When one considers the complexities of the job market circa 2016, there are several descriptive terms to choose from to accurately summarize the efforts of employers seeking to find the right candidates—as well as for jobseekers looking to find the right employment opportunities.
However, perhaps the word that best describes the mutual efforts of employers and employees when it comes to today’s job search is “challenging.”
For employers, there are many factors that contribute to making any recruiting effort a challenging task; in addition to the traditional challenges facing recruiters (which often include enticing a talented candidate to leave his or her current position), in the spring of 2016, American employers are recruiting candidates at a time when the unemployment rate stands at 5 percent. As a result, many of the most talented job candidates may already have been recruited.
Often a good deal of the focus–in media and elsewhere–is on the difficulties faced by employers seeking to find employees who will be deemed to be a ‘good fit’ for both the available job, and the corporate culture.
A less examined perspective is that of the potential employee, and the kind of questions that he or she should likely ask potential employers in an effort to discern if both the available position–and company–would fit well what the individual is seeking.
It is, of course, any company’s goal to be viewed by talented candidates as “an employer of choice.”—the kind of company talented individuals wish to be a part of. As to what constitutes an ‘employer of choice’, there’s a multitude of factors to consider. Still, as candidates seek out a “choice” employer, it’s worth remembering the old adage that “you will never know the answer to a question if you don’t ask the question!” In job searches, as in most aspects of life, information is often a powerful—and useful—tool.
And so with that in mind, and with the caveat that selecting an employer is—at its core—a very subjective effort, here are five suggestions regarding what candidates may wish to ask during a job interview, with an eye towards achieving the goal of finding the right “employment fit”:
5) Go Beyond The Surface, & ‘Dig Deep’ Regarding Details Of The Available Position:
When most employers advertise for a position, the job description that they put forward may not fully reflect the reality of the job opening; usually, this isn’t intentional obfuscation, but simply a reflection of who/how the description was constructed. In addition, it is possible that the position has only recently been created, and as result there was no existing template upon which to base the job description. That’s why supplemental questions about the position (i.e. “is this a newly created position?” or “has the position changed/do you expect it to evolve?” are reasonable questions to ask a potential employer. The answer to the latter question, in particular, may also provide some insight as to the opportunity for growth that the position will offer over time.
Additionally, it may be advantageous to ask about the reporting structure for the position; some people prefer to have only a single direct supervisor, and that may not be the way the company has structured the position.
4) Steer The Conversation Beyond The Position, Ask About The Organization:
A job description will almost certainly have as its primary focus details regarding the job opening, and the related responsibilities that come with it. That’s only natural. However, no job exists in a vacuum, and therefore it’s in the interest of a qualified candidate to ask additional questions about the broader organization, including its “corporate culture.”
The Internet has changed the way both employers and potential employees research each other, but as we all know, not all information found on the Internet is equally reliable. A job candidate should view an in-person interview as more than just a challenge to present oneself well to a potential employer, but also as an opportunity to “dig deeper” into questions about the organization, and solicit the information directly “from the horse’s mouth.” It’s one thing to read about the company online; it’s a completely different, and perhaps more reliable, source of information to learn about the company by asking a current employee face-to-face about his or her experience as an employee, as well as the broader questions about the organization.
3) Find Out What The Company Foresees As The Core Focus Of The Position:
When an employer lists a job opening, more often than not they will describe the position as having multiple responsibilities; the nature of employment in 2016 doesn’t always allow one to focus all of his or her energy on a single task.
And yet, when a candidate is seeking employment, he or she may wish to find a job that allows him to focus most of his energy on one particular skill, or area of professional interest. And so, when sitting down for a job interview, candidates may wish to ask which of the likely multiple job responsibilities would be considered as top priority for a successful applicant; the answer to that question may well provide some insight as to what the candidate could expect to be doing most of the time at work, and then allow him to discern if that task is in keeping with a primary employment goal.
2) Don’t Be Afraid To Ask The ‘Tough Questions’:
There are those who liken the experience of having a job interview to going out on a first date; both parties are trying their best to make a positive ‘first impression’, and as result, likely will put their best face forward. That’s only natural, and to be expected.
However, a pre-employment interview is also an opportunity for a candidate to ask some probing questions that might be more difficult to pose once he or she is a staff member.
The best-and smartest-employers are likely going to be fully candid with a potential candidate; there are both legal, and ethical, reasons why a company will wish to put forward the job opening with full candor. Still, the old adage that there may be ‘more to the picture than meets the eye’ can occasionally also be true when it comes to employment interviews.
Now, just to be clear: it is definitely not a good idea for a potential candidate to ask the interviewer questions about the organization that might be considered to be confrontational or accusatory; doing so would be both counterproductive, and could reflect negatively on the applicant when it comes time for the company to decide upon a candidate for the position.
Instead, it is important for any probing questions to be asked with both diplomacy and restraint; for example, if a candidate researched the company prior to the interview, and read or heard something of interest or concern, it’s entirely fair to ask about the matter during a job interview, as long as the question is presented in an appropriate and professional manner.
1) The Interview IS The Time To Ask About The “Devilish Details”:
Further to an earlier point, an employment interview is not just a ‘challenging’ situation to be ‘dealt with’, but should also be seen as a golden opportunity that can be used to fill in all the details and questions that the job description—or prior interviews–may not have answered. At the appropriate time in the interview process, it’s entirely fair for a candidate to ‘drill down’, and ask about additional details relating to the position; these would include probing questions such as:
· How will I be judged regarding my success in this position? Is there a performance review, and if so, how often does it occur?
· Does the company offer any additional training or subsidies related to training for this position?
· What would a typical day, or workweek, look like at this company (i.e. hours, breaks, company events, etc.)
· What can you share with me regarding my direct supervisor? (i.e. his or her title, how long has he/she been with the company?)
· And near the end of the process – “what are the next steps in this interview process, and can you provide a timeline as to when you expect to make a decision”?
The dictionary defines an “interview” as being “a formal consultation usually to evaluate qualifications”. In the case of an employment interview, the evaluation of qualifications should be seen as a two-way street.
The world of commerce circa 2016 does, indeed, present many challenges for both employers and employees.
And for those talented individuals whose skills are in demand, perhaps the biggest ‘challenge’ presented by a job interview these days is not just obtaining employment, but also to maximize the informational opportunities proffered by a face-to-face meeting with a potential employer.