Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Interview Questions: What Should You Be Asking?

So have done your due diligence prior to the interview and reviewed the company’s web site, googled the names of all of the people that you may be meeting, and reviewed the job specification again. You have also set aside the business interview suit, organized your portfolio to highlight the experience that is reflected on the job specification and committed yourself to getting a good night’s sleep and setting out early enough to account for traffic, public transportation breakdowns and the like.

Great job! But if I were to ask you what the goal was for tomorrow’s interview would you have an answer? Sure, the goal is always to try and have the interview result in an offer however will you learn enough during the course of the interview to know whether it is a job that is consistent with your career aspirations and goals?

When I speak with people that are seeking to embark on a new job search, they often mention negative aspects of their current position that they were not aware of when they accepted the job, aspects of the position that were misrepresented, or questions that they neglected to ask during the interview stage. I offer that you need to be asking questions during the interview related to three critical areas:

1. Roles and responsibilities: Sure you have a copy of the job description however how accurate is the job description? What will be the focus of the position during the first 30 days? The first 90 days? How are roles and responsibilities delineated within the department? How might the focus of your day shift over time? For instance, will you be working to maintain existing learning programs during the first six months and then begin to focus on new development initiatives? Can you see samples of the team’s work?

2. Management and Career Development: The quality and competence of your manager contributes more to your job satisfaction than any other factor. It is very important for you to try and learn as much as you can about how you will be managed and how you will be assessed. Questions could include:

  • If I were to ask members of your staff how would they describe your management style?
  • How do you communicate with members of your staff and what kind of reporting do you require?
  • How often will we meet to discuss my progress?
  • Do you develop annual performance plans with your staff that discusses job and professional development goals?
  • If bonuses are a component of the compensation plan, what criteria is used in determining the bonus award?

The key here is to try and learn as much about the manager’s style and skill as possible. Be sure to validate the answers you hear with your potential peers. There is a world of difference between a skilled and secure professional manager and a poor manager that resorts to micro-management and indecision.

3. Work environment: I strongly advise using your power of observation in assessing the company’s work environment. What words would you use to describe the feeling that you had when you entered the reception area (i.e., warm, collegial, cold, hectic, loud)? How were you made to feel by the receptionist and all of the people that you interacted with?

Try and gauge what a typical work week is like in terms of work load and overtime. Are there specific times when the overtime kicks in? Is overtime the norm? Also, what is the company’s policy regarding working off-site? You goal is to determine whether the work environment will support you in doing your best work.

Take these tips and questions to heart and the likelihood of being unpleasantly surprised will decrease significantly.

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