I recently interviewed a candidate for a key position at my company. I’d had several phone conversations with him and had finally brought him in to meet the team in person. He seemed to be just the right fit for us, with the skills and experience set to handle the job, and then some.
BUT….there was a “but”…
I was perplexed because each time we asked the candidate if he had any questions, none were forthcoming. Despite all the time we invested in this candidate, and all the openings we gave him to “ask away”, we couldn’t gauge his interest level in the job opportunity or in the company. Hmm….
Then finally, he asked a question…a great question… How does “X” get done here? “X” being the most important piece of work the candidate would be responsible for, e.g., it could be building a piece of code, creating a financial model, creating a marketing campaign, or whatever…
What makes this a great question? The information you’d extract from the answer is practical. It helps you understand how you will navigate your new work environment. It also helps you build an accurate image in your head of what you’ll do your first day on the job. Sure, you should ask questions about the long term strategy and financial position of the company, but don’t forget to ask this simple question. It will provide great insight into your future day-to-day experiences.
With this question you will learn…
- just how collaborative or individual the work process will be.
- exactly who/how many people you will have to work with to deliver your work.
- how aggressive the work pace is / the timelines are.
- what physical resources you will have available to actually do the work of your work
- how much “content” already exists and is available to build on vs. how much “content” you will have to create from scratch, and
- how high the overall “expectations” bar for the role is set.
And a final note to all of those who are interviewing — always have questions prepared. Not just this question, but as many thoughtful questions as you can think of. If you don’t ask questions during an interview process, your interviewer(s) will wonder if you fully understand the opportunity and are serious about it. If you don’t ask questions, I guarantee that you will have a harder “sell” ahead to convince your interviewer(s) that you really do want to join the team, and you may not get the chance.