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Questions to Ask the Interviewer

By: Angelique Caffrey - Updated: 6 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Interview Interviewer Employee Company

Interviews are a two-way street. Therefore, you need to participate in the discussion in a very active way, which includes asking questions. Many job seekers feel hesitant about seeming too "forward"; however, it's imperative that you gain as much understanding about the position and the business. After all, if you're hired, you'll be spending roughly 40 hours of each week there.

Below are some of the multitude of questions you may want to ask your interviewer(s). But don't limit yourself to these queries; depending upon the job for which you're vying, you may need to ask field- and/or managerial level-specific ones.

What kind of company culture do you have?
Obviously, any interviewer worth his or her merit is going to sugar-coat a description of the company. Yet you can still glean much information out of the answer to this question by checking out the body language of the respondent.

For instance, does he or she hesitate? Is there a sudden nervousness in his or her voice? Do physical mannerisms such as paper shuffling, foot tapping, or knuckle cracking suddenly appear? If so, he or she might not like the company and may have difficulty in painting an attractive picture.

On the other hand, if the interviewer is quick to answer and seems quite sincere in his or her immediate response, you may have found a very happy employee.

How long have you worked for the company?
If your interviewer has been with the company less than six months, you may want to try and get company culture information from someone else. Although he or she may be an excellent worker, it's unlikely that within half a year he or she could have gained a thorough understanding of the operations of the business.

However, if the person interviewing you has been around for a number of years, that will tell you that this might be a good place to work. After all, low turnover is a good sign of a productive, healthy corporation.

Why did the last person leave this position?
This is another question that might be met with a blank stare at first, and expect some umming and ahhing before the answer is stated. Most interviewers feel a little awkward when answering, but how they respond will be extremely telling.

For example, if they badmouth the former employee, it's an indication that this is a negative place to work. After all, pessimism during an interview is always a red flag that should warn the interviewee of danger.

Alternately, they may tell you that the employee left to start his or her own business to take a more lucrative position elsewhere. Or, he or she may have moved away from the area, thus resulting in a resignation. These are all acceptable reasons to leave a job, and the way in which your interviewer speaks about the departed worker will speak volumes. Look for signs that the person who left will be missed by his or her former colleagues; that shows a certain amount of corporate loyalty.

How long has this position been vacant?
If the position you're trying for has been open a long time, it may be that this company moves incredibly slowly or is extremely picky. Depending upon your style of working, those characteristics can be either positive or negative. For instance, do you like to get things done as soon as possible? If this company's executives and managers cannot fill a position in a timely manner, this may be a place where paperwork gets stuck for weeks in a chain of command.

Can you describe your ideal candidate for this position?
Listen to the way in which your interviewer(s) responds to this question. Does he or she echo what you've said about yourself? Or does he or she simply pull out the job description and read it verbatim? What you're looking for here are specifics in terms of reasonable expectations.

As an example, if the interviewer says, "I would like to see someone who regularly comes in early and works late to finish assignments," this company may not value family time. The same could be said for an answer such as, "I would like to hire someone who doesn't question authority but jumps right in and does what he or she is expected to do." Again, this could indicate a dictatorial style of managing employees. Depending upon your preferred way of being supervised, it may or may not be to your liking.

Could I see a little more of the office?
This question may throw your interviewer for a bit of a loop, but getting to see more of the office will be a huge benefit for you if you're offered the position.

If your interviewer declines your request, citing confidentiality reasons, don't make a fuss. Some companies deal with information and data that shouldn't be seen by those who are not employees.

If, on the other hand, your interviewer walks you around, make note of how the people you meet appear. Are they cheerful or working hard? Or do they seem bored and unmotivated? Do they greet you or avert their eyes? Are you welcomed or ignored? Met with skepticism or a handshake? Again, you'll learn much about the culture of the company from a simple walk around the building or department.

When do you expect to be making a decision?
Chances are, your interviewer won't have a specific answer to this question, but may be able to provide you with a timeframe, such as two weeks or a month. This way, you'll know that if you haven't heard anything by that point in time, it's likely you will not. If that's the case, make sure you move on to your next job possibility and prepare for future interviews.

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