The 21 Questions You Need to Ask in a Job Interview

It’s Not About Me, It’s About You!

[Editor’s Note: Job interviewing is a two-way process; it is not just about answering questions, it is about asking questions, too! The right questions! We are pleased to present this insightful article by Marc Cenedella, Chairman of TheLadders.]

By Marc Cenedella

Ask these questions in your next job interview and watch the hiring manager’s face light up.
It’s time for my twice-a-year update of the best questions for you to ask in an interview.

I’ve put this list together because so often we can forget what an interview’s all about. It sure feels like it’s about you, but it’s really not.

An interview is actually about how you can help your future boss and future employer succeed. It’s about finding out what their requirements and hopes are and matching up your background and experience with what they need.

Overlooking these basic facts about the interview is easy. There’s so much else going on in your work, your life, and in your job search, that you can forget to look at the interview from the interviewer’s point of view. And that’s a shame, because you need the interviewer to walk away from the interview thoroughly impressed.

When I ran these questions previously, commenter “spiderji” wrote in and said:
Marc, I used some of your questions in a job interview today. When I asked how to get a “gold star” on the evaluation, the interviewers faces lit up!” I contrast today’s interview with others I’ve been on where I didn’t have any meaningful questions at the end. This one was electric! I won’t know the results for a couple of days, but if they hire me I’ll owe you a drink! Thank you!

And reader LBRZ shared:
I have to thank you! I had an interview yesterday and it went great. When I asked about his leadership style and reward system his face lit up like a Christmas tree.

After he answered the question “how can I help you receive your next promotion?”, he began to give me advice on how I should negotiate for a higher starting salary.

And that’s exactly the point, Readers. By asking these questions, which focus on the needs, traits, and preferences of your future boss and future employer, you’re demonstrating that you are somebody who is genuinely interested in their well-being. And the more interest we show in others, the more commitment they show to aiding our cause.

With that in mind, here’s the twice-a-year update to my collection of “best interview questions” below. My aim here is to arm you with easy-to-ask, revealing-to-answer questions for you to take with you to an interview:

1. What’s the biggest change your group has gone through in the last year? Does your group feel like the tough times are over and things are getting better, or are things still pretty bleak? What’s the plan to handle to either scenario?

2. If I get the job, how do I earn a “gold star” on my performance review? What are the key accomplishments you’d like to see in this role over the next year?

3. What’s your (or my future boss’) leadership style?

4. About which competitor are you most worried?

5. How does sales / operations / technology / marketing / finance work around here? (I.e., groups other than the one you’re interviewing for.)

6. What type of people are successful here? What type of people are not?

7. What’s one thing that’s key to this company’s success that somebody from outside the company wouldn’t know about?

8. How did you get your start in this industry? Why do you stay?

9. What are your group’s best and worst working relationships with other groups in the company? What are the pain points you have to deal with day-to-day?

10. What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest worry these days?

11. What’s the timeline for making a decision on this position? When should I get back in touch with you?

12. These are tough economic times, and every position is precious when it comes to the budget. Why did you decide to hire somebody for this position instead of the many other roles / jobs you could have hired for? What about this position made you prioritize it over others?

13. What is your reward system? Is it a star system / team-oriented / equity-based / bonus-based / “attaboy!”-based? Why is that your reward system? What do you guys hope to get out of it, and what actually happens when you put it into practice? What are the positives and the negatives of your reward system? If you could change any one thing, what would it be?

14. What information is shared with the employees (revenues, costs, operating metrics)? Is this an “open book” shop, or do you play it closer to the vest? How is information shared? How do I get access to the information I need to be successful in this job?

15. If we are going to have a very successful year in 2015, what will that look like? What will we have done over the next 6 months to make it successful? How does this position help achieve those goals? (This question helps show your ability to look beyond today’s duties to the future more than a year away.)

16. How does the company / my future boss do performance reviews? How do I make the most of the performance review process to ensure that I’m doing the best I can for the company?

