Important Questions To Ask A Potential Employer

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You have been looking for an interview and your executive recruiter contacts you with the news that you have been waiting for: you have an interview with a company that you would really like to work for!

After dancing a little happy jig, it is time to get down to business: Interview preparation. Many people will spend all of their time focused on one thing: being ready to answer any and every question that the potential employer may have for them, including the dreaded “What are your weaknesses?”

While being thoroughly prepared to answer questions that will be asked of you in your interview, it is just as important to pose your own set of questions. Doing so will not only help to confirm your qualifications for the position, it will also help you to determine if this is the right opportunity, or company, for you.

A great idea is to have 3 questions ready that you would like answered. Have at least 5 that you are prepared to ask just in case one or more of your top 3 gets answered during the course of the interview.

Here are some great questions to ask:

What skill set and experiences would make for an ideal candidate?

This is a great open-ended question that will have the interviewer put his/her cards on the table and state exactly what the employer is looking for. It will give you information that will let you know if you are a good fit and another opportunity to explain why you are.

What is the first problem the person you hire must attend to?

You need to be clear on what the initial expectations are and that you can deliver. This question not only shows that you are immediately thinking about how you can help the team, it also encourages the interviewer to envision you working at the position. What you do not want is to allow yourself to be misled about the position’s requirements and end up overwhelmed after the first week on the job.

What happened to the person who previously did this job? (If a new position: How has this job been performed in the past?)

You need to know any problems or past history associated with this position. For instance, was your predecessor fired or promoted? Has there been a lot of turnover with this position? Is this a temporary position and/or is it brand new? The answer will give you an understanding of management’s expectations and possible issues with meeting those expectations. In addition, you will gain knowledge on how the company is gearing to grow. Knowing more about your predecessor and their time in the position may also alert you to a toxic manager or team member(s).

Do you offer continuing education and professional training?

This is a great question that shows you are interested in expanding your knowledge and ultimately growing with the employer. It will also let you know if there is a program in place, and if this is an area of priority for the company.

How do you evaluate performance?

Is the review process formal or more casual? Knowing how the employer handles performance reviews can give you insight into how much of a priority they are to the company. It will also give you information on what they are looking for with regards to growth and promotion.

Why did you choose to work here? What keeps you here?

You need to find out what an insider has to say about working there. Who better to ask than your interviewer? This also forces the interviewer to step out of their official corporate role and to connect with you on a more personal level, sharing his/her feelings as an employee and potential co-worker. The answer will also give you unique insight into how satisfied people are with their jobs there and their feelings on the company (at least to a certain degree). You may also need to know how to read body language and “between the lines” when this question is posed.

Armed with questions for your interview you will position yourself as a thoughtful, serious candidate. You will demonstrate that you are considering employment there not just to have a job, but also to bring your talents to bear to improve the company and grow. The answers will also reveal whether or not this is a good company to work for, or if you should consider employment elsewhere.


Bunny Robinson

About the Author:

Bunny Robinson is a Principal Consultant of the firm, with 10 years of Employee Communications and Human Resources experience in high tech manufacturing and defense systems industries. She has also worked in the fields of broadcasting, advertising, and market research. Bunny graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and is pursuing a Master’s degree at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN. She enjoys volunteer work and has served as a board member for various community service and arts organizations as well as local government.