A job interview should be a two-way conversation. While the hirer is trying to determine if you are a good fit for the position you, the candidate, should use the interview to figure out if the company is a place where you want to work.
According to former recruiter Barbara Saunders, now a small business teacher and coach, here are some examples of questions you should ask during an interview and why you should ask them.
1. Is this a new role or has this role existed previously with your company?
- If it's a new role: Why did you create this role?
- If it's an existing role: Are you adding a person or replacing a person?
- If the company is replacing a person: Why did the last person leave?
You want to get a sense of how your role or position fits into the rest of the team or company. Does the company want you to carry out a clear set of objectives or tasks due to growth or are you mitigating change that has already happened? Are you managing the status quo? Will you be solving a problem the company hasn't yet really solved and expects the new employee to solve? A new position might have had a lot of turnover due to reorganization or new management.
2. Who are the main people and groups I'd be collaborating with?
This helps you understand your place in the hierarchy better than titles do. Position titles vary so much from company to company and entity to entity. One organization's Project Coordinator is a project manager overseeing the work of several groups while the same position at another organization is a consulting, project-based position that is the administrative support for a single group.
3. What are some of the paths you see in your company for the person who holds this position?
This question can help you understand the culture of the company and will likely bring out stories, albeit theoretical ones or really vague ones. Do the employees “go on” or advance to other positions outside of the company? (This is popular in finance, publishing, and entertainment industries.) Are the career paths of successful employees linear (are promotions and raises standard), or do people make lateral moves and have unusual paths? Do people settle in for decades in the same job or move around?
Bring a pen and paper and be prepared to write notes during the interview. If the interview goes well and it looks like it's a fit for both parties, you can use your answers to these questions as notes for the thank you note and follow-up note you'll write later to assure your strong candidacy. (Hint hint on the thank you note and follow-up note.)
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