17. What is the rhythm to the work around here? Is there a time of year that it’s “all hands on deck” and we’re pulling all-nighters, or is it pretty consistent throughout the year? How about during the week / month? Is it pretty evenly spread throughout the week / month, or are there crunch days?

18. What type of industry / functional / skills-based experience and background are you looking for in the person who will fill this position? What would the “perfect” candidate look like? How do you assess my experience in comparison? What gaps do you see?

19. What is your (or my future boss’) hiring philosophy? Is it “hire the attitude / teach the skills” or are you primarily looking to add people with domain expertise first and foremost?

20. In my career, I’ve primarily enjoyed working with big / small / growing / independent / private / public / family-run companies. If that’s the case, how successful will I be at your firm?

21. Who are the heroes at your company? What characteristics do the people who are most celebrated have in common with each other? Conversely, what are the characteristics that are common to the promising people you hired, but who then flamed out and failed or left? As I’m considering whether or not I’d be successful here, how should I think about the experiences of the heroes and of the flame-outs?

I hope you find these questions useful in your interviews, Readers! Have a great week in the job search!

Marc Cenedella is the Chairman of TheLadders, an on-line job-matching service. Follow Marc on Twitter at @Cenedella

 

Thoughts on Barbara Walters’ Retirement

When I was going to have dinner with Barbara Walters, my plan was to rip her a new one, to excoriate her, and show her to be a light-weight pretender. This was back more than a few years ago. I was a columnist with millions of readers in 82 newspapers around the U.S. I was going to expose this heartless fluff bag. The $3 million woman, my rear end! I was out to get that shark, the person who belittled, embarrassed and trod all over a real journalist, the widely respected Harry Reasoner.

OMG, as they say today. Was I ever wrong. I mean seriously wrong. Barbara Walters was a fascinating dinner companion. She was intelligent. She had a tremendous grasp of all sorts of issues. She was kind. Most surprisingly to me, she was gracious and genteel; very far from shark-like. She was entertaining and engaging.

I was fortunate, because of my position, to have been able to dine with some very well known entertainers, business leaders and politicians. Barbara Walters would have to be right at the head of my list of truly memorable people. She won’t remember me at all (I was, after all, a print journalist, not a broadcast one!) but I think I became a better professional through what I learned that night.

Back in those days, there was still such a thing as journalism. People who reported the news as accurately, and objectively as they could. People who actually strove to separate fact from opinion. People who tried to find and report the truth. Barbara Walters was one of those. And one of the best of them.

We wish her well on her retirement. She will be missed.

10 things to REALLY IRK a recruiter PART 2

As a career counselor for the last 22 years, I use my experience to help executives and attorneys find alternative careers or conduct their job searches more efficiently. This is oftentimes high end consulting dealing with complex career issues and job search strategies for those in mid-career or aged 50+.

 

Sometimes, though, my job is to stop people from shooting themselves in the foot and sabotaging their job search campaigns.

 

I am primarily a career transition advisor, but on rare occasion I function as a recruiter. I am told by experienced recruiters that finding candidates is easy, but finding GOOD candidates is hard. Now I understand why. Here is Part Two of our story on 10 Really Stupid Things job seekers do to peeve the people who can help them get work.

6. Ask us to call you at 8 p.m. —

Recruiters don’t have lives. We work 24/7 for the love of it. We understand that one cannot always talk at the office. But instead of offering to call us back during your lunch hour or on your way back from a meeting or court appearance later in the day, endear yourself to us by telling us to stay at our office so we can call you at night. That way you are sure to become one of our recommended candidates and we will be most eager to help you in your job search.

 

7. Ask us to call you back later –

We call you and get you at a bad time. You can’t talk. You can make it easier on us by saying you will be available after 3 or whenever and will call us back then – or you can make it harder for us by asking us to call you some other time. Well, let’s see. I have a stack of 146 resumes from job seekers  I need to call TODAY. (Yes, recruiters can be expected to dial 100 or more candidates PER DAY.) Of course, I am going to put your resume ahead of all the others I need to call. You are special!

