As a job candidate, there are a number of questions you’d like to ask but don’t. Some of these questions may be sensitive, awkward or should be avoided. How can you get the information you need without jeopardizing your candidacy? Here are some questions along with ways to ask them to get meaningful answers:
“What happened to the last guy in this job?” – You might want to be a bit more diplomatic by asking, “How is it that this position is open?” The answer may give you a clue about the opportunities for promotion or insights about the work environment. You’re looking for signs of important issues.
“What am I supposed to do in this job?” — This is not a very refined question. It’s better to ask, “What are the short- and long-term performance results you are looking for from this position?” The question is powerful. Always position yourself as someone who gets results. The answer also will give you some insights into the boss’s requirements and standards.
“What’s the pay?” — This is the wrong question at the wrong time. If you become a finalist, you’ll be provided with all the information you need. Better to ask, “How does your compensation system work? Industry driven? Pay for performance? Incentives? Individual, team or corporate results?” It’s too early to ask about an offer.
“Where’s the company going?” – Better to ask a business question like, “With all the competitive forces, what are the planned strategies that will differentiate us in the marketplace?” It’s the same question but with a different emphasis. The answer should provide you with an awareness of how your function integrates with the company’s direction.
“What kind of boss will I have?” – The company isn’t going to describe an ogre, even if it’s true. Better to ask, “What are the attributes of an effective manager in this company?” This information will tell you what’s important and where the priorities are placed.
“Who or what are the sacred cows?” – This is an important question that should be asked when you are given an offer that you plan to accept. It should be asked of your immediate supervisor, “Are there any sensitive issues or people that I need to know about beforehand?”
I’m sure you can think of a number of additional questions that you would like answers. But always consider the timing of the question and an effective way to ask.
Kaufmann is president of My Greener Future. Contact him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org