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Questions to Ask

Updated 08/07/2017
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   Have you ever started a new job and realized most
   the people who sat in your new area are gone?
   Come questions will be "danced on" or pushed to
   the side when it raises red flags. On the other hand
   all those empty desk means future opportunity.

  • What does an ideal candidate for this position look like?
    [ Alternative questions:  What you are looking for from a candidate?
                                          What is on your wish list for the perfect candidate? ]

    Ask these questions early in the interview to gain insight on what they want to hear you
    talk about. Doing it later may not afford you the time to cover these areas well.  In general.
    there may not be a consensus between the interviewers ... no "perfect candidate". The key
    with the question is to probe the hiring manager about what they care about. From this you
    can tailor your responses to align with the hiring manager's cares.

  • What are the qualities you are looking for in an employee?
    This is another great way to demonstrate your confidence, and a superb opportunity to steer the conversation towards your skills and achievements in the work place. Obviously, you’ll have to be quick off the mark with this one as many interviewers will start off by asking what your qualities are – so try and get in there first.

  • Tell me about your most successful employees.  What was their difference?
    The answer should help you understand how a company defines success and what specific
    behaviors can lead to success. If you know the target, you can at least aim at it.

  • What are the prospects for growth and advancement?
    Employers like to know that a candidate is around for the long haul and not just killing time before another more attractive role comes up. Asking about what the future holds, for both you and them, gives the impression that your plans are long term and you are dedicated and committed.

  • Based on our conversations today, can you see me being successful in this role?
    This is a "sales closing probe" to see if they are convinced to hire you. If there are doubts you need
    to identify the areas for those doubts. There is always the potential you can talk in greater detail
    once you know a target they have. Such inquiry by you shows your interest and ability to handle
    a dynamic situation. Work to obtain their confidence in you as their candidate before leaving.

  • Why did you join the company?
    If the response centers on vacation days or benefits, this may be as good as it will get for you. If they go into creativity or integrity of their brand(s) this place may be a winner.

  • What do you like about working here?
    This creates a role reversal, as the interviewer is now being interviewed. This question brings
    insight into what it is like to be an employee through the eyes of a manager who sees the good
    and the bad which exist in any company. If enthusiasm is the key message about their people or
    culture, the company is likely to be a happy, welcoming place.  Any vague response or hesitation
    in answering may suggest some problems. 

  • Why is this position vacant?
    Jobs open up for a variety of reasons — some positive, some negative. Was the job created because the company is expanding? Was the previous person promoted? Or did he quit or get fired?
    The employer’s answer will help you determine whether the job has strong room for growth or a high turnover rate.

  • What is a typical day like for this position?
    Most job postings list the position’s responsibilities without saying how much time is allocated to each responsibility. You want to know this information for two reasons. First, if your typical workday includes spending hours doing something you dislike, you may want to reconsider whether it’s the right job for you. Second, by discovering which job functions are most important to the employer, you can tailor the remainder of your interview to those areas and include them in your interview follow-up.

  • How does this role further the company's Mission?
    Job duties and company culture are important o understand, but knowing why a company and the role exists is perhaps as important. This helps you understand if you are aligned with the company's mission you will feel a sense of purpose in your new role.

  • How would you describe the company culture?
    This is one of the single-most important questions to ask. The employer’s response will help you understand what it’s like working there day-to-day, what the company values, how colleagues interact with one another, and so on. If you’re going to spend the majority of your waking hours on the job, you should make sure the company culture is a good fit. 

  • What are the goals of the company over the next five years?
    How does this position and this department factor into those goals?
    This question demonstrates your goal-oriented nature and suggests that you won’t job hop right away. An informed response will give you insight into the organizational structure and how your position fits into it. An uninformed response suggests the hiring manager is out of touch with the organization, the organization does a poor job communicating its goals to employees, or the organization is not thinking long-term. None of these are a good sign.

  • Who do you consider the company's top competitor, and why?
    You should already have an idea of the company’s major competitors, but it can be useful
    to ask your interviewer for their thoughts. Naturally, they will be able to give you insight
    you can’t find anywhere else.
    IF THIS IS A PUBLICLY HELD COMPANY find this information through your research.
    Then raise it as a question if there are other companies seen as a large competitor. This will
    reflect your interest by virtue of having done research.

  • What are the biggest opportunities facing the company/department
    right now?
    This question shows your drive to seize opportunity and may help you learn more about
    where the company will be focusing over the next several months.

  • What are the biggest challenges facing the company/department right now?
    On the flip side, you may want to ask about challenges. This question can help you uncover
    trends and issues in the industry and perhaps identify areas where your skills could save the day.

  • Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities of this job? 
    This is your chance to learn as much as possible about the role so you can decide whether this is a
    job you really want. By learning more about the day-to-day tasks, you will also gain more insight
    into what specific skills and strengths are needed and you can address any topics that haven’t
    already been covered

  • What do you think are the most important qualities for someone to excel in
    in this role?
    This question can often lead to valuable information that’s not in the job description. It can help
    you learn about the company culture and expectations so you can show that you are a good fit.

  • What do you feel the person who previously had this position did exceptionally well?
    This question gives you two pieces of information. First, was there a previous person and this is a
    new position or role. Second, if there was a previous person it may be the manager you are interviewing with. This can be a strong advantage for greater insight into the role and remember
    they are selecting their replacement. The third gives you insight into what the hiring manager may be primarily focused on thus guiding you in your answers.

  • What do you feel they could have done differently to help you with your           overall goals?
    First, you are showing you are a team player helping your manager achieve their goals which
    makes them look better ... a team player. It also can provide insight into how they want their
    people to work with him. Both these can guide your responses to the interviewer.

  • What is the typical career path for someone in this role?
    This question can help you learn whether the company promotes from within, and how career
    advancement works within the organization. By asking the question, you show your interest in
    growing with the organization — just be careful not to phrase it in a way that sounds too self-serving (i.e. When can I expect a raise and a promotion?).

  • What are your expectations for this role during the first 30 days, 60 days, year?
    Find out what your employer’s expectations are for the person in this position.

  • What tangible goals to you have for this position?
    Shows additional interest in the position by asking what the objectives the selected candidate
    may be given to achieve. Candidates who look forward and into the position people a hiring
    manager wants on their team.

  • Are there any certain certifications or ongoing education that I should
    be thinking about to bring this position up to a higher level of productivity?
    An interest in expanding the skills and knowledge is a positive sign to the interviewer. Not
    everyone wants to continue evolving, learning what is new, expanding their horizons that in the
    end benefit both the employee and the company.

  • Why do you like working here?
    A moment’s hesitation followed only by, “Uh… yeah… I do” might be a red flag. A smile and explanation of why he likes working there, on the other hand, signifies a more genuine response.
    If you interview with multiple employees during your job interview, ask them each similar questions. This is particularly helpful when it comes to the subjective questions (e.g. “How would you describe the company culture?” and “Do you like working here?”).
    Doing so will help you paint a more complete picture of the organization, which will help you make the best decision once you’re offered the job. 

  • Is there anything I can tell you about myself?
    This is your chance to really put the interviewer/s on the back foot. Don’t wait for them to prompt you, get in there first and ask them if there is anything they would like to know. Not only does this show great confidence; it also eliminates any awkward pauses and gaps in the conversation.  

  • If I am offered this position, when would you like me to start?
    If a start date hasn’t already been stated in the job description, it’s a good idea to establish just when you might be required. Don’t go overboard with this one. Maybe slot it in at the end if there is time for a few extra questions. You want to appear confident, but at the same time you don’t want to seem presumptuous. 

  • How do I compare with the other candidates you’ve interviewed for this role?
    This is a slightly risky choice. You don’t want to put the interviewer in an awkward position. 
    However, if things are going well and you’ve built a strong rapport, this question can help you see
    if there are any concerns or issues that you could address to show why you’re the best person for
    the job.

  • What, if anything, in my background gives you pause?
    This is an opportunity to discuss any objections or hesitations during the interview to either realize this is not a fit or clear any misunderstandings and show your strengths in their terms.

  • Is there any reason why you wouldn't want to hire me?
    This question can be intimidating to ask during the interview because it is so straightforward.
    If there is a reservation about offering you the position, address this now before the decision is
    made by making clarifications or providing additional information.  Putting this issue to rest reduces
    your risk or rejection once the interview ends.  Generally, if the interviewer has no issues or concerns,
    it is harder to exclude you, and your coming forth shows you have interest insuring there is complete understanding between groups in anything you do.

  • What have I not asked that most candidates raise?
    Lumping yourself with all other candidates shows a level of confidence.  However you're gaining
    insight into your potential competitors.

  • What is the turnover rate in the company, both in the executive suite and the department?
    Given companies are more inclined to "churn the employees" than retain people, it is good to know where the "window of risk" begins. Judge what you action will be if the number is unreasonable.

  • When can I expect you to contact me?
    Another one for when the interview is winding up, but this is actually a very important point. In the digital and e-mail age, some companies don’t feel the need to inform unsuccessful applicants, instead taking the view that no news is bad news. But it’s only fair that you find out how your interview went. So, make sure you get confirmation of when you will be informed and don’t be afraid to make a follow-up call or even request feedback.     

    Hiring managers are evaluated, in part, by any "bad hires" they make. If a hiring manager has too
    many bad hires, their manager often begins interviews to replace the fired hiring manager.

     These questions are appropriate as you enter the final steps of the interview process and begin
     negotiations with the hiring manager of a Human Resources representative.  If you do deal with
     the hiring manager, they may be communicating with Human Resources during the process.