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Impactful Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

So about that job hunt. It’s a trip!

I’m writing this while surveying the new housewives of Atlanta season so let’s see how it goes. Sanya Richards-Ross not on a track is a new look, but I digress. I’ve been on a five month (!) job search. Not fun. However, there has been some good feedback throughout, and we took it and moved. One of the things I knew to do going in is interviewing the interviewer to determine what was important to me and if what they need and act like aligns with me. I’ve come up with my own lil formula for doing this effectively.

The questions I’m about to share cover three angles. Ultimately, I’m chasing a good culture and great management. This might not be what’s important to you, and I understand. Feel free to leave what doesn’t serve you.

  • Most of them apply to everyone regardless of the type of interview: you may get time at the end to ask questions. Make good use of that time to learn about things they didn’t bring up about the company and what they (as a person) value, regardless of their role.
  • Personable - not personal, but ones that reveal a little about what the person thinks about their workplace as they are seeing if you’re a fit to join.
  • The obvious, but not so obvious specifics - role related questions or follow up questions based on what is revealed throughout the conversation.

You Get a Question, Everybody Gets a Question!!

You may have the least amount of preparation for these questions before the interview, BUT you need to reflect on them the most and capture as much as you can during and after your session. Commence the active listening!

Why are you still here? What’s keeping you?

This is a roundabout way of asking whoever person you’re talking to - be it a recruiter, manager, etc. what’s making this workplace a yes versus a no on their pro and cons list. The bigger the company, the better. For example, when interviewing with Amazon, I noted that the person had been there a while and asked - you could be working anywhere having Amazon on your resume, the world is your oyster. Why are you still here? It has caught some people off guard, but the answer usually tells me what they like about the company, or how it is fitting with their life’s needs in that moment. Use this to see if those value propositions work for you too. In some ways, you’re learning about what the people you might work with value in a workplace.

What does a really really good day feel like and a really really bad one?

Yes, really really. Because I’m trying to figure out the extremes without using some encyclopedia phrasing :joy:. I also add to this one - Take that to mean anything related to work, not specifically about a project, just when you think about your day to day. Now this question is one where listening is key. About half the folks I’ve asked this question to always start with the good. Great! But it can be the corporate speak. So if they say something like “when everyone is working together and I feel appreciated in a project”, ha! Follow up question: could you give me an example of that please? What’s a time that you remember recently? Slide right in there and nowwww you’re interviewing them too! But it’s a conversation, a date if you will. But for work.

How does your supervisor respond to your successes and failures? Can you tell?

Now this is a prickly one. In some ways, people may not want to reveal all which is fair. When I ask this question, I want to know about the dynamics of leadership and how effective management is perceived in that organization. Do they have a good communication culture when things are not going well? Is their default to recognize greatness when they see it, or are you just hoping someone appreciates you fixing that 8 hour bug? It’s the little things that become big things, ya know?

Is there anything you didn’t get to or want to revisit?

To quote Dorothy Zbornak, this is exactly what it looks like.

If you’re having a conversation, there are some tangents and smiles, maybe even laughs. And because of this lovely waste of time, the interviewer may not have finished their “checklist” (hopefully not a real one). Asking them this allows you to revisit items on said list. Before, I asked this as “is there anything about me that’s giving you cause to pause on moving forward?”. And then my big sis Angie noted that mayyyyybe I’m now making them think of my negative attributes. We don’t want that now do we?

What about my profile made you reach out for an interview?

This question was taught to me by the lovely, introspective KD. Tone, tact and confidence are your friends when asking this. Imagine you’ve been in a long job hunt - months have gone by, all the rejections are chipping away at your confidence, your safety net (if you were unemployed during this search) is running out, and someone reaches out to you with a job. Any job. You’ll probably consider taking it. I’ll acknowledge here that not everyone can afford to say no. But if the goal is fit and chasing great management like Imentioned earlier, you want to make sure what they think they’re getting is what you want to give. If you just go with it and find out it’s not a great fit, then you have to go through the whole process again; this time even more tired and discouraged. So why not find out now? Getting the answer will

:point_right: tell you what they value about your experiences and skills

:point_right: give you a little boost because it never hurts to learn about yourself through another person’s eyes, we’re always hardest on ourselves

:point_right: most importantly, help you figure out if it’s a fit for what you are looking for in your new work home

What was the tipping point in driving this search for a candidate?

