At a lost for what to ask at the end of your interviews? Most interviewers leave time at the end of interviews for job seekers to ask questions. This Q&A period is a very important time for job seekers. It is the best time for job seekers to thoroughly assess whether the role that they are interviewing for will actually be a good fit for their career interests and goals. Oftentimes job seekers, when caught up in the rush of job hunting, forget that entering into an employment agreement should be mutually beneficial for both sides - the employee, and the employer. Asking the right questions during this Q&A period is the best way to assure that the role is really the right fit for you.
Rather than focusing on trying to determine if the job is a good fit, many less experienced job seekers often use the Q&A period to ask questions that may “help them stand out” or “look good”. This is absolutely unnecessary. If you approach the Q&A period as an opportunity to ascertain that the role is a good fit for you, then you will automatically and genuinely look like a serious, interested, and well prepared candidate.
Use the Q&A period at the end of your interviews to learn about responsibilities and expectations, advancement opportunities, team dynamics, office politics and company culture. Below are questions that you may ask to help with your decisions. Select your questions based on who is interviewing you and how much time they have allotted for the Q&A period. For example, ask questions about expectations and advancement opportunities to your future boss and questions about team dynamics and office politics to your future peers.
Responsibilities and Expectations
You should always be clear about the responsibilities and expectations of a role, beyond the job description, before accepting an offer. Job descriptions are often times copied and pasted from previous positions and/or may not even be written by the manager who the hire would report to. The best way to learn about the role’s expectations is to talk with the manager who will be in charge of the role. To find out who the role will be reporting to, simply ask “Who will this role be reporting to?” to one of your first interviewers.
Use the following questions to learn about a role’s responsibilities and expectations when you are interviewed by your future boss. If you do not get a chance to meet your future boss, ask the HR representative “If I were given a job offer, may I have a quick meeting with my manager before making the final decision?”. If they do not allow you to meet your manager, and they do not have a reasonable explanation for why this is the case (i.e. they are not yet hired, they have recently left the company etc.), then you should not take the role.
“What is your preferred working style when working with someone who is reporting to you?” This question will give you insight on how the manager likes to lead and manage. Do they like to do daily check-ins, meet once a week, once a month or as needed? Knowing their style will help you assess whether working for them is a good fit for you.
“What are your preferred modes of communication from your reports?” This question demonstrates that you value communication between you and your manager and that you are adaptable to different communication styles. Some managers prefer phone calls, others prefer to connect via email, instant messaging, text messages etc.
“What are my immediate deliverables in this role?” This question will help you understand your immediate expectations once you join the team. Will there be a training and ramp up period or are you expected to hit the ground running?
- “How do I help you be successful in your role?” or “How does my role fit in with your business goals and objectives?” These questions show that you understand that your success is dependent on and should be in supportive of the success of your boss. Remember, part of your job is to make your boss look good. These questions will help you get in alignment early and quickly or, you may discover that you are not able to help your boss meet their objectives and therefore should not take on the role.
- “How is the success of our team measured and what challenges do you foresee standing in the way of our success?” This question will help you understand the company’s expectations of your team and any challenges that may be blockers.
- “Who will I be working most closely with?” Use this question to learn about who you will work on a day-to-day basis with. Your day-to-day happiness at a job is most impated by your immediate team members. If you get a chance to meet future teammates during the interview process, make sure to assess whether you can get along with them as colleagues. If you are offered the job but do not get a chance to speak with your team members, you can always ask HR or the hiring manager to chat with them briefly before making the final decision.
It is also important to learn about growth and advancement opportunities when taking on a new role. The best way to learn about the role’s advancement opportunities is also through the manager who will be in charge of the hire.
- “What are the opportunities for advancement in this role?” This question will elucidate whether there are clear advancement opportunities for the role at the company.
- “What kind of additional responsibilities can be gained over time?” This question is important if growing within the same company is important to you. If that is the case, then you will want to be given opportunities to take on additional responsibilities over time.
