10 Impressive Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

Monday, April 8, 2024

When I’m interviewing people for jobs, I’m always amazed by how many of them tell me they don’t have any questions for me when prompted. Like most interviewers, I set aside time for candidates to turn the tables and ask me their own questions, because you can’t make a good decision about whether to take a job if you’re not informed. When someone doesn’t use that time to ask anything, it makes me wonder how critically they’re thinking about whether this is a job they really want, let alone one they’ll thrive in. After all, you’re contemplating spending 40-plus hours a week in this role … surely there’s something you’d like to know?

Part of the problem is that people aren’t sure how to ask about the things they’d most like to know, like “Are you a horrible micromanager?” or “Is working here a nightmare?” They also worry that interviewers will read negative things into the questions they choose to ask (like if you ask about what hours most people work, will you look like a slacker?).

Some of that insider info is best sought outside of a formal interview (more on how do that here), but you can still glean a lot by asking your interviewer the right questions. Here are ten strong questions that will get you useful insights into whether the job is right for you.

Questions About the Position

1.“How will you measure the success of the person in this position?”

This gets right to the crux of what you need to know about the job: What does it mean to do well, and what will you need to achieve in order for the manager to be happy with your performance?

You may figure the job description has already laid this out, but it’s not uncommon for a job description to be the same one an employer has been using for the past ten years, even if the job has changed significantly during that time. Companies often post job descriptions that primarily use boilerplate language from HR, while the actual manager has very different ideas about what’s most important in the role. Also, frankly, most employers just suck at writing job descriptions (which is why so many of them sound as if they were written by robots rather than humans), so it’s useful to have a conversation about what the role is really about. You may find out that while the job posting listed 12 different responsibilities, your success in fact hinges on just two of them, or that the posting dramatically understated the importance of one of them, or that the hiring manager is battling with her own boss about expectations for the role, or even that the manager has no idea what success would look like in the job (which would be a sign to proceed with extreme caution).

2.“What are some of the challenges you expect the person in this position to face?”

Job descriptions usually just lay out a list of responsibilities. Equally important is what it’s actually like to do the work and what challenges people in the role might face. For example, maybe you’ll be working closely with a difficult-to-please client, or the program you’d be leading is constantly having to fend off budget cuts, or messy internal politics will require patience and finesse. Those are all really important things to know as you’re deciding whether this is a job you’d be happy in.

Initiating a conversation on these topics can also create an opening for you to talk about how you’ve approached similar challenges in the past, which can be reassuring to your interviewer. That said, only do so if you can fit it in naturally; you don’t want to come across as if you’re just asking questions to tee up a sales pitch for yourself, because that’s annoying and usually pretty obvious.

3.“Can you describe a typical day or week in the job?”

If the job description mentioned a combination of admin work and program work, it’s important to know whether 90 percent of your time will be spent on the admin work or if the split is more like 50/50. Or you might find out that the part of the job that you were most excited about only comes up every six months. Even barring major insights like that, the answer to this question can help you better visualize what it will actually be like to be in the job day after day.

Tip: Some interviewers will respond to this question with, “Oh, every day is different.” If that happens, try asking, “Can you tell me what the last month looked like for the person in the job currently? What took up most of their time?”

If nothing you try gets you a clear picture of how your time will be spent, that might be a sign that you’ll be walking into chaos — or a job where expectations never get clearly defined.

4.“How long did the previous person in the role hold the position? What has turnover in the role generally been like?”

This is important to ask because if everyone has left the position after less than a year, that could be the sign of a horrible manager, unrealistic expectations, or something else that’s likely to make you miserable too. If just one person left quickly, that’s not in itself a red flag. But if you find there has been a pattern of quick departures, that should prompt you to ask your interviewer what they think led to the high turnover.

Of course, if the position is brand-new, you can’t ask this question. In that case, ask instead about what the turnover on the team has been like.

Questions About Your Success in the Position

5.“What are you hoping this person will accomplish in their first six months and in their first year?”

With this question, you’re listening for what kind of learning curve you’ll be expected to meet as well as the general pace of the team. If you’re expected to have racked up significant achievements in your first, say, six months, you’re not going to have a lot of ramp-up time. That may not be a problem if you’re coming in with a lot of experience and you know the expectations are reasonable. If not, it may rightly give you pause.

The other advantage of asking this question is that it can elicit details about key projects that you wouldn’t otherwise hear about, which can help flesh out your understanding of the work you’ll be doing.

6.“Thinking back to people you’ve seen do this work previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great at it?”

A job candidate asked me this years ago, and it’s probably my favorite question I’ve ever been posed in an interview. What’s great about it is that it goes straight to the heart of what any good hiring manager is looking for: We aren’t interviewing candidates in the hopes of finding someone who will do an average job; we’re hoping to find someone who will excel. And this question says you approach work that way, too. Obviously, just asking doesn’t guarantee that you’ll do extraordinary work, but it does make you sound like someone who’s at least aiming for that — someone who’s conscientious and driven. Those are compelling things in a hiring manager’s eyes.

Plus, their answer can give you more nuanced insight into what it’ll take to truly excel in the job — and whatever the answer is, you can think about whether it’s something you’ll be able to do.

Full article @ https://www.thecut.com/article/questions-to-ask-in-a-job-interview.html