The night before an interview, everyone frantically prepares the answers to questions they anticipate may be asked during the interview. While this is an essential part of preparing for an interview, it is not the only part.
An interview is a two-way street. It is just as important to ask questions of the interviewer about the position, reporting structure, team dynamics, department and company structure, company culture, and career paths. Always walk into an interview armed with your own list of questions and be sure to get them all answered. Request a follow-up conversation if you run out of time and don’t get all of your questions answered, or the interviewer does not know the answer. You owe it to yourself to get the best possible understanding of your new job and feel confident that this will be a successful next step for your career.
Below are some key questions to ask and reason for asking them:
1. What are the specific responsibilities of the role?
Goal: To fully understand the roles and responsibilities of the positions. Job descriptions can be generic and outdated so push for clarity if needed.
2. What are the skills and attributes you value most for someone being hired for this position?
Goal: To understand what skills they are looking for and evaluate how they match with your skills.
3. What types of skills do you NOT already have onboard that you’re looking to fill with a new hire?
Goal: To understand what skill gaps exist on the team. If you identify this early you can prepare yourself to standout by exhibiting these skills from the start.
4. What are the performance expectations of this position over the first 12 months?
Goal: To understand how you will be evaluated in the role. Use this information to prepare a 30 day plan before you start on Day 1.
5. What are the most immediate challenges of the position that need to be addressed in the first three months?
Goal: To dig below the surface and understand the true dynamics of the role. This is one way to identify for red flags or challenges others may have faced in the past.
6. What does a typical day or week look like for someone in this position? Who is a typical client or customer I would be dealing with?
Goal: Leverage this question to understand what the hours are for the role, who you will interact with, whether you will have exposure to leadership, and how you will spend your time (meetings vs. behind computer)
7. What happened to the last person who held this job?
Goal: To understand why the role is open. Is it a newly created position? Did the individual get promoted? Fired? Leave the company?
8. How many people are on the team and what are their backgrounds?
Goal: To understand who your peers are and what skills they bring to the table. If everyone on the team has less work experience than you, then the role may be below your skill level or you may have leverage to negotiate a higher salary.
9. How is the team structured?
Goal: You want to understand how your role fits into the broader team and how responsibilities may vary. Does everyone have the same responsibilities? Is the reporting structure the same?
10. What does the career path look like for someone in this role? How long do people typically stay in this role? Where have they gone after?
Goal: To understand how quickly people are promoted from this role and where in the organization they end up. You want to understand if the company values multiple roles in the same department or cross-functional experience throughout the organization.
11. What are the levels in the company?
Goal: To understand the organization structure and how hierarchical it is. A company with fewer layers may be easier to navigate or get promoted.
12. What is the overall structure of the company and how does your department fit into the structure?
Goal: To understand if the role matches with the department you want to be in. For example, there may be a project management role in various departments across the organization. You also want to understand which departments have decision-making power.
13. What is the culture of the company? Department?
Goal: To get beyond the mission statement on the website and understand what type of environment you will truly be working in. Ask if there is a competitive spirit or a collaborative culture.
14. How do people succeed in this organization? What behaviors are they rewarded for?
Goal: To understand what the organization values in its people. You will want to know if the company is a meritocracy, rewards hard work, long hours, relationships and/or work-life balance.
15. What will the company look like in 5 years?
Goal: This is a difficult question that challenges the hiring manager to think about the future of the company. Your goal is to understand if the company is growing, transforming, or mature. This will also give you a perspective on how forward thinking the manager/company is.