The dreaded job interview. No one looks forward to it, not even the interviewer-really. You’ve worked hard and you have a terrific resume to show for it, so what’s the strategy? How are you going to get the most from your interview? The typical interview process may be structured around an employer getting to know you and what you have to offer. But no one ever said you couldn’t use it as an opportunity to get to know them as well. In fact, as much as they are offering you something, you are bringing something of value to the table as well. The absolute worst thing you can do is to leave an interview having asked the interviewer nothing. Here are the top four questions you should be asking at your next interview.
No. 1: “What Will My Role/Job Description Be in the Department?”
Regardless of what the position title says or what you assume it means, you should at the very least ask your interviewer to define the role or job description of the position for which you are interviewing from their perspective. In one way, it just makes sense, but on the other hand, you want to make sure you are on the same page with the interviewer and that there are no surprises after the fact. Understanding completely what is and more importantly, what isn’t, part of the job description is essential information to have even before knowing if you have the job.
No. 2: “What is the Strategic Plan/Vision of the Company?”
Long-term strategy can help you identify where it is the company is going now and in the immediate future. If part of the strategy is to open a new satellite branch overseas, you may want to know this as it may shape your short term and long term career objectives. On the other hand, if the strategy is to close several branches and consolidate into one larger branch fifty miles outside of town, you may want to know that as well. Generally, information on the strategic plan can give you preliminary insight you may not be able to get through other means. In some organizations, this information is readily available online and in that case you can demonstrate that you did your research by knowing that and still get further information by asking for more detail.
No. 3: “How Does Our Department Fit into the Overall Direction and Strategy of the Organization?”
Again, this is a key question for assessing where your career may be headed if you do get the position. Often, different departments are aligned tightly with overall strategy and are directly affected by decision making towards these goals. In other cases, departments are autonomous and function independently of long term strategy. While an overseas branch is on the frontline of organizational strategy, if it doesn’t impact your specific department, it will have no bearing on your position.
No. 4: “What is the Management Style Like in This Organization?”
Getting a heads up on management style is an easy and often effective way to determine quickly if you’ll be a good fit for this organization. It’s not always a guarantee, but can certainly serve as a short cut for identifying organizational culture and behaviors. Is management style open and participatory? Is it easy to go to management with questions and concerns? How about coaching opportunities and training? Learning ahead of time what to expect can help you better prepare for the position, should you be hired.
A job interview is a two-sided process where a potential employer should be prepared not only to ask you questions, but also to answer a few on behalf of the organization. You are there to showcase your abilities and present yourself to an employer, but you’re also given the opportunity to learn as much as you can about where you may be spending a great deal of time in the near future.