Ask 5: Some more penetrating questions to ask at interviews

This is the fifth in a series of questions I’ve come up with for candidates to ask in job interviews. The prior ones are Ask, Ask 2, Ask 3, and Ask 4.

Based on our conversation thus far, what do you think I will like most about this job?

This is inspired by a question I saw from Lavie Margolin. It’s a test of how well the hiring manager has “read” you. And by using the word will it’s also a subtle way to prompt the hiring manager to envision you in the position. An optional flip of this is:

And what do you think I will like least about this job?

No job is 100% fantastic all the time, and this is a good way to probe how the boss – and possibly co-workers – views the lesser aspects of the job, in particular in light of their understanding of you. Forewarned is forearmed. The advantage to this question is the opportunity to glean a clue about how they see you and the job, and the possible mismatches in their vision of how you might fit. The danger in asking this is that it brings dislike and your candidacy to mind in the same time frame, something to avoid and which I discussed here (thanks to Neil Patrick of 40pluscareerguru for republishing that essay).

In one sentence, can you tell me the top thing you’d want me to accomplish in the first six months?

This is a different take on the standard question “What would you expect me to accomplish in six months?”. It requires the hiring manager to focus on and articulate what is truly important to them. If you can squeeze this into the conversation early on, it will tell you how to target your conversation focus in a SPARTACUS approach (again, thanks Neil).

What were the characteristics of the best hire you’ve ever made?

Another way to “get inside” the head of the hiring manager to understand what they value in a person. If asked early in a conversation, you can use this to subtly highlight things that will draw an analogy between you and that “best hire”. Note, however, you should not ask the reverse one – once you bring negative traits to mind in the context of hiring, you run a strong risk of the hiring manager starting to try to pin those on you (even just unconsciously).

What do you like most about managing this group? (And the obvious reverse, what do you like least about managing this group?)

This can give some good insights into the group’s dynamics, and how the boss views their role as supervisor, coordinator, and leader.

What’s the most fun you’ve had at work in the last month?

This is for both hiring managers and co-workers. Work is not always fun – that’s why it’s called work. But if a person has to really, really stop and think about the last time they enjoyed their job, that’s a warning sign. And if the hiring manager also has to really scrape through their memory for the last time they enjoyed their job, that’s a huge red flag that they’re not happy – and you know what rolls downhill.

© 2015, David Hunt, PE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s