Interviews can be stressful experiences but at the end of each one, you'll have the opportunity to put your own questions to the hiring manager. Here are nine to help you to assess if this job - and this company - matches your career aspirations and values.
Why is this job vacant and how long has it been open?
You need to know whether the vacancy is a new role, the result of an internal promotion or an employee’s resignation to give you some insight into what you are walking into if you are offered the job. A brand new position is great news as you have the opportunity to set the standards for success. If it’s been open for a while, find out why. Have any previous candidates turned the job down? Is the salary uncompetitive? Are the employer’s expectations unrealistic? If an offer has been turned down more than once treat it as a big red flag.
What do you expect from the successful candidate in the first three months?
This question shows you are determined to hit the ground running. It’s also helpful for you to evaluate your suitability for the role. If the employer’s expectations are ‘pie in the sky’, you may want to reconsider your application. Skip forward one year; with that sort of pressure what will the job (and you) look like then?
What common characteristics are shared by your most successful people?
You want to know what it will take to join the company’s high achievers. Employers measure success in different ways depending on their culture. Their priorities may be based solely around sales figures or perhaps on boosting levels of employee engagement. The hiring manager’s response will also offer insight into company culture. If you’re really keen, emphasise your skills and experience that are relevant to the vacancy to the job to remind the interviewer why you are their number one candidate.
What potential challenges will the successful candidate face in the first three months?
No job is perfect. Everyone has bad days, no matter how much they love what they do. If you are going to be successful in this role you need to know in advance what is going to get in your way, especially if your success is linked to achievement of specific performance objectives. If a measure of that success is the implementation of a new strategy already facing resistance from existing employees, how will you overcome that? Don’t be under any illusions; once the euphoria of starting a new job has faded and reality kicks in you don’t want to find out you’ve made a mistake.
What does a typical working week involve in this position?
What does this job look like? If the answer involves regular nights away from home or leaving the office at 7pm every day you need to carefully consider the potential disruption to your work/life balance.
What career development opportunities are available?
This question signals that you are thinking long-term and want a position that offers you the chance to progress. The best employers recognise talent and provide mentoring, training and personal development to retain their best people. You need to find out if this company is one of them.
What challenges is the business facing?
If you’ve done your research you’ll already have an idea of potential problems. Has the employer announced any redundancies in the last five years? Do they operate in a buoyant market? How do they respond to changes in the economic climate? How have they adapted to changes brought about by technology? Are they profitable? If your current employer is unstable or you experienced redundancy in a previous job, you need stability in your next role..
Why do you work for this company
If a toxic company culture is the reason for you changing jobs, don't swap your present environment for one that is equally as bad. If the hiring manager’s answer is anything less than positive (and authentic) you need to reassess the opportunity.
I am really interested in this opportunity. Do you need any more information to demonstrate my suitability for the role?
This is more appropriate for the final round of interviews and it was a question I generally advised all of my candidates to ask as a recruiter. It’s your last chance to let the employer know you really want this job so ask for it! Take the opportunity to recap relevant achievements and skills discussed during the interview too.
A final tip on follow-up
Always send a post-interview thank you note to your interviewer. Thank them for their time and reiterate your interest in the vacancy by reminding them of your experience and qualifications that are relevant the skills you share with their top performers.
Whether it’s an e-mail or handwritten note depends on the culture of the company. To be prompt, send an e-mail. If your interviews have been confirmed by letter you may also choose to send a handwritten note. Don’t follow up by text message and include your contact details – your ‘nudge’ may prompt the hiring manager to get in touch.
Have you reached a point in your career where you’re not sure how to move forward? Our free career development e-book takes you through a series of step by step guides to help you decide how to move forward. Download your copy here.
A version of this article first appeared on Social Hire.
With 18 years of experience in in recruitment, Kate Smedley offers a range of talent solutions for employers and careers advice for professionals.