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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

5 questions job-seekers should ask interviewers

If you're searching for a new job, here are five questions you should ask any company you're considering working for:

1. "As hard as it is, I think it's important for managers to transition people out if they're not the right fit. When is the last time the company fired someone for performance-related reasons?"
I've never heard a candidate ask this and I bet I never will, but they should. How many times have you had your quality of life destroyed or your effectiveness diminished by someone who the company obviously should have fired but who instead was allowed to languish on? Just as you want to work for a company that will reward great performance, you also want to work for a company that will get rid of people if they deserve to be fired.

2. "What's the biggest obstacle the person in this position will face?"

3. "How will the success of the person in this position be measured?"

4. "Thinking to the person who you've seen do this job best, what made their performance so outstanding?"

5. "How would you describe the culture of the organization?"

The "right" answers to questions 2-5 depend on what you're looking for in your job search, but you'll definitely learn information you might not otherwise glean about what you'd be signing up for if you took the job. Plus, if your interviewer is competent, he or she will be thrilled that you're asking, because you'll be showing a level of thoughtfulness and engagement that many candidates don't display.


Anonymous said...

Love #1. "Do you fire deadweight or will I be working next to them?"

Florinda said...

I've usually asked #2 and #5 on interviews I've been on as a candidate, and I'm bookmarking this whole list as a reference. I'd never have thought about #1...but yeah, it would definitely be good info to have (or else it could make you really nervous).

When I've been on the hiring side of the interview, it's always amazed me how often candidates have no questions about the company at all. It doesn't make the best impression when there's no curiosity displayed.

Ask a Manager said...

Thanks, Florinda! I've had the same experience as you with candidates not asking any questions at all -- or only asking about salary and benefits and nothing about the job itself. I've noticed it's especially common in very recent grads, so I'm often inclined to cut them some slack, since I think they're particularly prone to being nervous and/or pretty uncertain about how to handle the process well.

Rowan Manahan said...

Very good questions, especially 3 and 4 - they will quickly let you know (a) if the employer really understands what it needed in this role and (b) what really matters in this role.

The only caveat I would add is not to ask thorny, issues-based questions of recruiters or HR people who may not have the answers - save your big guns for when you are sitting across from the final decision-maker.

MRasey said...

Old post, I know, but #1 one had me nodding so hard, my head almost fell off.

I've been dealing with toxic deadweight and it was so bad at one point that I considered leaving my job. I don't want to be on a team that refuses to address their problems. I work too hard to let bad support staff fester. I've been shocked at how difficult it is for companies to let well documented poor performers go. It's like they're afraid to fire people even when they are losing money due to their tolerance.

I've been mentoring someone on how to manage up and they live in fear of being fired because they went to HR. After my experience, I've told them I don't think even being Typhoid Maary would get them fired.

I've even joked I could stop working and no one would do anything. Which is a bad thing. You don't want high performers stooping to the poor performers' level, which is why they must go.


Anonymous said...

I recently went on an interview and used these questions. The interviewers actually remarked about how great the questions were (Thanks AMA). However... I would not ask # 1 first. I was so nervous I didn't think of the ordering of the questions and they thought that I had a negative perspective of the company. They mentioned that some people had the same perspective of government and that they do hear those types of comments linked with beauracracy and whatnot.
I think I was able to save the situation becuase of all the follow up questions and was actually asked for a second interview... but for those of you who try the list... don't make the same mistake. Be smart about when you ask what you ask because that awkward silence was brutal.

Ask a Manager said...

Anonymous, that is a very good point! I would ask #1 last; it's definitely an awkward one to open with!