A job interview with a potential employer is a mutual evaluation. The employer or recruiter is analyzing how your experience, knowledge, personality and achievements compare to other candidates and how you would benefit the company. Meanwhile, even as a new graduate or entry-level professional, you can’t just be willing to accept any job; you must make sure the work environment and job duties will match with your career goals and that the atmosphere is supportive and challenging enough so that you can grow. To complete your evaluation, prepare key questions to ask your interviewer.
Here’s a primer:
Job notices list the job title and responsibilities. However, since you are at the beginning of your career and this may be your first full-time job, it pays to inquire about the practical daily reality for a worker in your potential position.
- What is a normal day like for a person who holds this position?
- Will I be working as part of a team or independently?
- What types of projects or job assignments would I be asked to handle?
- What are the biggest challenges of this job?
- Who would be the direct supervisor for a person in this position?
- What talents and experiences do you most need a new hire to bring to your staff?
- Are you expecting the responsibilities of this job to change over the next year?
- Are you looking to have your new hire based in this location, or would there be significant travel or a possible transfer to a new site?
- Have you hired new graduates for this position in this past? If so, what was the turnover rate?
Textbooks and lectures can only teach so much. As you will find as you progress in your career, the real training occurs on the job. To make sure you don’t become overwhelmed, inquire about what resources are in place to aid your development.
- Will I receive any training or mentorship for this position? If so, for how long?
- Can you specify the exact type of on-site or off-site training resources available?
- After a new employee has shown significant professional development, will there be advancement opportunities?
In college or trade school, students received grades to help them monitor whether they were doing a good job or needed to improve their performance. On the job, it’s not that simple. Find out ahead of time, how you will be judged.
- Will you discuss the performance expectations for this position?
- How will performance be evaluated? Is there a formal metrics system? What are the specific criteria?
- How often are evaluations?
- What should a person in this position focus most on accomplishing in the first two or three months?
- What are the primary goals and priorities of the company at this time?
- Where do you see the company in five years?
- What do you like most about working with this company?
- What excites you about this company’s future?
- How would you describe the culture at this company?
- Does the office have any traditions?
- Is there a lot of interaction and collaboration among employees?
- Are there social activities to create professional relationships, whether at lunch, after work or during conferences?
The Wrap Up
- What is the next step in your hiring process?
- Can I send you any other information to help with your decision?
Be alert during the interview. You might hear answers to these questions before you ask them. In that case, don’t waste the interviewer’s time and show your lack of attention to detail by asking an unnecessary question. It is permissible to follow-up and ask for elaboration, however.
Lastly, avoid asking questions about salary, vacation time and other benefits. Save those for the second interview, if you should be so fortunate.
Judi Wunderlich has been a leading recruiter for over 20 years. In 2009 she co-founded the WunderLand Group, a staffing and recruiting firm which focuses on contract and full time job opportunities in Marketing, Advertising, and Digital Design & Development. WunderLand has offices in Chicago, San Francisco, New York and Connecticut. Judi’s position allows her a unique view of hiring trends, and she has written about and spoken at numerous conferences on hiring, career trends, and the use of social media for job seekers and hiring managers alike. Connect with Judi on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+.