Interviewing Your Next Employer

Female Woman Sitting At Interview

Portrait Of Female Woman Sitting At Interview

Do you have any questions for me? Almost every interviewer asks this question of a candidate. If you, the candidate, do not have any questions prepared, you are doing interviewing wrong. For a bevy of reasons, not every employer is able to  or willing to disclose or share everything about the job, the company, the culture, and the environment during the interview process, although, a good employer will try to do so. But, it is up to you, the candidate, to ask those questions and find out the answers during the interview phase.

Think of the interview not as the one-sided, fact-finding mission of the employer vetting the candidate, rather, think of the interview as a mutual invitation for the employer and candidate to determine what value each can bring the other and if both parties’ needs can be aligned for the benefit of both.

Consider asking the following questions:

  1. What is the company’s mission and vision? What are the company’s short-, medium-, and long-term goals and objectives? Companies that do strategic planning well will have clear answers to these questions. However, most companies do not do strategic planning altogether, and authority may be concentrated at the top of the executive leadership where business plans and actions may be based on as little as whims or knee-jerk reactions. These questions will help to determine where the potential employer may fall on this spectrum of reactivity or proactivity.
  2. Describe the typical flow of communication throughout the company? Or, how are corporate goals and objectives communicated to all employees? Again, companies that do strategic planning most effectively not only have a mission, vision and goals but intentionally create communication mechanisms to make sure ALL employees from their non-exempt to their management know what is going on. Clear, consistent and transparent communication from the top-down correlates with high engagement scores amongst employees.
  3. What is the purpose of this position and how does it directly relate to the company’s success? If you are going to invest 40 or more hours in a week at something, don’t you want to know the purpose and agree that it’s a purpose worth working for?
  4. What are the company’s biggest strengths and challenges? What is the biggest challenge to the position? In the business world where things change daily, good employers should have a handle on their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Also, not all positions are easy peasy lemon-squeezey, there are challenges to all jobs whether they are a lack of IT systems, outdated processes or manual heavy-lifting. Employers who have an ear to the ground and a true open door policy will know the pain points of the position and should be willing to share them.
  5. What is the company’s compensation and benefits philosophy? This one will probably make most interviewers squirm because most companies do not have a philosophy. But since you already know this, the reaction to this question both verbally and non-verbally will be key to knowing how the company recognizes its employees via extrinsic rewards.
  6. How would your employees describe your management style? Here, you are looking for the managers ability to delegate not only the details but certain levels of authority. Is he or she the type of manager who is going to not only care about the outcome of your work but also be all up in your shit about how you get the work done?
  7. How is performance evaluated? Is it informal or formal? Everyone likes to know whether their performance is meeting the company objectives and their managers’ expectations. Does the company actively manage performance all year round, does the company do a once-a-year formal performance review or do they take the position of, “if you are doing well, you won’t hear anything from me but you’ll certainly know if you aren’t”.
  8. Does the company have formal succession plans? How are high-potential employees developed? Key talent can and will leave an organization for any number of planned or unplanned reasons. Find out if the company develops from within and how they do it.
  9. Does the company have a formal professional development plan? What does it look like? Find out if the employer has written and/or formal development plans for high-potential employees, if the employer funds professional designations and adult education and if the employer has internal training programs. The answers to these questions will help you find out if and how the company invests in its employees.
  10. Why is this position vacant? Why did the last incumbent leave? Many times, the employer or recruiter will already answer this question. If they do not, find out why the position is open- is it due to growth, to answer a need or to fill an opportunity area? If the position is open because the incumbent left, probe further to determine if there is something inherently bad about the position or if management is causing attrition.

Pepper these questions throughout your interview. Ask them of multiple interviewers. Jot down questions to ask interviewers so you can probe deeper or ask for clarification. Listen and observe non-verbal cues. An employer worthy to have your talent, will be eager and happy to answers these questions, will be ABLE to answers these questions and will honestly answer the questions even if the answer is less than great. The more information you can gather from the interviewers, the more information you will have to make an informed decision about an offer.

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