Whether you are a seasoned interviewee, or this is the first time you’ve been career shopping in decades, there are some basic questions you can ask during an interview that will give you an idea if you are a good fit for the company and if they are a good fit for you.
The first interview is just like a first date – you are getting to know each other, and both parties are a bit nervous and maybe even guarded. The difference between a first great date and a lousy one comes down to communication.
Be confident and understand that if a prospective employer isn’t willing to answer one of your questions, they probably aren’t the right company for you!
Feel free to print out the list below and share.
Top questions to ask during an interview
- Do you need me to clarify or elaborate on anything I said or that you read on my resume?
This is a more direct line of questioning than the vague “Have I answered all your questions?”
It offers greater detail on any answers you may have given, allowing the hiring manager to circle back or draw the hiring manager’s eye back to your résumé.
- Who do you think would be the ideal candidate for this position, and how do I compare?
We recommend this question because it’s a quick way to determine whether your skills align with the company’s current needs. If they don’t match up, then you know to walk away instead of wasting time pursuing the wrong position.
- Who would I be reporting to? Are those three people on the same team or on different teams?
It’s important to ask about the pecking order of a company in case you have several bosses. If you’re going to be working for several people, you need to know “the lay of the internal land,” or if you’re going to be over several people, you probably would want to get to know them before accepting the position.
- What do the career paths of those who have held this position look like?
Whether you want to move vertically in the company or not, it’s good to know your opportunities!
- Who do you consider your major competitors? How are you better?
This question is not for the faint of heart, but it shows that you are already thinking about how you can help the company rise to meet some of its bigger goals.
- Beyond the hard skills required to successfully perform this job, what soft skills would serve the company and position best?
Knowing what skill sets the company thinks are important will give you more insight into its culture and management values, so that you can evaluate whether you would fit in.
- How would you describe the company’s culture?
This question gives you a broad view of the corporate philosophy of a company and whether it prioritizes employee happiness.
- What do you like most about working for this company?
This question lets you “create a sense of camaraderie” with the interviewer because “interviewers, like anyone, usually like to talk about themselves and especially things they know well.” Plus, this question gives you a chance to get an insider’s view of the best parts about working for this company.
- Can you give me an example of how I would collaborate with my manager?
Knowing how managers use their employees is important, so you can decide whether they are the type of boss that will let you use your strengths to help the company succeed.
- What’s your timeline for making a decision, and when can I expect to hear back from you?
This one tells them you’re interested in the role and eager to hear their decision. Knowing a company’s timeline should be your ultimate goal during an interview process after determining your fit for the position and whether you like the company’s culture. It will help you to determine how and when to follow up, and how long to wait before moving on.
- Can you tell me what steps need to be completed before your company can extend an offer?
A strong alternative to the decision timeline question — asking about an offer rather than a decision will give you a better sense of what comes next, because “decision” is broad, while “offer” refers to when it’s ready to hand over the contract.
- Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?
While this question puts you in a vulnerable position, it shows that you are confident enough to openly bring up and discuss your weaknesses with your potential employer.
- Is there anything else I can provide to help you make your decision?
This simple question is polite to ask, and it can give you peace of mind to know that you’ve covered all your bases. It shows enthusiasm and eagerness but with polish.
- How would you score the company on living up to its core values? What’s the one thing you’re working to improve?
This is a respectful way to ask about shortcomings within the company — which you should be aware of before joining. As a bonus, it shows that you are being proactive in wanting to understand more about the internal workings before joining.
- What are the challenges of this position?
If the interviewer says, “There aren’t any,” you should be wary of the position’s personal growth possibilities.
- If you were to hire me, what might I expect in a typical day?
This shows your eagerness about the position and it gives you a better idea of what the job would be like on a daily basis so you can decide whether you want to pursue it. A frank conversation about position expectations and responsibilities will ensure not only that this is a job you want, but also one that you have the skills to be successful in.
- What have past employees done to succeed in this position?
The main point of this question is to get your interviewer to reveal how the company measures success.
- What type of employee tends to succeed here? What qualities are the most important for doing well and advancing at the firm?
This question shows the interviewer that you care about your future at the company, and it will also help you decide if you’re a good fit for the position. Once the interviewer tells you what she’s looking for in a candidate, picture that person in your mind’s eye. She or he should look a lot like you.
