I took my first job when I was 13: my neighbors approached me after church service one day and asked me if I’d sell vegetables for them. Sue, the wife of the farming duo and store manager, said she was impressed with the role I’d taken in the church as an actor in skits and plays, and as editor of the monthly newsletter. In that case, the interview had probably manifested more as observation and lasted over the course of months or years.
When I started interviewing for more common jobs with bigger businesses, people told me all about the appropriate methods of interviewing: being polite and honest, dressing professionally, researching the company, anticipating questions and preparing answers, and then asking questions of my own. The importance and approach to everything on that list became relatively obvious to me…except one. I always struggled to come up with a question or two for the interviewer. Hadn’t we already discussed everything? Wasn’t it the interviewer’s responsibility to cover the bases? What else did I need to know? It was a job, for crying out loud.
No one had elaborated to me what I was supposed to ask. Or, if they had, I didn’t quite get it.
Now I get it.
While there’s certainly something to be said about a job being a job, it’s not the only job. While an interview seems to be about an employer selecting an employee, the potential employee must also select an employer. As the employee, you have a right to want to work for a specific company.
So what do you want and how important is it? Asking your interviewer certain questions can help you understand if the job is a fit for you. Questions are useless without understanding by what the answers should be measured.
Think about your professional priorities: Do you want money? Creativity? Efficiency? Professionalism? Empathy?
Think about what makes you work best: Does motivation come from positive feedback? Open debate? Independent work? Collaboration? Structured time? Hierarchy? Flexibility?
Think about the bigger picture: Do you want to be involved in social awareness? Giving? Politics? Education? Art? Local community? Global community?
By knowing what you want you can generate open-ended questions, general or specific, to glean honest answers about the potential employer’s environment:
- How does your company produce results? What’s your process?
- Personally, why do you love working for X?
- In your opinion, what makes your company/department stand out from the rest?
- What would you say is the company’s biggest challenge in relation to its goals?
- What does your business do for employees with/starting families?
- Is the company involved in the community? How so or why not?
- What’s the company’s organizational structure and what are my prospects for moving within that structure?
As you create these questions, keep in mind that your interviewer can’t divulge company secrets and is a professional; ask questions that the interviewer can answer without compromising their integrity. Also frame your questions positively. Negative questions may sound like you’re leading down a path of gossip or that you have a sour outlook of the job, company, or life itself. The way you frame your questions reflects on you just as much as the answers you give earlier in the interview.
The above questions have been running through my head; what would you ask?
Update July 3, 2012. If you’re so bold, Mashable recommends “13 Questions to Ask at Your Next Job Interview.”
Posted in On Jobs |