 

8. Keep pestering us about your status –

We like your background. You were one of a handful of candidates we sent to the hiring partner to evaluate. Probably others recruiters are sending candidates, too. We want you to win the job so we can get paid. When we hear from the hiring authority about your candidacy – yes, no or maybe – we will tell you. It does not bother us at all if we have to reply to frequent emails or phone calls from you inquiring about your status, when we have nothing to report. Heck, no.

 

9. Apply for jobs in states where you don’t live and aren’t admitted

We love to use our imagination and try to ascertain why you reside in MO but are applying for a job in NY where you are not admitted, have never practiced law and have never even lived in – especially when the posting says you must have deep familiarity with NY courts. Of course our client will be more than happy to relocate you to our state, indoctrinate you in NY civil procedure, and have a 2nd year drive you around the 5 boroughs, show you the courts, and introduce you to the courtroom staff. There’s no one already in our State just like you!

 

10. Don’t get back to us after we have tried to reach you –

We have spent hours, days even, researching candidates and matching credentials with the job specs. On paper, you are a good candidate, which is why we are calling you and sending you emails to find out if you’d be interested in talking about the position. Play hard to get and holier than thou by not letting us know about your interest one way or the other, so we can spend more time chasing you. It makes us really want to help you!

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If you are looking for a new job, or an alternative career, do yourself a favor and make it easy for hiring managers to find you and speak with you. Just avoid making these 10 silly errors and you can start moving your career forward.

 

10 things to REALLY IRK a recruiter

Confessions of a legal head hunter

If you want to sabotage your career and miss out on good jobs because of ego, stupidity or sloth, then pay attention! I am going to give you some career-breaker tips – straight from the real world.

I am a career counselor for lawyers. People pay me for my advice and my 22+ years experience in helping clients find new positions. But sometimes I function as a recruiter, and am paid by the hiring company to find lawyers for job openings. I am on a recruiting assignment right now – I have jobs to fill, for free to the taker!

But now I understand why other recruiters tell me that finding good candidates is a struggle. Some job seekers act like they don’t want to find jobs.

In this two-part series, we are going to look at 10 Really Stupid Things job seekers do that frustrate the bejeepers out of recruiters.

Here are five of the dumb things I have seen job-seeking attorneys do in just the last few weeks of doing this search.

1. Don’t put your name on both pages of your resume –
Make it hard for recruiters to get your whole story by leaving your name and contact information off your resume’s second page. We may get hundreds of resumes within a few hours posting a job opening. We print them out in batches. The pages get mixed up. If we find a loose page 2 with education and admissions on it, but we can’t immediately match it to the page 1, guess what happens to the resume? Nothing. It is put in the garbage.

2. Make sure to leave your old cell phone number on your resume —
You apply to our job posting by sending in your resume. We like your background. We call you. We get a message that, “the number you have called is no longer in service.” People change cell phone carriers the way they change underwear. If you don’t want us to call you, leave your old cell number on your new resume. The same goes for your email address; if you were Syracuse Law ’06, you are probably not @syracuse.edu anymore, but no need to keep your resume updated.

3. Ask us to go to your LinkedIn page to get your contact info and resume —
Instead of making it easier for the recruiter to call you about a job opportunity by giving us your phone number, make it hard for us. Tell us to go to your LinkedIn page to get your information, because we have nothing better to do than to spend our time trying to find you so we can offer you jobs and money.

4. Deny that you sent in your resume –
This one happened to me today. We received a resume in email account that we reserve for replies to posted positions. We liked what we saw. The candidate didn’t remember sending the resume to us. That’s OK, because in an active job search, you can send out lots of resumes. But this candidate not only said he didn’t remember sending it, he categorically denied that he sent it. Well then, have a nice day. Click.

5. Don’t put your email address and phone on your resume –
I couldn’t make this one up. We received a resume with NO contact information. No email. No phone. No city. No state. No joke. If you really don’t want the posted job, then send in a resume that makes it impossible for us to find you!

End of Part One. NEXT TIME: 5 More Really Dumb Things you can do to sabotage your job search.