As noted in our last article, Interview Questions for Potential Employees, hiring is up in the United States.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, payroll employment rose by over 220,000 in the month of June.  The increase in hiring means an increase in job interviews. 

We have already taken a look at interview questions an employer should ask applicants.  Now it is time to turn the tables and examine questions that an applicant should ask hiring managers.

1. Will I be replacing somebody (and if so, why) or is this a new position?

This is a good question to ask soon after you get the opportunity to ask questions because it can help provide more context about the job for which you are interviewing.  The answer you receive can give you insight into any past problems associated with the position and can give you clues into the company’s culture and expectations for you.  For example, if the opening was created because the previous employee was promoted, it may be a good sign that this position can lead to advancement within the organization.  On the other hand, you may find that the position being offered is only temporary or has a history of high turnover, which may lead you to think twice about whether this opportunity is really right for you.

2. What will my role be, and how will this role help contribute to the growth of the enterprise?<

These questions serve a few different purposes. First, you will get a clearer picture of the skills and qualities that will be needed to successfully fill the position, so you will have a chance to take stock of what is needed to see if you are a good fit for what is being offered. If you are, you can immediately begin to explain and demonstrate how your skills and experience will lead you to success in the role they envision for you.  Secondly, these questions demonstrate your willingness to work as part of a team for the greater good, which is a characteristic highly valued by most employers.  Finally, a conversation started by these questions can easily lead to a discussion of the organization’s mission, which will allow you to see if your aspirations are in alignment with your potential employer’s goals.  This is important for both sides to know.

3. What can you tell me about the departments or people with whom I will work?

Before you agree to spend a large portion of your days working for a company, you will want to try to get some insights about the people you will be working directly under and with as soon as possible.  While you will not likely find out everything you need or want to know during the interview, the response you get may give you a clearer picture about the organization’s structure and group dynamics.  If you are lucky, you may also get details about the other employees’ personalities.  This can help you spot potential personality or managerial conflicts before you get embroiled in a bad situation.

4. What training programs are offered?  Will there be opportunities for advancement?

Aside from the useful information that can be gained from the responses, both of these questions allow you to sell yourself.   You demonstrate a willingness to grow and engage in self-improvement when asking about professional development or training options that the company offers.  You demonstrate intrinsic motivation and a drive to succeed when asking about opportunities for advancement.  What employer wouldn’t value these characteristics in an employee?

5. What can you tell me about the work culture?  What is your favorite thing about working here, or what would you change if you could?

Knowing more about the work environment you will be stepping into if you accept the job will help you make a more informed decision about whether it is the right fit for you, and inquiries along these lines can help reveal some of the inner workings of the organization if you pay close attention to the answers and how people answer them.  Nonverbal cues can be just as telling as the words that are spoken.  Furthermore, this type of question could indicate to the prospective employer that you understand the conditions in which you work best and, as a careful self-manager, you are seeking an environment in which you can optimize your performance. 

6. What are the company’s plans for new products or services?  How will the new products and services benefit the organization and marketplace?

These questions allow you to show a level of interest and concern in the company.  They may also lead to an opportunity to showcase knowledge you gained about the business while doing research before the interview, which is a preparatory step you should always take before sitting down with your potential employers.  Additionally, the responses you receive may give you an idea of the types of projects you will be working on if hired.

7. After interviewing me, what do you feel are some reasons I may not be right for this position?

Asking this question may put your interviewer(s) on the spot, but it will almost certainly reflect well on you.  It demonstrates that you are open to constructive criticism and honest feedback.  It demonstrates a commitment to personal improvement and self-reflection.  If you do receive constructive feedback, writing down or noting what they say will display attentiveness and initiative.  You will then have tangible areas of weakness that you can work on improving before your next interview.  Conversely, your question may prompt the interviewers to reflect on what a strong candidate you are and lead them to the realization that you would be a great member of their team.

What steps are to be taken once the interview has concluded?

This should be your closing question at the end of the interview, and it is an important one because you do not want to leave the building wondering and waiting.  The response to this question should give you a better idea of the time frame in which the hiring process will be completed and who else you may have to talk to or what else you may have to do to land the job.  Perhaps more research will be necessary before you can comfortably or realistically move forward.  All of these things can come to light at the end of an interview, but they may not unless you simply ask. 

The aforementioned questions are just some examples of the most useful types of questions to ask during an interview.  You may, of course, want to ask more specific questions relevant to the business or position for which you are interviewing, but asking questions such as these can help you reveal information that will assist you and the potential employer in determining whether or not you are the person for the job.  In an economy where competition for jobs can be fierce, it is wise to do everything you can to prepare for a successful interview ahead of time, and having quality questions to ask in every round of the interview process (even if they are the same questions for every company representative you meet because you will often get different answers) is an important step to successfully landing the job. 

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