Tag Archive: questions

by David Shindler

I once turned a job down after getting a response to a question I asked at the end of an interview. My question was “what’s the worst thing about working here?”

The interviewer was a little too honest and replied: “I didn’t get to see my kids growing up”. A very revealing comment about the employer’s culture and level of commitment expected that clashed with my work-life value at the time (I had young kids).

Getting a job you like and really want involves a two-way process of you and the employer checking each other out for mutual fit. You don’t want to be checking out too soon! Asking questions can demonstrate your interest, passion and intelligence for the position. Questions also provide a great marketing opportunity, so you need to think about:

  • Why you are asking the question (to seek or give information, clarification, testing?)
  • What type of question to ask (closed, open, hypothetical?) and
  • Know the consequences of each (factual information, opening up discussion and potential questions back).

Here are 50 questions to ask to help you make the right decision for you (the last one is my favorite!):

  1. What’s it like to work here?
  2. What is a typical day like for someone in this position?
  3. How has your experience been working here?
  4. If you had to ‘sell’ this company today to someone who is a great fit, what would you tell him/her?
  5. What’s the best thing about working here/this position?
  6. What is the most challenging thing about working here/this position?
  7. How is this company different from others you worked at previously?
  8. What keeps you working here?
  9. What is the biggest challenge you have personally faced in this organization?
  10. What are the main challenges I would face if you recruited me and I started tomorrow?
  11. Overall, how would you classify the financial health of the company?
  12. What do you see as your biggest advantages over your main competitors?
  13. What does the company need most right now?
  14. What excites you about the future here/in this section?
  15. How does the organization fulfill its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?
  16. How do you describe your company’s culture?
  17. How do you describe your department’s/section’s/team’s culture?
  18. What is the predominant management or leadership style here?
  19. How do people have a voice in your organization/this section?
  20. What are the qualities of your best performing employees?
  21. What sets them apart and makes them special in your eyes?
  22. In what ways do you empower your employees?
  23. How will you support or invest in me so I can be at my best?
  24. What opportunities are there to take on management/leadership roles within the department or projects?
  25. What are the prospects for (further) progression or internal mobility?
  26. For this position, how frequently are people considered for new opportunities?
  27. How do you induct/on-board new recruits?
  28. How are expectations set and communicated to staff?
  29. How much autonomy/responsibility/accountability will I have?
  30. What support is there for dealing with difficulties?
  31. What is the primary goal or responsibilities of this position in the first year?
  32. Describe your impression of success for this position?
  33. What are the most important skills and abilities necessary for someone to succeed in this job?
  34. What are the most important attitudes necessary for someone to succeed in this job/organization?
  35. How will you know I’m doing a good job or not?
  36. What will you expect me to have achieved after 3 months? How will you know?
  37. Why is the position available?
  38. How many people have held this position in the last 5 years?
  39. What were the reasons they left?
  40. What was the reason the last person left?
  41. Can I see where I would be working/meet the people I would be working with?
  42. Can you show me some examples of projects I’ll be working on?
  43. What is the one character trait would you use to describe a successful employee here?
  44. What helped the previous person to be successful here?
  45. If I were employed here, what one piece of wisdom would you want me to incorporate into my work life?
  46. Can you describe the ideal candidate for this position?
  47. What advice would you give me so that I would be successful here?
  48. What further information do you need from me for you to make an informed decision?
  49. What further questions or concerns do you have about my ability to perform this job (or) that I need to clear up?
  50. What is the question you want me to ask right now?
Another question that is almost always asked in an interview is the open-ended: “Tell me about yourself.” One must understand that employers are trying to gauge many things from the answer they get from you:
  • Do you communicate well (confident? well spoken? eye contact?)
  • Past work experience, reasons for leaving, future plans
  • Personality!!! (are you a culture fit? what type of personality are you?)
“They want to gauge how the person thinks,” says Eileen Finn, president of executive search firm Eileen Finn & Associates in New York. Even though there is no one right answer, focusing on the past, the negative, or the too personal can hurt your chances of making it through.
Here are some pointers to consider when formulating the answer to this question .
  • A good option would be to ask your interviewer: “Where would you like me to start off?” If they don’t tell you, or let you decide, then talk about your previous work experiences and tell them why you’ve chosen the career you’re in. Don’t bad mouth previous employers.
  • Keep personal negative events out of your answer: You also don’t want to tell an interviewer you’re divorced; you want to tell them something positive, like you’re a big believer in giving back to the community.
  • Length: If you’re too wordy you’re going to lose them, but if you just give them bullet points without any narrative or conversation then they’re going to think you’re not self-reflective or self-aware. It is a fine line! The answer should be short and succinct, never more than five minutes
  • Some things you need to include: Brief details about who you are, things you’re passionate about and areas you focus on, and past positive work experiences. Ensure you don’t go over any facts a second time during the duration of your interview. You should sound confident and at ease, but never cocky.
  • Mention achievements, but don’t brag about them.
  • Role-playing your answer to a family member or close friend can go a long way (if they are willing to be honest with you).
  • Preparation, however, is the key!
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