Notice how it’s not about you as opposed to the last question. It also goes beyond the job description and into the known unknowns. This question is some variation of “what is driving this hire?” which Sally Lait wrote about here - FYI more questions for you to ask!. When I initially kept asking what drove the hire, I would get one answer -> growth, growth, growth, it’s a new position, growth. Maybe once or twice, someone was honest and said more e.g. someone left, no one on the team has X skill, the last person is on maternity leave etc. The details are really what you’re trying to find out. The way I’ve asked this question in the past has been:

  • As your team and goals stand now, what changed internally that caused you to get to a point where you had to hire someone new?
  • What would you need them to bring to the team that’s not already there e.g. resources like time, or complementary technical skills?
  • Given your team’s tasks and goals, what markers would indicate to you that this hire was successful from your initial need? This question by the way can be it’s own category for you trying to find out how they perceive impact. I’ve asked this to managers the most, especially if I know the person interviewing me is the hiring manager.

These six questions are ones that I’ve gotten the most valuable feedback from asking. As I peruse my notes and find some others that led to deep reflection and decision making, I’ll add them. Until then, remember to be kind to yourself :blue_heart: and ask all the questions. It’s supposed to be a date, not a parole hearing, reader. This ain’t Red in The Shawshank Redemption! Shoot your shots, but pack some darts to throw as well (if you didn’t get my Shawshank reference, here you go trailer!!. You won’t regret watching this movie.). Might make you even more memorable. OH and email your recruiter and ask them every question you can before your interview. This is such an underutilized resource. DO IT!

Until next time, happy WNBA tipoff week :tada:

A Fall 2023 Update

Hello there! It’s been over a year and with that, more questions arose in my interactions with others and the way I view my job. Once again, these questions depend on who you are talking with during your interviews. I’ll try to note who I’d ask for each of these even though some might seem straight forward in their audience.

  • How do you see your role and contributions evolving in the next quarter or two?
    • Ask: hiring manager, potential teammates
    • Why: gauge ownership of role and how removed/attached this particular team is aligned with company goals, understand where the company priorities lie. I also ask this to the people I work with at my current job especially if we are cross-team collaborators to understand their vantage point relative to mine.
  • How does your team feel about documentation and knowledge sharing?
    • Ask: hiring manager, potential teammates
    • Why: understand the culture of learning and helping each other within the team
  • If I asked your direct reports about you, what do you think they’d note about your management style/ you as a manager?
    • Credit to Taylor Poindexter for this one. She was on a podcast and mentioned this as a question she liked to ask
    • Ask: hiring manager, skip level manager
    • Why: because this person is going to affect your growth and days if you take this job :bang_bang:. It is a scary one to ask, use your best judgement about the EQ of the person you are sitting across from when choosing to ask this.
  • What would be your indicators for whether or not this hire was successful?
    • Ask: hiring manager, technical lead teammate
    • Why: a reverse-engineered way of finding out the goals that were set when someone was writing out the specifications for this role. Hopefully it’s not a copy/paste, but even if it is, it forces your interviewer to realize/remember why they are hiring for this and what goals are to be accomplished by adding this person to the team.
  • Did your expectations of the job match the reality of it from when you were interviewing to now having done it?
    • Ask: someone within the same vertical/team/of similar role to yours
    • Why: tells you how well goals are defined for long and short term projects, and how adaptable the team is to those goals if they have to change. Also a good indicator for if what’s stated as a need in the job description matches the reality of the tasks at hand

Until next update (likely a new article), happy beginning of NCAA women’s basketball season :tada: :smile:

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.