Many companies claim to be a great place to work and then - well - aren’t. What is sold in the interview and what you experience in the office can be two completely different worlds. But why does this happen? Well, mostly, because we are human. Humans love to put their best foot forward. Right or wrong, sometimes that means stretching the truth a little.
Have you ever wondered how to dig past the shiny surface that’s presented in an interview? It’s all in the questions you ask. The questions YOU ask in an interview can often be the thing that sets you apart.
I’m sharing the 12 questions you should consider when interviewing. With these 12 questions, you can read between the lines during an interview and assess if you and the company are a great match.
In this episode you’ll learn:
The twelve questions to help you dig deeper in an interview
How to determine if a company is the right fit for you
Three ground rules for a successful interview process
How to choose which questions to ask with limited time
Find the episode on the podcast player of your choice.
Why Ask Tough Questions During The Interview?
Many companies are guilty of this – they sugarcoat company culture issues, or downright bait & switch what the atmosphere is really like.
I recently had coffee with a friend who recounted a past job experience where what she was sold in the interview and what she experienced in the office were two completely different worlds. She then watched this same thing pitched to new hire after new hire, only to then watch them unravel the truth on their first few weeks on the job.
She's not the only person whose shared this experience with me and I'm guessing plenty of you could offer up your own stories, as well.
So, why does this happen? Well, a lot of reasons. But mostly, because we're human.
Interviews are really akin to first dates
Both of you show up on your best behavior and talk about your best qualities. You don't lead by sharing your more grating qualities or that you're just looking for someone to cuddle with during cuffing season before diving back into single life when summer hits.
The same thing happens during job interviews. You talk about your accomplishments and the interviewer shares all the exciting projects they've been working on lately. Conveniently, you leave out your ongoing struggle with prioritization and they "forget" to mention how stressed the team is, given an exceptionally large workload.
Whether it's a date or an interview, humans love to put their best foot forward. Sometimes that even means stretching the truth a little. Right or wrong, it's reality.
Come prepared to sleuth
Just like we get better at reading between the lines on first dates, you can learn to read between the lines during interviews by asking some strategic questions.
Remember, interviews aren't just an opportunity for them to assess you – they're also your chance to learn more about the company's culture and the specific role, so you can decide if they're a correct fit for you, as well. Something you learn from these questions could be the signal to say yes, or the red flag to dodge out of there.
First, some ground rules that I live by when coaching others pre-interview.
Make sure to ask each of these questions from a place of honest curiosity, not judgment! You want them to open up and confide in you, not put themselves on guard. That will only happen if they sense you're trustworthy and genuine.
You likely won't get the chance to ask all of the questions below, so pick the ones that seem most pertinent and run with those. That said, don't be afraid to ask for a follow-up interview if you really didn't get the time to ask what you wanted. Taking a new job is a big commitment - one that deserves an extra half hour of conversation if you need it.
Don't widely share what you learned during the interview - whether or not you take the job. Anyone who opens up to you during a job interview is doing so in confidence. It's not your place to start sharing this information in the community, with your new team members, or on Glassdoor. Respect the safe space and keep your learnings to yourself.
OK, now that we've got some key ground rules out of the way...
12 Questions to ask in your next interview
1. What does a typical day look like in this role?
This is always a great place to start, as it gets them talking about the day-to-day at the company. When do people typically get in each morning? How many meetings happen on a typical day? Do people eat at their desk or take a break? What's the remote culture like? When you know how you work best, this can be incredibly helpful information.
2. What are the biggest challenges that someone in this position would face?
I love this question because it gets beyond the skills needed to do your job and dives into what the potential roadblocks could be, including challenging personalities on the team, a particularly difficult client, or an especially heavy workload that calls for top-notch prioritization skills. Knowing these things can could help you avoid a track toward burnout.
More Questions About the Role
What would success look like to you after 6 months?
What skills and qualities are you specifically looking for in the ideal candidate for this position?
Can you provide examples of past projects or achievements that demonstrate success in this role?
Is travel required and if so, where and when?
3. Is this a new role that has been created? If not, where is the last person who held this job moving on to and how long were they in the role?
This one is bold but important. It can unearth traits about the previous candidate that either made them a good or bad fit for the role - which is golden information for you! It can also show a dedication to internal growth (if the person was promoted) or raise a red flag (if the person was only in the role for a few months before leaving).
Note: You should definitely do your research on LinkedIn before asking this question. You may get your answer without having to ask, or you can tailor the question appropriately.
More to Ask About the Hiring Process
What are the next steps in the hiring process, and when can I expect to hear back from you?
How does the company ensure a fair and unbiased hiring process for all candidates?
What qualities or experiences make a candidate stand out in the selection process?
How do you approach onboarding and integrating new employees into the company culture?
Is there anything specific you're looking for in a candidate that hasn't been mentioned in the job description?
4. Are there opportunities for advancement or professional development?
If I had to boil the job happiness of most millennials into three key points, it would come down to autonomy, appreciation, and growth. While it's common to focus on salary expectations, 401k matching, and time off when you're considering an offer, knowing what professional development and growth opportunities are available within the organization could make a huge difference in your happiness a few years down the line.
More You Can Ask About Career Development
Is the budget dedicated to professional development, such as workshops, courses, or certifications?
How does the company support employees in pursuing higher education or continuing studies?
