[Workin’ It] The Interview Questions You’re Not Asking

When I became part of the ‘working world’ after college,  one thing that my parents incessantly drilled into my head is that even though I’m out of school, the schooling is never done.  Every day is a fresh opportunity to learn and  I should always be looking to evolve on a personal level and improve my employable skill set. And even if you’re not looking to get out of the enterprise you’re currently in, it’s always important that you’re fresh on your interview skills.

As it currently stands, a lot of high level positions that took people lots of time, sweat, energy – and not to mention tuition and housing – to achieve are the ones being taken away. These jobs were considered redundant based on new technological equivalents that cost significantly less than manual labor.  On a personal level, over my last three years working in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, I’ve seen a fair amount of turnover just at the Walt Disney Studios; in just 2 years, I’ve seen thousands of coworkers get laid off.

An interview is a two-way street; the interviewer is simply directing the traffic.  For as many questions as you’re answering, make sure you ask the interviewer some back – not only is it demonstrating that you’re paying attention, but it shows genuine interest in the role as well as the conversation.  Before you ask, be prepared!  Do your homework on the company and make sure you can’t answer any of the questions through a simple Google search.  Finally, when you do get your opportunity to shine – remember that yes and no answers don’t facilitate an evolving conversation, so make sure you build your question to create an open-ended inquiry that moves things along.

Questions, decision making or uncertainty concept - a pile of colorful crumpled sticky notes with question marks

The 9-5

Get the basic 411 on the position

What types of skills is the team missing that you’re looking to fill with a new hire?

Keep in mind that these skills might not be part of the job description; for extra brownie points, ask about the personalities of the team that you’d be working with.  Are you a good fit in all fronts?

What are the biggest challenges that someone in this position would face?

Everyone in every position faces challenges – what makes us unique are the ways we choose to conquer them.  Keep an open ear to the problems offered and see if you can donate a solution during the interview.

How has the position evolved over time? If it’s a new position, why was it created?

This is an essential question in my book, to understand where you’ll sit within a new company it helps to understand the history and importance of the position within the company.

Development of Professional Skills

How will this position help you evolve?

How will I be trained?

 Who’s going to train you and are you going to be part of a training group? Are there initial classes you’ll be required to take?  Extra credit points for this one: are there courses you can take during your time at the company that you can get accredited for?

Are there opportunities for advancement within the position?

Not saying you should be thinking of leaving this position (that you haven’t gotten…) already, but it helps to know the trajectory of a position – it especially helps to know right off the bat if there’s no room for growth (a deterrent for someone like me.)  On the flip side:  can you become a group manager or even reach the director or Executive Director position?  All good things to take into account.

Why is this position available and where is the last person who held it now?

It helps to know the turnover rate of a job:  do people in this role have high visibility across the company and get hired on in another department?  Or, did they get fired for doing something foul?

Get To Know Your Interviewer

Time to flip the script and get to know your interviewer. 

How has the company and your role within it evolved since you’ve been here?

Has the company branched out into new verticals or have they been stagnant?   This is a great way of determining how the company, as well as other positions besides the one you’re applying for, have evolved over time.

What gets you most excited about the company’s future?

I don’t know about you, but hearing someone excited about the company they work for makes me excited about the prospect of working with them as well.  If they’re not excited about the company, that could be the red light you need to get yourself out of there.

Your Teammates and Company Culture

There might not be an i in ‘TEAM’ but as colleagues have told me, there happens to be one right in the middle of the ‘A’ hole so it helps knowing the personalities you’ll be interacting with on a daily basis.  And then there’s the company culture itself – is it laid-back or high-stress? It helps to know exactly what you’re getting into on all fronts!

How’s the team rapport?

Remember how strong teams are and realize that they might have just lost a pivotal player.  You might want to understand how close-knit the group you’re about to infiltrate is and how well they get along; this will preemptively prevent you from stepping on people’s toes.  And then there’s the chance that your soon to be colleagues are social butterflies that Happy Hour like no-one’s business – this is nice to know as well and might get you excited about an otherwise mundane jo

Who will I work with most closely and which other departments work most closely with this one?

One thing I like knowing is how many people I’ll directly be interacting with on a daily basis – maybe I’m going to be a self-started and micromanage my own tasks, but maybe my daily schedule is riddled with team-meetings and conferences and there are specific people that I’ll want to build special work relationships with.  Simply put, how self-sufficient is this position and who will you be interacting with.

What is the company and team culture like?

I’ve never been one to hang out with work associates outside of campus, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want that – I’d love to take part in team building workshops, volunteer opportunities and work related courses and it helps to know off the bat if those are available.

What are the Next Steps?

When you step out of the door, the interview is over – so make sure you wrap things up with your interviewer and ensure they have everything they need to move forward effectively.

Can I answer any last questions for you?

This is your final shot – so ask away.  A few of my favorite questions are how I can make myself more competitive for the position and if they would keep me in mind for additional openings within the company.

What are the next steps in the interview process?

Maybe there are additional forms to sign, or other people to talk with once you’re out of the interview – but you won’t know unless you ask.  I always get in touch with the team that orchestrated the interview to let them know how it went and double-check that I’ve crossed my T’s and dotted my I’s.

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