If you’ve ever participated in a job interview consisting of eight or ten questions in 30 minutes, you know how constrained and one-way the exchange can be. While this quick interlude might give the interview panel what they need to make an informed decision, you might feel as if you’re not smarter about the job than before the interview began. If you’re given the opportunity to ask questions at the end of an interview, consider asking one or two below. They can optimize the insight you can gain in the micro-short time you have, and could reshape the interview into a two-way conversation.
1. What can you tell me about the position beyond the posting?
This seems quite basic, but the value is in the wide range of answers that might come back to you. It could reveal whether the position is newly created or has been vacant for an extended duration, and the story behind either. Also, while the speaker describes the primary functions and tasks of the positions, how he refers to those elements could reveal how critical he believes the position is in relation to the organization’s overall mission. It might also reveal the level of responsibility and decision-making you can expect in the position.
2. What are some challenges your team is currently experiencing?
The answer will tell you where you’ll likely be applying a majority of your time and intellectual effort in the job. Why? Because managers need fixers, and fixing problems often takes precedence over steady state activities. This is also where the speaker might reveal frustrations, even if diplomatically stated. The answer could indicate how the management team expects you to analyze problems and make recommendations for solutions. Conversely, you might hear that there are no challenges and that everything is working fine. This could be a red flag for complacency or the inability to evolve to meet changing landscapes or customer needs.
3. What near and long-term priorities in the organization will I have the opportunity to contribute to?
The answer might be a rehash of challenges from the previous question, and fair enough. If those challenges are the extent of the answer, it might suggest a short-sighted approach to problem solving or strategic thinking. A fuller answer could indicate how much you can expect your skills to be optimized. A comprehensive answer that extends past immediate problems and speaks of near or long-term goals is a good sign you’ll be working for a leader who has a vision. Even if the ideas aren’t fully baked, a leader with an idea of what the team could accomplish can be inspiring to work for.
4. How much empowerment do each of you have in your respective positions?
This can be a truth-teller. You didn’t ask how much autonomy you will have, but the extent the members on the interview panel perceive they have. If your answer is that they feel relatively or fully empowered, odds are you’ll be working for leaders who can affect positive movement or change when it’s needed. If they don’t feel empowered, their limitations might also become barriers for you. And while not always the case, empowerment often rolls down the chain, so the answer might lend insight to how empowered you’ll be in your position.
5. How does information flow in your organization?
Information, or a lack of it, can be the success or failure point in a mission. And it’s a priority resource right up there with time and funding to do your job well. How informed the interview panel members believe they are could correlate with the level of access to information you can expect. And since the flow of information is closely linked to employee morale, their answer might reveal how high (or low) morale is in the organization – always a good thing to know before walking into a new job.
Try one of two of these questions at the end of your next interview and see how much more insight you gain. Good luck!