I hate fluff articles with similar titles that give you worthless tips for interviews like, “Tell me why you like working here”?” Bah! No one cares because the answer to that question ls likely to be pure BS anyway.
At the risk of being blunt, there’s some things you need to get out of an interview, but usually don’t ask because they can seem edgy. Still, getting this information is important. How you get it in your line of questioning, that I leave to you. Also you need to focus on the 2-3 questions that are most important to you personally.
What’s next in this process, and when? Usually an interviewer will inform you of this as their way of saying, “we’re done with this interview.” If they don’t, you need to know what the next steps are and what the timing is for those steps. Timing can be important, because it tells you how important this role is. If they want to fill it fast, it is more likely mission critical.
Who’s the decision maker? Organizations often have rounds of interviews, one with a recruiter, one with the hiring manager, sometimes a technical interview, sometimes team interviews, and so on. Their belief is this ensures they get the best candidate; when in reality it spreads out the blame for hiring bad candidates to a larger group of people. As such, it can get confusing as to who is the individual that actually is making the judgement call as to your joining the company. If you don’t know this, ask!
Why didn’t this position get filled from within? This tells you how important promotion from within is, if they provide training, etc. I asked this recently and got, “Oh, we have several in-house candidates that we like, but we always like looking in the external market.” In other words, they may just be wasting your time because of a stupid policy. Probing at this can tell you a great deal about how the organization views their people.
What would be my career progression if I were offered this job? In other words, how long until I can promoted and to what role or position? Will I have freedom to change career directions, or is this seen as a niche role with little room for growth? What I always want to know with this question is, “How much flexibility will I have with my career path?” What you want to find out is simple – is this a company that has an up-or-out approach to careers, or one that sees you as a long term asset they want to nurture and grow?
What does your company do to retain talent? Does this company even care enough to try and keep its best performers? The companies that really do care have program in place. This is also a good question to determine if the organization you are interviewing with is one that cherishes experience, or promotes more of an “up-and-out,” mentality towards its people.
Does your company have any outsourcing initiatives or efforts to move jobs overseas? I know of someone who hired into a job, only to find out that the seat was vacated because his predecessor had already been told the role was being moved to India. You need to know if you are entering an environment that is harvesting jobs for outside vendors or to send overseas. While this is not a deal-breaker on its own (the role you are interviewing for may not be impacted) it can tell you a great deal about the morale and focus of the staff.
What is your employee review process like? The response to this question tells you something about how the tentative organization evaluates its people’s performance. How you will be evaluated often drives the type of work you do. Best to learn that before you are offered the position.
How many hours are there in a typical work week in this position? Are you going to have time to have a life? Is this place a sweat shop? Chances are they will tell you, “it varies,” but you should probe a little further. “So what is the high end and the low end?”
What is your turnover rate in this role? You can give a recruiter an aneurism with this question, so I saved it for last. This is how many people leave this job. It tells you about the culture and the kind of longevity you can expect in this position. If people are staying for a long time (a low turnover rate) then it is probably a pretty good place to work.
Bear in mind, the recruiter or the hiring manager may lie through their teeth in response to these kinds of questions. If nothing else, it can give you something to bitch and whine about when you discover the truth, “When I interviewed they told me I could have a career here…those bastards…”
I have been told that some recruiters might react negatively to one or more of these questions. I try and not live my life around what upsets recruiters. Well, do you really want to work at a place that won’t share this information with you up-front? If nothing else, shame on you for not getting this information in your interview.