Three questions you should ask an interviewer
March 19, 2010, 10:16am PDT | Length: 00:02:50
Interviews are a two-way street. It's a way for an interviewer to get to know you but you should use them to find out about the company at which you're applying.
Toni Bowers: Many people approach job interviews with a deer-in-the-headlights, "please don't let me say anything stupid" mentality. And that's understandable since no matter how many times career experts say otherwise -- that you should also use an interview to size up the company -- the job interview is a means by which you're being judged.
Sometimes when people attempt to size up a company and its job offering, it goes terribly wrong. Some candidates misinterpret that mission and end up asking "What about me?" questions like:
"What's the vacation policy?"
"How long will I get for lunch?"
Interviewers like questions from candidates -- they really do -- but you have to learn to ask the right kind. If you ask the right questions, the information you get back could help you decide whether the company is somewhere you want to work. Here are some examples of good questions:
"What can you tell me about the people I'll be working with?"
You can tell a great deal about an interviewer from how she answers this question. Does she speak in glowing terms about the team? Or does she go into too much detail about their quirks? Maybe the question tips off a tirade from her about how worthless and unproductive her staff members are. (That last response should send you running for the hills.)
"How do you approach problem solving?"
If the interviewer responds that he expects problems to be solved in nanoseconds, and you know you're the type of person who likes to weigh all aspects of an issue, then you can pretty much conclude that a working relationship between you two will be like oil and water.
This could work out nicely if you think you're being a yin to his yang could be ultimately productive, but it's something to think about.
"What do you see as the ultimate goal of your department or team?"
A good manager will respond in terms of company value and employee satisfaction. If he answers that his ultimate goal is to not screw up and to stay under the radar, you're free to infer that that culture isn't supportive to growth. Also beware if this question causes the interviewer to veer off on a long tangent about his personal career goals. (This actually happened to me once.)
Good luck and remember -- interviews are a two-way street.