- “How will this role be assessed for advancement opportunities, and how often?” This question helps you learn about how and when your performance reviews will be conducted. The frequency and formality of performance reviews will determine how often and how quickly you could be considered for promotions.
Team Dynamics & Office Politics
Ask about questions about team dynamics and office politics to your peers, not your future boss. Peers, in general, when interviewing you, will give you more candid insights about the team dynamics and office politics than managers. Managers have incentives to embellish the truth if they really want to hire you.
- “What do you think are the strength and weaknesses of the company’s leadership team?” This question helps you learn about the management style of the company’s leadership team and assess whether it is a team that you will be able to support and stand behind. Remember, a company’s management culture is always set by those at the top.
- “Who is someone on the team you feel you can always count on?” A lot can be learned about the dynamics of a team by the way this question is answered by each team member. Is there a “go to” person on the team? Can they all count the same person or different people?
- “What type of personalities are hard to work with in the company?” There will be difficult personalities everywhere and in every company. This question tells you about the personalities that may cause you trouble, should you choose to join the team.
- “Which teams do we work well with and which teams do we not work well with?” Learning about how your team works successfully and unsuccessfully with other teams in the company will prepare you for the office politics that you may face. All work environments will have some politics. The more you understand, the better you will be able to maneuver yourself through it successfully.
- “What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of this team?” This question helps you gauge how your skill sets fit into the team’s existing profile. Do you strengthen it or weaken it? It is generally better to join a team where you skills and experiences compliments what is lacking on the team.
- “What is [insert manager’s name]’s leadership style?” The best way to learn about a manager’s leadership style is from their direct reports. Your peers should be able to tell you what it’s really like to work the manager. If you have a gut feeling that they are not telling the truth, then definitely do not take the role.
Is the Company Culture Right for Me?
Company cultures can vary greatly, even among companies of the same industries. Just because you are a great fit for company A of an industry does not mean you will be a great fit for its competitor, company B. The best resource for learning about a company’s culture is through its current employees. The following questions are appropriate, regardless if you are interviewed by peers or managers.
- “What is your favorite and least favorite part about working at this company?” This is a fun question, can lighten the mood and is generally easy for the interviewer to answer. The question gives great insight about what makes an employee happy vs unhappy at the company. Do the same circumstances apply to your happiness at work?
- “What type of personalities do you think thrive in this company?” This question helps you gauge whether you are the type of person that will naturally succeed in the company. Because of varying company cultures, some personality types may find it easier to succeed than others. You don’t necessarily need to be of those personality types to find success in your role, however, it is to your advantage to be aware of what personalities typically do well.
- “Do people eat lunch together?” This question can tell you if the company has a culture where colleagues socialize and get to know one another or if it has a culture where everyone generally keeps to themselves.
- “How does the company support team members getting to know one another?” Similar to the question above, this question reveals whether there is a company culture that encourages employees to get to know one another beyond work.
- “How often does the leadership team listen to employee feedback?”or “What are the priorities of the leadership team when it comes to company culture and employee satisfaction?” These types of questions can expose how a company approaches, supports and listens to employee feedback, if at all, and whether the job satisfaction of their employees is a priority.
Know What Answers You Are Looking For
Generally, there aren’t right or wrong answers to any of these questions. The purpose of asking these questions is for you to evaluate whether the role is a good fit. Certain answers will ascertain that a job opportunity is in good fit for your goals. Others, will make you think twice before taking the role.
One important thing to note is that you should not use this Q&A session to ask about salary, benefits, vacation days etc. There is a time and a place to discuss those aspects of the compensation package. Those questions are best discussed with HR once you have received a firm offer from the employer. Your goal as a job seeker at the conclusion of your interviews is to have a good sense of whether the role, team and company is a good fit for your next steps. Asking smart questions during the Q&A periods provided to you, at the end of your interviews, is the best way to figure it out.