Four Questions to Ask a Hiring Manager During an Interview

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Interviewing is a 2-way street.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but you’d be surprised how many candidates struggle with asking valuable questions. They get to the interview and when it’s turned over to them, they go with a lame question like “Tell me more about the company,” or “What type of books do you read?”

Tell you more? Haven’t you done your research? Didn’t YOU apply for this job? Be more specific or deal with my awkward silence and tilted head.

What types of books do I read? What if I said vampire erotica? Where would you go from there? I’ll tell you what. Any type of book I read is not gonna help you get this job or build a relationship. You should’ve done that for the last 30 minutes.

When you get the chance to ask the interviewer (or hiring manager for this post) questions, the purpose isn’t too wow them. It’s to ask about areas that are important to you. Should they be wowed by what’s important to you, great. Otherwise, your questions should tell you more about the company’s plans for growth, opportunities to move upward or laterally, what it’ll be like to work for that boss or on that team, and so on. There are a ton of questions you could ask, but for today I just wanna share a four of my favorites:

There’s the job description and the actual job. Can you tell me where most of my time would be spent if I was selected for this role?

As someone that writes job descriptions, I can tell you there’s always a bunch of stuff in there we’d like you to have. The truth is the majority of your will be spent in a couple areas or on a couple responsibilities. One of those responsibilities may be to “scramble your ass off from 9-6 to fulfill every random urgent request,” which means the job may be like 70% transactional and 30% long-term projects. You may not know that just from looking at the description. With this approach, you’re also acknowledging you’ve reviewed the entire description, but would like to know the focus points. If you realize you didn’t cover something earlier in the interview, you may have a moment to clarify or you can include it in your thank you/follow up.

Can you give me a couple examples of projects that have been delegated to the person in this role in the past?

This is a good follow-up to the first question. If they believe past performance is an indicator of future success, then past projects are an indicator of future work.

What three words or phrases do you think previous employees or direct reports would use to describe you? (And why?)

I find this question to be on par with “What’s your philosophy on people management?” I like this one more because it’s fun and they won’t be able to give you a canned response that doesn’t reflect how they actually manage. This isn’t to say that hiring managers lie in interviews, but I think you’ll get less practiced and subsequently more honest answers.

Check out the last question on my career site

You can also follow my career account on Twitter by clicking here.

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  • enchantedandengaging

    great post!

  • Bree

    Great post Slim. What about if you interview with several people, (as you do most of the time nowadays)?
    For instance, at one interview I actually interviewed with the lady that I would be replacing, the PM's & the Chief Engineer. How should you tailor questions to ask a team of people that you would possibly be working with and indirectly for, but not directly for.

  • krystllyght

    This is a great and helpful post! I've called myself being prepared before and gone in with a list of questions only to have them answered before I could even ask them. Is it ever okay to not ask questions?

    • Slim Jackson

      You should always have a couple questions. When you start thinking about the long term, the actual working relationship with boss and the team you'll be on, there's bound to be questions that don't get answered during the first part of the interview.

      Think about the things from past jobs that you wish you knew before you started working there, or about where you want to be in a few years. I'm sure a few things will come to mind.
      My recent post Interviewing the Hiring Manager: Four Questions You Should Ask

  • yellowpinkies

    These are very helpful. I'll be adding this to the list.

  • Bree

    Yeah Slim, are there any questions that you absolutely should never ask? Or questions that you should not ask unless you've been called back for a second interview? How important is timing with regards to the questions you ask?
    I've read that you should not discuss pay at all until you've actually been offered the job. Once you've been offered the job then you negotiate pay. I've also read that asking how much the position pays makes you seem "thirsty" and also makes it seem like thats all your interested in.
    One thing recruiters and people who work for government unemployment agencies and programs have told me is that it's good to ask questions about the company in general. For instance, asking about the history of the company, the CEO or owners of the company is good because it shows you have an interest in learning more about the company. I've also been told to research the company online prior to interviewing so you can discuss it with the interviewer. Having some knowledge of the company leaves a good impression with the interviewer. I've done this quite often and it works very well for me.

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