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BY Jenny Maenpaa

The 10 Most Important Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

Woman in an interview

Photo credit: AdobeStock/YakobchukOlena

TAGS:Interview, Company culture, Career advice

Too many job seekers and job candidates treat themselves like unqualified beggars when it comes to potential employers, hoping to be thrown some scraps in the form of any job.

They say things like, “I didn’t negotiate because it was clear they were offering me what they could,” or “I wanted to be placed in a different office but I didn’t put that on my initial application, so I can’t now,” or “I didn’t want to ask about ____ because it might turn them off from me as a candidate and I really want this job.”

The job-seeking system is set up to benefit employers because they invented it to be that way! Hundreds of applicants come right to them with their qualifications listed — what could be better for employers? You have to remember, however, that they have a vacancy they need to fill, and if the position is empty, it’s likely because the last person didn’t quite meet their needs. In the best case scenario, that person simply moved up or moved on. In the worst case scenario, there was tension, disagreements, or conflict.

The interviewer’s dream outcome is for you to be the best possible fit for this position and to have you shine like the star you are, which illuminates their own competence at hiring. The cost of losing an employee is extremely high for companies, because it includes recruitment, hiring, training, and lost productivity during that process. It’s in their best interest to hire a great candidate for the open position and to keep that person for a long time.

Interviewing for jobs is a lot like dating: When you are inexperienced and young, you think, “I hope they like me!” When you get more experience under your belt and gain a little wisdom, you think, “I hope we like each other an equal amount and both feel like this is the right fit.” If you don’t assess that up front, you’ll spend the duration of your time together trying to fit yourself into someone else’s mold. That never works out well for any relationship, personal or professional.

Below, here are 10 interview questions during the job interview that will help you uncover important truths about the company, as well as help you assess your fit:

1. What does your ideal candidate for this position look like?

This question shows your interviewer that you want to be that perfect fit. It shows that you understand that cultural fit is a two-way street. It also can be revealing of your interviewer's management style. Sometimes the biggest challenge with being successful in a job is a mismatch in the styles of an employee and hiring manager. This question should help you understand whether you are compatible with the person interviewing you.

2. What do you like about working here?

People love talking about themselves. Here, you’ve given your interviewer an opportunity to talk about their own experiences, not just the party line and company mission.

3. How would you describe the company culture?

This question is purposefully vague because you can tell a lot by how they answer it. Be sure you pay attention to whether the answer aligns with the company mission statement.

4. I noticed on the website that your company values are _____. Can you tell me about how those values are demonstrated here?

This question shows you have done your homework about the organization and want to truly ensure a good fit, not just present yourself as a perfect version of their ideal candidate.

5. What is a typical day like?

This question will help you understand the pace and style of your potential employer as well as what kind of work-life balance you might be able to expect. 

6. What are the organization’s goals for the next five years?

If you've got anything but the most transactional desires to land a job, it's important to understand what is in store for the company future and company growth. The company goal is important for you to assess whether it will be a good fit for your long-term career.

7. What opportunities exist for growth in this position over the next five years?

Questions 5-7 demonstrate that you see yourself there for the longterm. Your career path is important to you and most of the time, it is not obvious from reading the job description and without asking this open-ended question. 

8. Why is the position currently vacant?

This shows curiosity about how to be the best possible candidate in this position.

9. What is turnover like?

This implies that you want to be a partner in helping problem-solve, but can also alert to you any red flags in employee retention.

10. Is there anything you’d like to know about me that we didn’t cover?

This shows your interviewer during the job interview that you’re an an interviewee who is an open book and will not bring any secrets to the position.

Culture is the No. 1 most important factor to consider when accepting a new job — and it’s also the hardest to determine. These questions help you uncover more of the underlying values the company and its employees hold, and asking them in this order includes the added strategy of following an emotional arc.

First, you prime the interviewer by asking positive questions that make them feel good about their workplace and their authoritative position in it. Next, you ask them to demonstrate expertise about the day-to-day workings there. Then — and only then — do you ask about stickier questions like turnover and the previous position holder. Finally, you swing back to forward-thinking questions to wrap things up.

There are hundreds of probing questions you could ask that can reveal something deeper about an organization. Think about what your reasons are for leaving your current position (lack of growth, lack of mentorship, unclear goals and measurements for success) and truly compare if this position will meet your needs.

The most important thing to remember? If the answers to any of these questions seem off, make your gut feel uneasy, or just don’t align with what you’re looking for — DO. NOT. TAKE. IT! You may feel desperate now and that any job is better than no job. But you’re not asking someone to hire you as a favor. You are skilled, confident, and an asset to any company, and you deserve to be treated as such.

If the interview itself shows misalignment between what the company is and what you want, it won’t get better once you’re a full-time employee. Don’t put yourself in the position of having to go through the interview process all over again a year from now because you accepted a job your gut told you wasn’t a good fit.

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Jenny is the founder of Forward in Heels Executive Coaching, which empowers badass women who want to excel at what they do, stand tall, and own their worth so they can light up the world. As a licensed psychotherapist as well as certified executive leadership coach, Jenny has been helping women make bold, lasting changes in their lives for over a decade.

 

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