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
We like this question, and yet no one ever asks it because it’s difficult to answer. It’s an important question for anyone to be asking him or herself, and so if ever a candidate were to ask this question, it would have stood out. This is a good question for interviewees to ask because as a candidate if you see where the person interviewing you is headed, you can decide if that trajectory is in line with your career objectives. While they don’t have to be completely correlated, it’s helpful for the candidate to have some indication of the interviewer’s direction.
- Is there anyone else I need to meet with? Is there anyone else you would like me to meet with?
Knowing whether the company wants you to meet with potential coworkers will give you insight into how much the company values building team synergy. In addition, if the interviewer says you have four more interviews to go, you’ve gained a better sense of the hiring timeline as well.
- How do you help your team grow professionally?
This question shows that you’re willing to work hard to ensure you grow along with your company. It also lets you know if the company is invested in cultivating its talent — and if others will be as dedicated to your own personal growth as you are.
- Can you share more about how the company supports its employees with professional development opportunities?
While many candidates may want to know the potential for growth before taking a job, asking about promotions suggests to recruiters you think the current position is beneath you. You don’t want to imply that you’re looking for that next role before you were trained or provided any value in the role at hand. Instead, ask more open-ended questions, or ask anecdotes of past employee success stories for a more roundabout way to find out how the position can help you grow.
- When your staff comes to you with conflicts, how do you respond?
Knowing how a company deals with conflicts gives you a clearer picture of the company’s culture. Perhaps more importantly, asking about conflict resolution shows that you know dealing with disagreements in a professional manner is essential to the company’s growth and success.
- Is this a new position? If not, why did the person before me leave this role?
This might be uncomfortable to ask, but it’s not uncommon and shows that you are being smart and analytical by wanting to know why someone may have been unhappy in this role. If you find out they left because they were promoted, that’s also useful information.
- Will I have an opportunity to meet those who would be part of my staff during the interview process?
Getting the chance to meet with potential teammates or managers is essential to any professional interview process. If you don’t give that chance, proceed with caution.
- What are some of the problems your company faces right now? And what is your department doing to solve them?
Asking about problems within a company gets the “conversation ball” rolling, and your interviewer will surely have an opinion. Further, their answers will give you insights into their personality and ambitions and likely lead to other questions.
- How do you evaluate success here?
Knowing how a company measures its employees’ success is important. It will help you to understand what it would take to advance in your career there — and can help you to decide if the employer’s values align with your own.
- Where do you see the company in three years, and how would this role contribute to that vision?
Asking this question will show your interviewer that you can think big-picture, you’re wanting to stay with the company long-term, and you want to make a lasting impression in whatever company you end up at.
- What’s your staff turnover rate? What are you doing to reduce it?
While this question may seem forward, it’s a smart question to ask because it shows that you understand the importance of landing a secure position. It is a black-and-white way to get to the heart of what kind of company this is and if people like to work here.
- I read X about your CEO. Can you tell me more about this?
Make sure to research the company you’re interviewing with, not only to shine when answering the questions asked of you, but to be informed and engaged when it’s your turn to ask the questions. Questions like this simply show you’ve done your homework and are genuinely interested in the company and its leaders.
- What’s one of the most interesting projects or opportunities that you’ve worked on?
We like this question because it gets the interviewer thinking about their own experiences. By asking for a specific example, candidates can get a better picture of what the job entails and how people function in certain roles.
- Is there anything we haven’t covered that you think is important to know about working here?
This is a good wrap-up question that gives you a break from doing all the talking. You may also get answers to questions you didn’t even know to ask but are important.
- What do you think my major challenges will be integrating myself into the company, should I get the job?
Sometimes, getting creative with your job interview questions can pay off big time.
Whether you are a prospective candidate or Chief Human Resources Officer it’s good to be prepared for that first date, the getting to know each other phase of the employment dance.
Employers feel free to use the above as a preparation guide for the inevitable questions – or even use when crafting your job postings to better tell the story of who you are looking for and your company culture.
Happy connecting and as always, we at KMR Executive Search are here to help and support your hiring journey. If you have any questions about the process, feel free to give us a call at (860) 404-2526.
