Interviews: Not Asking Questions Is Asking Not To Be Hired

I have seen several posts on LinkedIn recently about candidates asking questions during interviews. I was having a phone call with a candidate yesterday and he asked me how to prepare for the interview and formulate questions.

So from a hiring perspective, what do your interviewers expect from you, other than answering their questions?

Simply put: excitement/interest in the job! You express this by asking questions. I have declined candidates that have done perfectly well functionally on interviews, but showed little to no interest in the job. If you don’t ask questions of your interviewers, here are the three impressions you are probably giving:

A) You aren’t really interested in the position.
B) You are arrogant/stuck up, "don’t play well with others."
BR />C) Boredom.

Hopefully, most people will ask general questions of their interviewers that are pertinent to the job. Make sure you ask your interviewers DIFFERENT questions, not the same ones.

-Why is this job open? If it is a backfill, why did the person leave the position?
B />-What is your role on the team?

-What is a typical day like in your group?

-Can you tell me your impression of the corporate culture? The team culture?
-Who are the stakeholders outside of the immediate team this role interacts with?
B >-How does this position contribute to the bottom line success of the company? (For the hiring manager) What are the metrics/objectives I would be evaluated on in the first 3, 6, 12 months?
BR />The more senior you become in your career, the more expectation there is that you will be interested in the company and industry as well as your immediate job/team. Formulating questions to ask is probably not only the easiest and most comprehensive way to prepare for an interview, but doing some homework about the company will also give you some insights into the business, culture, history, etc. It can also help someone that identifies as introverted feel more relaxed to have a list of questions ready to ask.
B >How do you start? Visit the organization’s website.

If they are a producer of a product, look at their product pages and understand both their business, their customers, and their industry niche. If the company provides services, read up about those services and check their portfolio of customers. It is *always* pertinent to ask about specifics.

-How is your product doing?

-How much market share do you have?

-Who is your main competition, what makes you better? Why would a customer/client choose you over your competition?

-What makes you "special"?

-What is your business model?
B />Publicly held companies will have an investor section; check out their financial performance over the last 6-18 months. "Why was there a downswing last spring? I see there was a surge in your financials a year ago, what do you attribute that to?"

-Press releases. "I see your CFO left after only 13 months, did s/he give a reason why? Why did you close your facility last January in XYZ location?"

-Job Descriptions: you can learn a lot about a company not only by what positions are currently open, but also by how they are written. You can see what industry tools they use (and you can look on Wikipedia if you aren’t familiar with something) and determine if they are up to date or behind the times. Often, job postings will have dates on when they were originally posted. If a common job has been open for more than a 2-3 months, it is a valid question to ask. "I see you have a marketing assistant position that has been open for over four months; I’m curious why it has been so hard to fill?"

External sources:

-Glassdoor should be a no-brainer in this day and age. Check out the employee reviews. Do make sure you read general as well as areas that are of more interest to your field specifically. A company that has a lot of high-turnover positions (customer service, warehouse, retail) will probably get more negative reviews. But if their professional jobs have similar feedback about working conditions, pay, benefits, leadership…that is a major red flag.

-LinkedIn is where you check out current and past employees. See how long people stay at the company – if most employees leave after less than two years, that is a red flag. If there is anyone in your first or second degree network, reach out and ask if they would be willing to have a chat with you about their time at the company. Schedule a phone call and ask their opinion and experiences.
B >
-Consumer reports/customer comments reflect how a company is perceived. If they get a lot of complaints about how customers were treated, that shows a major disconnect or at the very least a lack of organization. Don’t forget to check the BBB if they are a company that provides services. -Run a Google search on the company and legal action. See if they have been sued or part of any major cases.

-Check out local news/media outlets like the local Business Journal, the city newspaper, industry publications/portals.

B >o a actually find, as you do some research on the company, that it changes your mind about whether or not this is the right company for you. You may become more excited, or reach the conclusion that this isn’t the right place for you. Either way, it will give you more context about what role you may potentially play, where the organization is going, and whether or not you can envision yourself spending 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year working there.

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