Photo Credit: Oberazzi via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Oberazzi via Compfight cc

You get to interview a potential employer at the same time they are interviewing you.  And in fact you must for 2 reasons:

  • Find out if the job truly is the right fit for YOU
  • Show the interviewer that you are concerned about how you can meet the employer’s needs

A client got this feedback from an interviewer:  Often when I interview candidates (for any job) the conversation is more about them, and you made it about us and about a lot of the soft tissue of product management and ownership. I like that.  She got the job.

These are the questions I recommend asking, to demonstrate to an employer that you are interested in how your expertise and experience can further the company’s goals.  Once you’ve gotten responses to these questions, you can talk about how you would approach the position and meet the company goals and needs.

  1. Tell me the most pressing issue you are facing that you would want me to address.  Clearly, the answer to this question sets the stage for the rest of the interview.  Remember, a job description is a “pain statement” on the part of the employer.  There is a need they have that must be met.  This direct question will let you know exactly what that pain is.  You can respond to this question by talking about how you have solved a similar problem at a previous employer and how you would apply that experience and those skills to the new situation.
  2. How will I know I’ve been successful after the first year? This question tells employer you want to deliver results, and gives you an idea of whether they think in terms of outcomes.  For some positions, there may be a general sense of what will constitute success instead of measurable results.  This more often is found in higher-level positions, where the expectation is that you will bring your expertise to the table to establish achievable, meaningful goals for the position.
  3. How do you see this position contributing to contributing to achieving the company’s vision?  I presume the company has a vision that you have identified by reading their website.  If you haven’t found a vision articulated on the website or in public documents, ask what the vision is for the company.  This question tells the employer you are interested in a future with and for the company, and tells you whether they have a vision or plan and a clear view of the position’s relationship to this vision.
  4. What are the key relationships for this position?  This question acknowledges that you know a position is interdependent, even if the job involves a lot of independent work.  When we work for a company of any size, there is a larger purpose to the organization for which we all work.  Your work is never just for you.  People depend on your work in some way.  The employer’s answer to this question tells you a lot about who you’ll be working with and for, and whether it’s a team-based environment.
  5. What did you like most about what the previous person did and what kind of changes would you like to see?  You might first ask if this is a new position or if someone else had it before.  If it’s a new position, I’d follow up with a question about  how the position was developed and what were the business needs that drove its creation.  If it’s an existing position, then asking this question is a nice way to find out whether the previous incumbent met expectations, whether the hiring manager is coming from a happy or unhappy past experience, and what kind of expectations you’ll be facing.  I always like to know if someone was well-liked and respected or not, because it has an impact on the environment you’d be joining.  A bad experience with someone could be as much because the boss is unreasonable as the employee was not a good fit – in which case you might be less inclined to want the job.  Listen carefully to the answer for the emotional clues.

Of course, there are many other great questions to ask and you’ll find them when you do an internet search.  I have found these questions to be among the most revealing of information about a company and therefore a help in you deciding whether the position is a right fit for you.