I’ve been an employee and an employer (a couple of times) and now as an executive recruiter I’ve seen a lot when it comes to the employee/employer dynamic or what I refer to as “The Dance.”
It’s a fairly safe assumption to make that every late Millennial to the Baby Boomers has seen the iconic scene in Jerry Macguire where Ron Tidwell, played by Cuba Gooding Jr. screams to Jerry, played by Tom Cruise, to “Show me the money!” If you haven’t seen the movie, you can watch the clip here on YouTube. The movie itself is a great example of what’s going on in the world today and has a lot to do with this month’s topic of gratitude and employee wellbeing.
Over the past year plus, many people who had plans to change jobs ended up staying put due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. The “Great Resignation”, coined by Anthony Lotz of Texas A&M University during an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, predicts that those employees are now ready to make their move. In fact, a recent study by Microsoft found that 41% of the global workforce would be open to leaving their current job within the next year.
Over the past 12 months, I’ve seen all the business owner emotions emerge– from panic, to doom and gloom, to “Hey, here’s an opportunity – let’s jump on it” and everything in between. Just when I thought I’ve seen it all – a new twist came into the picture.
Have you ever commented on a social media post of someone looking for a recommendation for a plumber, pet sitter, accountant, etc. and recommended your favorite and most trusted people? If so, you’ve given a referral to someone. Whether solicited or not, you’ve just recommended someone to another person to consult, review, or take further action on because you think they would be a good fit for their need. From a business perspective, getting referrals from satisfied customers is one of the best ways to attract new customers.
For many businesses, word of mouth advertising can say a lot about the quality of your products/services and can help you grow your business organically vs. paid marketing and advertising. Referrals offer the most effective return on investment and carry more weight for most potential customers vs. an online or print ad.
A referral is the ultimate compliment you can get from a customer. In fact, a Nielsen study found that 92% of people trusted recommendations from people they know, and 70% trusted consumer opinions posted online – think Google, Yelp, Facebook, Glass Door, etc. When it comes to choosing the right company/product/service, most people have several options to choose from and a plethora of information online to do their research. At the end of the day, people want to know that their decision is informed, they are getting value, and that their decision is validated by someone’s prior experience.
It doesn’t matter what type of business you own; referrals can still be your best marketing tool. Here’s 5 ways to gain more referrals:
- Have a WOW factor. What sets you apart from your competition and makes your clients say Wow, I need to work with Mr. Smith. Showcase that WOW.
- Give the people what they want. Make sure you are promoting the products/services that your customers want vs. what you think they want. If you are a financial institution that keeps promoting savings accounts when people really want to learn more about mortgages or home equity loans, then you’ve missed a huge opportunity with your customers.
- Make referrals easy. Don’t make people jump through hoops to get to you. If a current client wants to copy you on an email to a potential client, let them. Don’t force them to fill out a form or contact you via your website first. Keep it simple.
- Just ask. If you’ve just done an amazing job for a customer and they are showering you with compliments and thank you’s, ask them to spread the word if they are willing to anyone who might need your product/services. Even in this digital world, people still like human connection, and a direct word of mouth referral from someone can go a long way.
- Utilize social media. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter – all great places to connect with your customers and interact with them via your business. By having a business page, people can easily tag you when making referrals on social media. You can also enable reviews on some social platforms so customers can leave feedback on their experiences. You can add some of these testimonials to your website as well.
Referrals can be for so much more than just product/services as well. It’s also one of the best ways to find a new job if you are a job seeker or find employees as a business. Happy employees LOVE to talk about how great their job and their company are. They will go out of their way to recommend it as a place to work to people they know who may be job hunting. From the employer perspective, it’s a great way to find potential qualified candidates who are vouched for by a current employee.
Have a product or service that you highly recommend? Let me know, it might come in handy!
It’s no secret that COVID has completely changed how some companies and their employees are working right now. For many, requiring employees to work from home has become the status quo – at least for the foreseeable future. But eventually we’ll return to in-person interactions – interviews, meetings, and for some, returning to the office full time. The question remains – how will your company shift?