Are there mentoring or coaching programs available to help employees grow in their careers?
Can you share examples of employees who have successfully advanced their careers within the company?
How does the company ensure employees are challenged and engaged in their roles long-term?
5. What are the most important things you’d like to see someone accomplish in the first 30, 60, and 90 days on the job? At one year?
For a variety of reasons (that we can save for another day) most people are really bad at writing job descriptions. Asking this question will get them really thinking about what success would look like at different intervals throughout your first year on the job. You may be surprised by their expectations, some of which they may not have even mentioned yet.
More Interview Questions About Performance and Expectations
What resources and support will be available to help me meet and exceed performance expectations?
How does the company provide ongoing feedback and in what formats?
How does the company handle work-life balance to ensure employees can perform at their best?
How often are performance reviews conducted, and what is the framework?
Do OKRs impact my performance or are they used as goal frameworks only?
6. What are the goals that the company is currently focused on and how does this team work to support meeting them?
Companies with clear strategic objectives and a plan tend to be WAY better places to work for than those who jump from goal to goal at the drop of a hat. This question will help you gauge how clear the company vision is and how the team you'll be working on directly supports it.
More Questions About Company Stability and Growth
How has the company navigated challenges and maintained stability over the years?
Can you share insights into the company's growth strategy and vision for the future?
How does the company adapt to changes in the industry or market trends?
What measures does the company take to ensure financial stability and sustainability?
How does the company foster innovation and encourage employees to contribute fresh ideas?
7. Can you tell me about the team and who I'll be working with most closely?
Learn more about the personalities of your soon-to-be coworkers, especially those you'll be spending a lot of time with during the day. Who we work most closely with at the office is often one of the biggest indicators of our experience at work. Anyone who has had a difficult manager can definitely attest to this fact. And speaking of difficult managers...
8. Can you tell me about your particular management style?
Now, I don't expect anyone to come out and say, "Well, I'm particularly critical, tend to take credit for your work, and expect you to be on-call 24/7." That would be too easy. What can be helpful though is hearing how they view their leadership style and seeing how closely it aligns with your preferences. You can also ask this question of others on the manager's team and see if what they say mirrors what you've already been told.
More Questions About the Team
How would you describe the team dynamics and collaboration within the department?
What types of projects or initiatives is the team currently working on, and how might this role contribute to them?
How does the team celebrate successes and handle challenges together?
What is the typical career progression for someone in this role within the team?
How do team members support each other?
9. Why did you choose to work here?
Hearing why your interviewer chose to work at the company can shed light both on aspects of the company you may not know about and what that particular person values about a job.
10. What’s your favorite part about working here?
This question can help shed both negative and positive light on the company's culture. If they struggle to think of something they enjoy, that could be a red flag that things currently aren't great. If they are quick to answer with something that seems genuine (like a truly flexible schedule or a fantastic boss), you can bet that what they're sharing is likely consistent with what's actually happening in the organization.
More to Ask About Work Environment and Remote Work
How has the company adapted to remote work, and what is the plan for the future in terms of work arrangements?
Can you describe the communication tools and methods the company uses for remote teams?
How do employees collaborate and build relationships while working remotely?
Are there opportunities for in-person team building or social activities, even for remote employees?
How does the company ensure remote employees feel included and connected with the in-office team?
11. What's different about working here than anywhere else you've worked?
This is another way to get a real look at the current culture. Because differences can be attributed to both positive and negative realities, it's a chance for the interviewer to get real. Whatever they share, it will be a great peek at one aspect of the company that is solid enough to elicit a comparison.
12. How has the company changed since you joined?
I always think this one has to be taken with a grain of salt, but it is still important to ask. It can be really easy for people to struggle with company growth and sometimes their answer may be negative, but not really reflect the actual temperature of the company. "Things just aren't the way they used to be," may be a red flag, but can also be a sign that that particular employee just really enjoys working with a smaller team.
More Questions About the Company
How did you develop the company values, mission, and vision and how does it galvanize the team?
What are the company's long-term goals and how does this position contribute to achieving them?
Can you share some success stories of employees who have advanced within the company?
More Questions About Social and Community Initiatives
Does the company participate in any social or community initiatives, and how can employees get involved?
How does the company give back to the community or support charitable causes?
Are there any volunteer programs or activities that employees can participate in?
What efforts has the company made to promote sustainability and reduce its environmental impact?
How does the company handle public relations issues?
More Questions About Diversity and Inclusion
How does the company promote diversity and inclusion within its workforce?
What steps does the company take to create an inclusive environment for employees from diverse backgrounds?
Are there any employee resource groups (ERGs) or affinity networks to support diverse employees?
How do diversity and inclusion initiatives align with the company's overall values and mission?
Can you share some examples of how diversity has positively influenced the company's culture and performance?
How do you go above and beyond to source candidates from diverse backgrounds?
While these questions can't guarantee you'll avoid a toxic work environment, they are a great way to get below the shiny surface that's presented in most job interviews. I promise they're trying to get the same information out of you to assess if it's really a great match.
Being honest about your needs (and flaws) while also learning about theirs will ultimately help you both make the best decision at the end of the day. To both candidates and interviewers, good luck with your interviews.
Do you have specific interview questions you love to ask potential employers? If so, please share them in the comments – it will help us all.
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To happier employees,