Everyone, whether a fresh graduate or an established professional, has gone through the stressful process of finding a new job. In years past, employers have been able to be selective in hiring candidates. But times change; the demand for top talent now outweighs the supply of candidates who possess the critical thinking and soft skills necessary to succeed in today’s world. In order to differentiate themselves in such a tight market, employers put their best foot forward when advertising their company’s benefits, perks, and growth. However, for every positive mentioned, there can be negatives lurking in the background.
If you want to find the truth behind the corporate pitch, you have to ask questions that go beyond those that don’t really help you in the long run. For example, I loathe the question “What’s one thing you would change about your company?” I equate this to a recruiter asking a candidate what their greatest weakness is. Neither side is completely honest because it may cause them to lose the candidate or the job, respectively. By asking the right job interview questions, you’re able to create a more complete picture of the company that allows you to make an informed decision when reviewing an offer. Listed below are some topics and sample questions that you may find useful in your next job interview.
1) Company Growth
This section may be geared towards companies with growth goals, but is still important for all candidates looking for new roles. Stagnant companies, both big and small, will provide little room for career advancement. A company without robust growth is interested in keeping the status quo. That means you are not learning and gaining new skills to move up in the world. For some, the only way to experience career advancement is to either leave for a new job (stressful) or sit, wait, and hope for someone in the hierarchy to retire, leave, or get fired (unfulfilling in the short term). Below are some related job interview questions you may want to ask:
- What is the projected growth of the company over the next 3-5 years?
- How transparent is senior leadership when speaking about future goals and projected growth?
- What are some threats to the growth of the company? Are they more internal (bad hiring, poor management) or external (strong competition/market risks)?
Pay attention to the tone of the recruiter’s response. If you notice a change in their energy level when talking about the future of the company, then that recruiter is likely not optimistic about its long-term potential, and you may want to dig a little deeper in future interviews.
2) Personal Growth
Building off of company growth, the personal growth that’s possible at the company may be exaggerated in order to excite you about the potential of joining. While on the job search, finding a company that will turn a job into a career is key. Make sure a company can provide you with both the opportunity to be mentored by senior leadership and a defined career path. Make sure you ask at least one of these questions in a first-round interview:
- How much interaction is there between upper and mid management with entry-level employees?
- Are there mentorship programs available?
- What types of jobs do people with my title go into when they are promoted?
- How do you select and promote employees to senior and management positions? Is the company focused on promoting from within?
Recruiters should know how the company mentors and promotes. If they can provide specific methods or numbers, then you can feel comfortable moving forward.
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3) Company Culture
If companies are willing to spend time, effort, and money to create and curate a company culture, they are going to make sure you know all the awesome perks available should you be hired. Although these things are great on the surface level, the old adage remains true: there is no such thing as a free lunch. Many of these “perks” have been put in place to keep employers in the workspace longer in order to increase your productivity. In the corporate world, great companies will develop a culture that goes beyond catered lunches and beer on Fridays. These companies that truly care about their product and their employees will focus on a collaborative culture, encouraging cohesion amongst siloed departments. Often, physical perks will help to create this collaborative culture, but make sure that a corporate culture goes beyond the superficial level.
- How does the company foster collaboration on the department and company level?
- How do company perks foster this collaborative atmosphere?
- As the company grows, how does management plan on maintaining the culture?
The last question is geared for companies in growth phases. This is particularly on the mind of company founders and senior management. It’s easy to keep the culture you have curated as the company grows from two to twenty people. It’s very difficult to maintain culture scaling up from twenty to two hundred, or a thousand.
This is a very basic list, but using one question from each section per interview, along with one to two company-specific questions drafted from previous research, will give you a solid list that will impress recruiters and hiring managers alike. As you’re going through the Q&A process, do not be afraid to take notes and dig deeper into the answers that are given to you. By taking notes, you display strong interest in learning more. Furthermore, by asking recruiters and hiring managers to elaborate on subjects brought up, you can display your critical thinking skills and show you have the ability to push back if something does not make sense to you at first pass. Good luck and happy interviewing!