to perform in successfully. Therefore, it is equally essential that you ask questions that will provide you needed information.
With some preparation and thought, you should be able to easily come up with eight to ten first interview questions to ask. But these five – in some form – should always be asked. These five questions go beyond the obvious ones, such as the title of the job, the job description and to whom the role would be reporting. Not only will they help you to ascertain if the job meets the criterion of your “perfect job,” but the answers will give you a fairly accurate picture that will help you to make a decision should you be offered the role.
Here are the 5 questions candidates should ask during a job interview.
1. What are the top priorities for the role? A job title alone does not tell you much. The job posting may reveal the basics such as a job summary and the basic experience and education requirements. But what about what is functionally required of you on a daily basis? For the same reason that you put your accomplishments on your resume – and not just the job description – here, too, you want to get a sense of the individuality of the job and the expectations.
You want to know what the expectations will be when you walk in the door. Is there damage control that needs to be done? If so, is there a time line for the repair, and is it an achievable one considering your capabilities? Are there new projects on the horizon? Are these priorities realistic regardless of who holds the position?
If you don’t have any information already, this will begin to clue you in about both the supervisor and the previous employee. If you have been provided with some detail already, then the answer should track with what you’ve already learned.
2. Was there a previous person in the role? If so, why did they leave? Generally, in answering the first part, the interviewer will answer the second part as well. But if they don’t, then ask it. And if that person was there an oddly short time, you also want to know how long the previous person before that was there.
See where I’m going with this? If the job is in disarray, and the last two people were there a short period of time and were fired or just left, you don’t need to ask any of the other questions here.
Exit gracefully and then run! Because before long, you, too, may be terminated for not achieving whatever it is they want done – regardless of if the stated time frame sounded realistic or not.
3. What is your management style? How do you bring out the best in your direct reports? Is he a micro manager? Is he an information hound that needs to be kept informed of everything? Does he leave people alone to do what he hired them for and simply keep on top of what’s going on? Does he help you if you have trouble? Is he more of a mentor?
Obviously he’s not going to come right out and tell you he’s a micro manager! Instead he might say, “I like to keep a very close watch on what’s going on in my department,” or “I visit with each member of my department on a daily basis to make sure they’re staying on track,” or something similar.
You’ll find that the person will be fairly straight forward in sharing their management style with you. What you want to pay attention to is how they word it. Then you will be in a position to decide if it is the type of management style that you can work with satisfactorily.
4. What type of individuals thrive in the company? Workaholics? Ones who are self-motivated and manage themselves well? People who work well in teams or groups? Employees who keep their supervisor informed of “where they are with things” on a daily basis?
This tells you something about the pervasive culture in the company or department. Generally speaking, companies – or departments – tend to be made up of similar types of people that are in harmony with the company culture and philosophy.
An entrepreneurial person won’t function well in a micro-managing environment. While sales personalities can vary greatly, the top achievers are goal driven and motivated to achieve, rather than complacent.
People who are accustomed to thinking for themselves will find themselves chafing in a company that has a more dictatorial style, while those who perform better when they’re told what to do will find themselves adrift in a company that requires its employees to think for themselves.
5. How long have you been with the company? What keeps you here? The answer to this question will give you an indication as to the feeling or health of the department or company. The way in which he answers the question will also give you additional insight into your potential boss, his management style, and what type of people excel in the department or company.
REMEMBER: These are informational questions, not challenges. Be genuinely interested in the answer because you’re gaining valuable information that has to do with your future. When you leave the interview and process what you’ve learned, you’ll be matching that with what you are looking for in your next opportunity.
Your perfect job might land in your lap by grace and good fortune. But more likely, you’ll need to look for it. It’s there – but to recognize it, you’ll need to know what it doesn’t look like, as well as what it does.