An interview is a two-way street. It’s never a good idea to go in without prepared questions and 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. Not only will they help you to ascertain if the job for which you are interviewing meets the criterion of your perfect job, but the answers, when put together, will give you a fairly accurate picture of what’s going on behind the interview
1. WHAT PRIORITIES WILL NEED TO BE ADDRESSED IMMEDIATELY? 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 picking up and continuing normal daily functions? Is there damage control to be done? If so, is there a time line for the repair, and is it achievable considering your capabilities? Is it realistic regardless of who holds the position?
This will begin to clue you in about both the supervisor and the previous employee. If you’ve already been provided with some detail, the answer should track with what you learned earlier.
2. HOW LONG WAS THE PREVIOUS PERSON HERE? If that person was there an oddly short time, you also want to know how long the person before that was there. And you’d be wise to ask under what circumstances they each left.
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 other questions. 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. 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 must be kept informed? 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 straightforward in sharing their management style with you. What you want to pay attention to is how they word it.
4. 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?
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.
An entrepreneurial person won’t function well in a committee environment. People who are accustomed to thinking for themselves will find themselves chafing in a company that has a more dictatorial style. Those who perform better when they’re told what to do will be adrift in a company that requires its employees to think for themselves.
5. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN HERE? WHY DO YOU STAY?: The answer will give you an indication as to the health of the department or company. It will also give you additional insight into your potential boss, his management style, and what type of people excel there.
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. Match what you’ve learned with what you are looking for.
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? These, too, are valuable cues, and you’ll need to piece them together with the verbal information you received.
Your perfect job might land in your lap by grace and good fortune. But more likely, you’ll need to look for it. It’s there – but to recognize it, you’ll need to know what it doesn’t look like, as well as what it does.