Some employees LOVE working from home, while others are really struggling – missing the in-person office interactions with their coworkers and clients. Then there are others who enjoy the flexibility of being able to choose where they work – a hybrid model if you will. As we move closer to fully reopening and getting some sort of normalcy back, employers are going to be faced with the decision to choose how their business will operate – which way will they shift?
Work from Home. Many companies are seeing the benefit to a remote workforce. Not only are businesses saving thousands on operating costs and overhead, but many employees are much happier being able to work from a home office. In a recent article by the Hartford Business Journal, workers who once commuted by car but now work from home are saving a total of $758 million per day, according to research from freelancing platform Upwork. The savings comprise gas, car maintenance and repairs, as well as the costs that driving imposes on society, such as congestion and pollution.
The biggest savings however is actually time. Every hour of commuting by car costs Americans $12.50. That adds up, given Americans’ long commutes. We spent an average of 54.2 minutes commuting daily in 2018. So, in addition to saving money on commuting, employees are able to spend more time with their friends, families and yes even their pets! A few other perks include being able to handle some of your personal affairs more easily, such as scheduling a plumber to fix that leaky faucet or being able to toss a load of laundry in between calls, and even being able to walk your dog at lunch time or monitor your kids if they are doing online learning.
Returning to the Office. Many extroverts are itching to get into their traditional office routine. They miss seeing coworkers, clients, vendors, etc. face to face. Phone calls and video conferences just don’t cut it for some employees, and they need the camaraderie and collaboration that being in the office provides. For some people, it’s going to be awhile before they feel comfortable being in an office, but others need that type of environment to be productive and happy.
Not everyone can manage the distractions that also come from working from home. Being in an office environment keeps them focused and on task. They can separate their work life from their home life. Additionally, returning to the office is a boost to the economy, workers who commute spend money on transportation, morning coffee, lunch or other conveniences that are in the vicinity of the office.
Hybrid Model. Offering employees the flexibility to choose their schedule may be a great shift for many employers. Not only will it allow you to stagger the number of employees reporting to the office each day, but it will make easing back into face to face interactions easier for some people. Some employees may choose to work more days in the office or more days from home, but it offers them the choice and freedom to set their schedule. If you need to hold an in-person meeting, you can set certain days of the week where meeting can be scheduled while other days are off limits. There are a lot of options and flexibility that come with the hybrid model, but in order for businesses to do this effectively they will need to have some serious planning sessions around it. Employees will need to make a decision and stick to it. Imagine having an office for 400 employees – one day 50 people show up and then Sue & John decide they would rather be in the office. Will it have to be all or nothing? Will employees need to commit to being all remote, in the office on Mondays only or full on office dwellers? If I were a betting man, HR teams are already hashing out these details in anticipation!
However your business chooses to shift, there is no right or wrong answer. In fact, at KMR Executive Search, I’ve just started doing in person interviews again, but I don’t hold it against anyone who isn’t comfortable meeting face to face just yet.
Will continuing to work remote require some changes to how you conduct interviews (see my previous blog on the topic) or how you onboard new employees? – Of course! But for many it’s also a great opportunity for Human Resources to dust off the employee handbook and make some updates (sorry HR). If you want to attract top talent, honoring how they want to work should be a top priority.
How is your business planning to shift in 2021- work from home, hybrid, or in office?
With the myriad regulations and laws in place, we shouldn’t still be talking about Gender Equality in the workplace, but we are. Pay equality is vital, and while that’s a big part of the big picture, it’s not the only issue at play. Poor maternity leave policies, sexual harassment, and unconscious bias also top the list of disadvantages preventing women from succeeding and thriving in the workplace. It’s not just a US problem, it’s a global problem.
If the term “Leadership Courage” is new to you, you aren’t alone.
In my eyes, “Leadership Courage” is defined as the art of influencing others while often in the throes of controversy. Courageous leaders don’t look for the easiest path or the simple solutions – they look for the best option even if it’s unpleasant, painful or even terrifying.
I’d like to think I’m a moderate risk taker – I’m one for taking some good calculated chances here and there. I’m NOT one for even thinking of attempting a free solo climb of El Capitan like Alex Honnold (check out this documentary if you want to bite all your nails off and sit on the edge of your seat with one hand over your eyes and the other hand gripping the arm rest).