When you interview for a new position, much of the conversation focuses on you and how you’d fill the given role and meet the expected qualifications. As a result, you spend a lot of time selling yourself and your skills.
But choosing to take a new job isn’t just about what you will do for the company— it’s also about whether the company is a good fit for your professional goals and day-to-day happiness. You’ll spend roughly 40 hours a week at work, so you need to make sure this job is one in which you’ll flourish.
To find out if a company or role is the right fit, ask these 10 questions.
1. What Are Your Expectations for This Role?
You need to get a sense of what you’re in for with this new position, particularly what will be expected of you during the first three months on the job. “Asking about quarterly goals for the position is key to setting yourself up for success before you even accept an offer,” says Lindsay Shoemake, founder of career lifestyle site That Working Girl. “If your interviewer or potential manager doesn’t seem to provide a clear answer, that might be a red flag that they haven’t set clear expectations for the position.”
A related follow-up: “What is the biggest challenge I would face in this position?”
“Many interviewers will respond to this question by providing you with an honest overview of company politics that will help you to evaluate whether you can succeed,” says Joe Weinlick, senior vice president of marketing for Beyond.com. “If the answer is, ‘You won’t have any challenges,’ beware! There are always challenges, and you may want to dig deeper before accepting a position.”
2. What Personalities Flourish Here?
This question is a must. Most managers can easily identify the type of person who would be successful in their organizations. Their answer will give you a better sense of whether you would be a good fit within the organization, says Jenn DeWall, a certified career and life coach. “It’s best to know this early on versus fighting to fit in and be the type of personality you’re not,” she says.
3. What Personal or Professional Development Opportunities Exist?
Learning about a company’s commitment to development can signal how much the organization values its employees, says Maria Katrien Heslin, founder of Business Boostcamp. “For example, there are some organizations that do not provide training or time off for professional development. Some have overly strict policies on employees being able to attend conferences,” she explains. “Organizations like this most often are pretty old-school in their management approach.”
4. What’s the Typical Career Path for This Position?
“For those who are goal oriented, it’s important to know up front what you’re working toward,” DeWall says. “If you are eager to climb the corporate ladder and develop your resume and an employer indicates there aren’t career advancement opportunities, the position may be a dead end for you and your career goals.”
Definitely something you’d want to know before taking a position that could lead you nowhere—and back on the job hunt in a couple of years.
5. What’s the Company Culture Like?
Whether you’re interested in a job that allows for flex time or you’d like to be able to bring your dog into the office, you need to find out what the company culture is like before you’re hired. DeWall advises asking about the organization’s take on work-life balance and what a typical workday looks like.
Of course, you don’t want to come off as unprofessional, so you might not want to ask straight up about working remotely and whether you’re allowed to dress casually in your first interview, but these key elements might be important to find out if you have an offer in hand.
“By asking about office culture you should get the answers to your questions,” says Erik Bowitz of Copy My Resume. “The ability to dress down and work remotely are valuable benefits for today’s graduates entering the workforce,” and companies are trying to entice the best and brightest with more modern policies.
6. Do You Have a Bonus Program?
“Don’t be bashful about asking about compensation,” Bowitz says. He advises job hunters to get all the details on their pay—from base salary to bonus programs and equity—before accepting an offer, even unofficially or verbally. “Remember you both are bringing value to the table, and so you should never feel lower or disadvantaged being the interviewee.”
Joseph Terach, founder and CEO of Resume Deli, also advises not being shy when asking about benefits, especially how much you’ll have to contribute to medical and dental coverage per month and how the 401(k) vesting and matching programs work. At the end of the day, you’re working to get paid, so you need to be sure the compensation is adequate.
7. Why Do You Like Working Here?
The answer to this question can be quite telling. “This is a good question to ask the interviewer because it’s unexpected and the response can be revealing,” says career consultant Melissa Cooley, founder of The Job Quest. “While most folks will pause before answering because they aren’t anticipating the question—which is a normal reaction—others may stumble all over their words. If an interviewer has a challenging time forming an answer, that’s worth noting.”
Some interviewers may give a boilerplate response when asked about company culture, says Weinlick says. But with this question, you’ll get an immediate emotional and verbal reaction. “If the response tells you the person isn’t excited to go to work, then ask yourself if you are likely to be any different,” he adds. “Ideally, the interviewer will paint a picture of why you would want to work at the company.”
8. What Values Are Important to Your Company?
Getting a sense of the company’s values is extremely important, says Ethan Austin, co-founder of GiveForward: You want to find out whether there’s a common mission or goal that employees collectively work toward—and whether it matches your own values. “If different interviewers give different answers to this question, it’s a red flag to the interviewee that the company is not aligned around a clear mission,” he explains.
John Fleischauer, senior talent attraction manager for Halogen Software, agrees. “What you’re looking for is a response where the interviewer can explicitly communicate, with examples, how the organizational culture is intentionally reinforced across the employee life cycle,” he says. “In other words, if exceptional customer service is a cultural value, the importance of wanting to help or serve clients and meet their needs should be included in all job descriptions as a core competency.”
9. What Do You Think Are the Top 5 Assets of This Company?
This is a bit of a trick question, but the answer will give you further insight about what it might be like to work at the organization and how the company values its personnel.
“One of the responses should be, ‘Employees,’” Cooley says. “If the people who make the products or provide the service are mentioned as an afterthought, or not at all, a candidate should really wonder how that would impact the way the company treats them.”
10. Where Will I Sit?
It might sound silly, but literally seeing the office or cubicle in which you’d spend five days each week is very important for assessing your quality of life at the company. “It’s a mistake not to ask to see where you’ll be sitting: Imagine taking a job only to find out on day one that you’re in a windowless basement,” Terach says. Not the kind of surprise you want, right?
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