Ask Smart Questions

Asking The Right Questions

There’s always the standard questions every hiring manager asks: “Tell me about yourself?” “What are your strengths?” “What are your weaknesses…?” etc.

But there’s also one question that almost every interviewer asks, that just about every job candidate struggles with at one point in time or another: “Do you have any questions for me?”

It just looks BAD to not have a question or two for the interviewer: after all – it looks like you really don’t care to engage any further about the company or the job. But what can or should you ask?

  1. How can I get an A rating on my performance review? (this is related to: Can you paint a portrait of the person who has done this job really well? What characteristics or habits did they have?) If it’s a new role, then ask about the “ideal” employee for the job. If it’s a vacancy, be sure you know what you’re being mentally being compared to. This can also lead into a conversation about how the company does performance reviews, how they handle rewards, etc.
  2. How have you dealt with….? This is where your research comes into play: has a massive regulation been thrust on their industry? A new, nimble entrant into the marketplace? Asking a few questions like this that are not only appropriate to your role but pertinent to the company shows you’re on top of the changing market.
  3. What would my first 30-60-90 days look like? Usually this question is taken as “you want to hit the ground running and make a difference.” But don’t forget – you’re interviewing them too. How will your manager get you acculturated into the firm? What is their management style with new employees?
  4. What are the biggest challenges this role will face? It’s nice to have a map to the minefield before you start. Are you interacting with a sales force that has historically not valued corporate marketing’s role? Have there been operational challenges with manufacturing and so you have some relationship building to do? Just as candidates try to present themselves in the best possible light – so do employers. It’s helpful to know what you might be walking into as you’re considering your options. Similar to this line of questioning is “What departments does your department engage with regularly? What interdepartmental relationships are the best Which ones could use some help?
  5. What is the turnover like in this department (organization)? Turnover can speak volumes – but make sure you know what it’s really saying. Is this an entry level department where the manager acculturates you into the company, makes sure you have certain skill sets, and then happily encourages promotions from within? Or are they the long lost cousin to Attila the Hun? When people leave, do they stay with the company? Or do they leave the firm? This can also imply internal promotion opportunities.
  6. What types of people are the most successful in this firm? Can you describe them? This can give you a sense of the characteristics most valued in the firm – and if you’ll be a good fit.
  7. How did you develop your management style or philosophy? This really gives the manager a chance to talk about themselves and how they lead. Pay attention – ask follow up, probing questions. Will you two mesh?
  8. What keeps you up at night about work? How can I be part of the solution for that?
  9. In these budget strapped times, every job hire is really considered closely beforehand. Why did you decide to go outside to hire for this position? Help me understand the unique things you’re looking for this role/me to bring to the table? This may give you a sense of skill sets the department is lacking or their need for fresh perspectives on the industry.

Remember – You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you: this is opportunity to learn more about the firm than what’s on their website and get a feel to see if this is the company that’s right for you.
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