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November 20, 2017

Crush your Next Job Interview with These Questions

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Crush your Next Job Interview...

Miranda Pennington, Professorial Lecturer at American University

What do you most like about working here? or What's a day in the life of this role like?
Both of these questions are designed to move your interviewer away from lofty statements of company mission or corporate values and into the nitty gritty of what your job actually would be if you were hired. It also helps you remember that you're trying them out as much as they are contemplating hiring you.

What are the most important things (or key goals) that this role should focus on in the first 30 days to one year of employment?
What I like about this question is the shifting focus from the immediate, which tells you priorities, to the long-term, which tells you what kind of variety you might have a chance to work with. And again, clarity is always helpful.

What are the one-year and/or five-year goals for the organization? And how do you see someone in this role supporting those goals?
This one is helpful if you're curious about the bigger-picture plans for the company and how you'd fit into it. Knowing that you will serve as crucial coordinator for the company's flagship conference in a few months takes the sting out of getting cut from meetings or spending 20 minutes de-clogging the copier.

What are the qualities of the person who excels in this role? or What are the qualities of the person you're looking to hire that will be successful in this role?
Pro-tip, don't do this if they've already talked about the demands/requirements/optimal traits for success in this role. Then it just sounds like you can't listen. Know the job description really well too - you don't want to sound like you didn't bother to read up on the job you applied for.

What are the success metrics for this job?
Take notes now in case these come up again in your annual review after you're hired - seriously! I live in fear of jobs where I'm charged with recruitment (you have no control over it!) or cold-calling; I need to know before I leave that office if I should withdraw graciously or if I can spend a few days nerving myself up for a big challenge.

What are some of the challenges that this role will face?
Speaking of challenges, you might as well hear the downsides too - it's helpful to know ahead of time that you'll be grappling with tightfisted resource departments or an out-of-touch marketing staff, so you can start brainstorming strategies (Or, even better, casually mention how you've worked with just such a situation before and resolved it gracefully to everyone's satisfaction).

Can you give me an example of a 'stretch project' within the organization?
This is actually a chance for you to showcase your independent thinking and problem solving skills - I know a guy who asked for an example of the kind of work he'd be able to challenge himself with, and when they described a modem/server problem they'd been working on for months, spontaneously tossed off an answer that solved their problem and boosted him from intern to permanent hire in a matter of months.

What's the career path for this role within the company?
This question shows that you're thinking long term and helps you manage expectations for advancement and review. At my first office job, they were quick to assure me that I wouldn't advance as fast as my predecessor had (she had a master's degree and was awesome), but that there was an eventual path from editorial assistant to editor. I held on to that after I got the job, whenever I was feeling frustrated by the "assistant" in my title.

What's the organization's management style?
This is a really important question, especially if you're interviewing with a less senior member of the team than the person you'd finally report to. They can tell you (sometimes via body language and word choice) how their boss is to work for.

What's the team culture like?
I really like this one because depending on the rapport you've established and how senior the person interviewing you is, this is a good chance for coworker intel. On my first job out of school, when I asked about the coworker vibe, my future best friend dropped the Assistant Hiring Manager mask and sighed dramatically while rolling her eyes at the guy who'd just asked us to keep it down a little, then resumed her professionalism and told me everyone was great.

Do you have any reservations about my fit for this role?
This one takes moxie. I'm not sure if I'll ever quite be brassy enough to ask this one! What if they tell you?! On the other, bolder hand, you might catch them off guard enough to actually give you some examples, plus it gives you a chance to respond to them right then and there.

Miranda Pennington is the author of A Girl Walks Into a Book, a braided narrative of memoir, biography and literary criticism of the Bronte sisters, now available from Seal Press.

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