First, let’s talk about the importance of asking questions in an interview. Asking questions shows that you are engaged and interested in the company, which is a huge plus for employers. Questions also allow you to determine whether or not the job is right for you — it’s important that your values align with those of the company, after all!
These five questions go beyond the obvious ones, such as the title of the job, the job description, to whom you would be reporting, and other such basic questions. In fact, it’s unlikely you’ll even need to ask those questions, as they’re usually outlined for you.
With some preparation and thought, you should be able to easily come up with 15 – 20 first-interview questions to ask. But these five – in some form – should always be asked.
1. WHAT ARE THE PRIORITIES THAT WILL NEED TO BE ADDRESSED IMMEDIATELY IN THIS POSITION?
A title alone tells you nothing. The job description won’t reveal much either, except whether or not you’re capable of doing what’s required functionally on a daily basis.
For the same reason that you put your accomplishments on your resume – and not just the job description – here, too, you want to get a sense of the individuality of this job in this company.
Was everything left running smoothly? Is it pretty much picking up and continuing daily functions as normal? Or is there damage control that needs to be done?
If you don’t have any information already, this will begin to clue you in about both the supervisor and the previous employee. If you have been provided with some detail already, then the answer should track with what you’ve already learned.
2. HOW LONG WAS THE PREVIOUS PERSON HERE? WHY DID THEY LEAVE?
Generally, in answering the first part, the interviewer will answer the second part as well. But if they don’t, then ask it. And if that person was there an oddly short time, you also want to know how long the previous person before that was there.
See where I’m going with this? If the job is in disarray, and the last two people were there a short period of time and were fired, you don’t need to ask any of the other questions here.
Exit gracefully and then run! Because before long, you, too, will be terminated for not achieving whatever it is they want done – regardless of if the stated time frame sounded realistic or not.
3. WHAT TYPES OF PEOPLE TEND TO EXCEL HERE?
Workaholics? Ones who are self-motivated and manage themselves well? People who work well in teams or committees? Employees who keep their supervisor informed of “where they are with things” on a daily basis?
This tells you something about the pervasive culture in the company or department. Generally speaking, companies – or departments – tend to be made up of similar types of people that are in harmony with the company culture and philosophy.
People who are accustomed to thinking for themselves will find themselves chafing in a company that has a more dictatorial style, while those who perform better when they’re told what to do will find themselves adrift in a company that requires its employees to think for themselves.
4. TELL ME ABOUT YOUR MANAGEMENT STYLE. HOW DO YOU BRING OUT THE BEST IN YOUR EMPLOYEES?
Is he a micro manager? Is he an information hound that needs to be kept informed of everything? Does he leave people alone to do what he hired them for and simply keep on top of what’s going on? Does he help you if you have trouble? Do any mentoring? Or is he a berating, derogatory, jerk?
Obviously he’s not going to come right out and tell you he’s a micro manager! Instead he might say, “I like to keep a very close watch on what’s going on in my department,” or “I visit with each member of my department on a daily basis to make sure they’re staying on track,” or something similar.
You’ll find that the person will be fairly straight forward in sharing their management style with you. What you want to pay attention to is how they word it.
5. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN HERE? WHY DID YOU STAY?
The answer to this question will give you an indication as to the feeling or health of the department or company. The way in which he answers the question will also give you additional insight into your potential boss, his management style, and what type of people excel in the department or company.
These are informational questions, not challenges. Be genuinely interested in the answer, because you’re gaining valuable information that has to do with your future. When you leave the interview and process it within yourself, you’ll be matching what you learned with what you are looking for.
The best way to determine if a job is right for you is to ask the hiring manager questions. Pay attention to the interviewer’s body language and facial expressions. Is he relaxed? Does he fill in some of the spaces? Does he speak to you – or AT you? Does he answer the question briefly and then quickly fire off another one?
These, too, are valuable cues, and after the interview, you’ll need to piece them together with the verbal information you received.