It’s time for my twice-a-year update of the best questions for you to ask in an interview. This year, I’ve asked my classmates from Harvard Business School, class of 1998, to weigh in with *their* favorite questions to ask companies in job interviews. They’ve added some terrific questions.
The reason I put this list together each year is because we can so easily forget what an interview’s all about. It sure feels like it’s about you, but it’s really not.
An interview is actually about how you can help your future boss and future employer succeed. It’s about finding out what their requirements and hopes are and matching up your background and experience with what they need.
Overlooking these basic facts about the interview is easy. There’s so much else going on in your work, your life, and in your job search, that you can forget to look at the interview from the interviewer’s point of view. And that’s a shame, because you need the interviewer to walk away from the interview thoroughly impressed.
With that in mind, here’s the twice-a-year update to my collection of “best interview questions”. My aim here is to arm you with easy-to-ask, revealing-to-answer questions for you to take with you to an interview:
- What’s the biggest change your group has gone through in the last year? Does your group feel like things are getting better in the economy and for your business?
- If I get the job, how do I earn a “gold star” on my performance review? What are the key accomplishments you’d like to see in this role over the next year?
- What’s your (or my future boss’) leadership style?
- What are the three things I can contribute in the first 100 days to make you feel great about hiring me?
- About which competitor are you most worried?
- How does sales / operations / technology / marketing / finance work around here? (I.e., groups other than the one you’re interviewing for.)
- What type of people are successful here? What type of people are not?
- What’s one thing that’s key to this company’s success that somebody from outside the company wouldn’t know about?
- How did you get your start in this industry? Why do you stay?
- What are your group’s best and worst working relationships with other groups in the company? What are the pain points you have to deal with day-to-day?
- What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest worry these days?
- Who are my customers (internal or external) and how do they measure me/us? Who views me (my team) as a customer (internal or external)?
- What’s the timeline for making a decision on this position? When should I get back in touch with you?
- The economy has been getting better, and there’s a lot of hiring going on. Why did you decide to prioritize this position instead of the many others you could have hired for?
- What is your reward system? Is it a star system / team-oriented / equity-based / bonus-based / “attaboy!”-based? Why is that your reward system? What do you hope to get out of it, and what actually happens when you put it into practice? What are the positives and the negatives of your reward system? If you could change any one thing, what would it be?
- What does success for this group / team / company look like in 1 year? In 5 years?
- What information is shared with the employees (revenues, costs, operating metrics)? Is this an “open book” shop, or do you play it closer to the vest? How is information shared? How do I get access to the information I need to be successful in this job?
- If we are going to have a very successful year in 2018, what will that look like? What will we have done over the next 10 months to make it successful? How does this position help achieve those goals? (This question helps show your ability to look beyond today’s duties to the future more than a year away.)
- How does the company / my future boss do performance reviews? How do I make the most of the performance review process to ensure that I’m doing the best I can for the company?
- What is the rhythm to the work around here? Is there a time of year that it’s “all hands on deck” and we’re pulling all-nighters, or is it pretty consistent throughout the year? How about during the week / month? Is it pretty evenly spread throughout the week / month, or are there crunch days?
- What type of industry / functional / skills-based experience and background are you looking for in the person who will fill this position? What would the “perfect” candidate look like? How do you assess my experience in comparison? What gaps do you see?
- What is your (or my future boss’) hiring philosophy? Is it “hire the attitude / teach the skills” or are you primarily looking to add people with domain expertise first and foremost?
- Is this a new position, or an existing position? If new, why was it created and what are the expectations? If an existing position, where did the prior person go? What were the things that person did really well, that you hope to see in the next person? What are the things you hope change?
- In my career, I’ve primarily enjoyed working with big / small / growing / independent / private / public / family-run companies. If that’s the case, how successful will I be at your firm?
- Who are the heroes at your company? What characteristics do the people who are most celebrated have in common with each other? Conversely, what are the characteristics that are common to the promising people you hired, but who then flamed out and failed or left? As I’m considering whether or not I’d be successful here, how should I think about the experiences of the heroes and of the flame-outs?
Many thanks to my business school classmates who helped with questions: Patrick van Wert, Aaron Pempel, Tasso Roumeliotis, Radju Munusamy, and Susan Hamilton!