I’m a firm believer that job interviews should be a two-way conversation. Accepting a job offer is a huge decision, and it should never be considered lightly. When the time comes to make that decision (and it will—keep at it!), you need to be as informed as possible about what you’re getting into in order to make the right decision for your career and your lifestyle. To that end, you should come to every interview prepared with a thoughtful list of questions for your interviewer.
He or she will likely expect you to have questions prepared; it shows that you’ve spent time considering the role and the company, and that you’re in it for the long haul. It’s wise to ask questions that are specific to the business and the role you’re interviewing for, but you should also ask questions that speak to the broader environment. The trick is not to come off making your interviewer feel as if he or she is being interviewed—as if there’s another place you’d rather work more—so remember to express your interest. No matter your field, here are a few questions that should help you come decision time.
What is holding the company back?
Running a business is about solving problems, so every company under the sun has challenges. If it doesn’t have visible roadblocks, then a company needs to innovate—both are hurdles. Learning what those are is essential to seeing how you fit into the bigger puzzle. Do you have a skill or resource that they need? Can you use that as leverage in negotiating? Could their biggest new project be an exciting opportunity for you? Or… is their biggest challenge something that you think puts them at risk?
Who is your ideal candidate?
This is a very standard question, for a number of reasons. For one, learning what a potential employer is looking for gives you the opportunity to show (or tell) your qualifications. I like to ask this because it inspires sharing. You’ve already read what the role’s requirements are on the job listing, but after asking this question, you might find that there’s something else your employer is looking for—something that can work for or against you. Or perhaps the role has changed since the position was first listed.
What does a typical day look like in this role?
I’ve asked this question in a few past interviews and have been completely surprised by the response. In one case, I learned that the role was remote, and I’d assumed it was an in-office position. Just because you’ve had a similar title in the past doesn’t mean things work the same at the company you’re interviewing for.
Is this a management role?
Knowing whether you’ll be managing others is of utmost importance. In some roles, it may be quite evident, while in others it could go either way. Managing others, if you’re not already, could be a big step up in your career, but plenty of people don’t find it suits their personalities. Find out.
What do you love about working here?
The phrasing of this question should set you up to receive an emotional response, one way or another. A strong answer from your interviewer should get you more excited about the opportunity than you already are.
How would you describe the company’s culture?
The culture of the company you work for will ultimately have a major impact on your happiness there. More and more companies are shedding the corporate ways of yore in favor of flexible work-from-home policies, regular happy hours, dog-friendly offices, casual dress codes, and the like, but still, there are plenty of businesses with a strict, bureaucratic environment, and you should know what you’re in for. If you’re a mom and hoping to work from home on irregular hours so you can care for your family, a Big Four accounting firm with a corporate code may not have a suitable culture for you.
What is your (or the executive) vision for where the company will be in five years?
Asking a potential employer about the future of the company signals to him or her that you’re not planning to jump ship anytime soon, which is always a good thing. But learning about where the company is headed (or hoping to head) could open up a much wider conversation for you. Are they hoping to expand internationally in the next three years? Would that offer you some travel or management opportunities? Are they planning to sell or hoping to go public? Both of those situations could dramatically change the course of your role and your career.
What would you add to this list? There are no wrong answers! Tell us below.