Questions the Candidate Should Ask During an Interview
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You built a great resume, got the call, put on your best clothes, read the company website, prepped all your answers, nailed each question and as the interview ends, they say “Do you have any questions for us?” All of us have said- "When do you plan to make a decision?" Come on we can do better!
Few candidates take full advantage of the opportunity to really ask a question that lets you assess them. Will they be a good manager and a good company for you? Here are a few things to try. Some may seem too forward, but these are meant to get you thinking.
First, it’s important to know if the company truly invests in its people. Try this: Ask the hiring manager or recruiter how much training do managers get. Be sure to get the break out by virtual and class room. You want a company that invests in its leaders. If they don’t, they will never invest in you. You can say something like- “I may want to get into management someday. Assuming I get a job like that at some point, how much training is required each year?” Wait for the answer, “How is that delivered?”
Companies that care will require training. You don’t want to hear generic answers about the budget or course catalog. You want to hear they think about this individually and they drive it over multiple years.
It’s also important to understand stability. Will this manager be around? Maybe ask, “How long have you been with this customer?” If they say a long time, “How long in this role?” Also, you may follow with, “Wow then you know a lot. From what I said today and my resume, what do you think I’ll really enjoy about working here?” You get- were they listening, did they assess what you care about / do they even care, and how the reasons they have stayed map to your desires.
For those that answer a short time, “How long is a normal rotation for managers and individual contributors?” If they blurt an answer, there isn’t an answer. You want a thoughtful response like, “Typically X years but it varies because we map in your career goals and business needs. You are part of that process by . . . “
Related, an interesting question is how long the VP or PM has been there and when the last re-org was? In some companies, they force rotation to boost innovation. In others, the same people have run it 30 years. You want to follow with a question about the senior leader’s style and focus. Every business has a #1 focus. It’s lip service if they say we care about execution, growth and retention. Sure that’s true, but one is king.
For you ambitious types, “How does your succession process work?” (if you want management or technical ask specifically about the plan in that category). Push them a little on vague answers. Few companies do more than list names on a sheet. You want to hear that they actively manage it. For instance, they may say, “We just built that plan last month.” You: “Oh great, what happens to the most junior person on the list this year then?” Or “what happens next quarter with the list?”
Maybe these won’t work for you, but think of this – what should you ask to assess that this management team is right for you? Don’t ask yes/no questions. For instance, “I’m sure you’ve hired lots of people in my career stage that were successful. Can you tell me about one of them and some of the tough spots that you helped them get over and how you worked together through those issues?”