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March 18, 2009


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I just used your "is there any reason you wouldn't hire me for this position" question and the answer was a resounding "NO!". I got the job (its a 30% pay increase) and I am thrilled to bits. Just thought I'd let you know that this REALLY works :)

m --

So glad to hear it!!! Congrats!!!!!!

"Asking questions shows that you're interested in the job and it also gives you a chance to show how knowledgeable you are about the position and the industry. Finally, it lets you highlight why you're the perfect candidate." All true, but there's another reason to ask questions: to get the answers! Unless you're desperate for a job, any job, you could make a big mistake taking a job if something about it is a bad fit for you.

Here are some of the questions I recommend in each category:

Recruiter/HR person:
What health plans are offered, and what are the costs of each to the employee? Are family plans offered, or individual only?
How does the retirement plan work, what are the matching levels, what are the fees, and who services the plan?
How much paid leave is there per year, and how does it accrue? Is is possible to go in the hole on leave?

Hiring manager:
Is this a new position, or filling a position that was vacated by someone else?
What would my day-to-day responsibilities be? What do you hope to have me accomplish in the next 1-2 years?
What do you hope my role will be within the team?
If I receive tasks from multiple people, who do I go to in order to settle my priorities, you?
What is your background? (Look for evidence that your boss-to-be knows what he's managing. Especially crucial in technical fields.)
What do you think of the company, compared with other places you've worked?
Can you give me some examples—both positive and negative—of unique or even bizarre things you've noticed about the corporate culture here?
Will the company pay for training for me?
With the people you manage, how do you promote good work/life balance? Is working from home occasionally an option?
Will I be required to travel? If so, how often, for how long, and how far?

Senior manager/executive:
Where does your department fit into the overall organization?
How does my position fit into the company's mission?
Can you give me an example of one or two things you wish the company or division did better in terms of the service it provides to external customers?
Can you give me an example of one or two things you wish worked better internally within the company?
For someone starting from the position I'm interviewing for, what opportunities for career advancement exist? More concretely, imagine I'm still here in five years, and all that time I've been doing excellent work. What might my title and job description be, and how much could I realistically be getting paid?

Potential co-worker (reports to same supervisor):
Do you like working for the boss?
What is his/her management style like? Does he or she tend to micro-manage?
Does the boss know what he or she is doing?
How receptive is the boss to ideas from his/her subordinates?
Overall, what do you think of the company, as compared with other places you've worked?
Do you feel you have good opportunities to learn and progress in your career here?
Do people tend to stick around here, or is turnover a problem?
How well does the company do at rewarding good performance with promotions and pay raises, compared with other places you know about? Can you get ahead by working hard and being smart, or do the best people have to leave and come back to advance?
What don't you like about working here?
What do you think of the benefits here? Without divulging too much personal information, have you had good experiences with the health and dental insurance, for instance? How about the retirement plan?

Here is the ultimate question (well, I guess the 2nd ultimate question...) to ask an interviewer.

"If you could go back 5 years, what piece of advice would you give yourself to improve your experience at [insert company name]?".

EVERY time I've asked that, the other person has said "Wow...that's a good question."

It forces them to think, and also gives you insight into some of their regrets (and favorite things) from when they've been working.

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