5 Questions to Ask the Hiring Manager

How asking the right questions can help you find the best fit

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Lindsay Olson
Your qualifications and interviewing skills are the ultimate deciding factors in whether or not you are offered a position. While you must sell yourself to be considered a serious contender for the job, it’s just as important to find out if the position aligns with your long-term goals and your work style.

By asking a few questions of your hiring manager, you can discover whether or not the position is the right one for your next career move. Here are some of the best questions to ask when you’re looking for a job:

[See 15 Ways Good Bosses Keep Their Best Employees.]

1. Who will be my boss? What is the reporting structure? Your boss or supervisor will have a big impact on your career with the company, so make sure you understand the reporting structure and know to whom you will be directly reporting. If you will be working in a team environment, you should also find out more about your peers. Getting an idea of their tenure with the company and their backgrounds can clue you in to mutual areas of interest or warning signals so you can probe further and get a better understanding of the environment.

2. What are the growth possibilities in this position, and what are the major challenges I will face? This will give you a better idea as to whether or not the company will meet your expectations. While the response you get may not be very objective, it does let you know what the hiring manager thinks are the downsides (and you may catch her off guard with this question and actually get an informative response).

3. How are employees evaluated and given feedback? A few questions can give you a better idea of how things are run and what to expect, should you be hired. First, find out how often feedback is offered and how it is provided. Will you be given an annual review? Attend monthly meetings? You can also ask what you should accomplish in the first three, six, and 12 months on the job to be considered a successful hire.

4. How will I be trained? What are the opportunities for professional development? Get a general idea of the training provided on the job. Depending on your position and the type of company, you may or may not be enrolled in a formal training program. If you’ll be expected to “wing it” your first weeks on the job, it’s better to know upfront so you have a reasonable idea of what to expect. You should also understand the company’s policies on professional development. Some companies are better than others about providing opportunities for improving your skills and education, so ask to see if they offer any courses or programs to help you advance professionally. Many companies offer annual professional development stipends or monthly luncheons to help their employees and to provide opportunities for professional development.

[See How to Apply for a Job When You're Overqualified.]

5. What are company politics and relationships like? Every company has human resources or internal communications issues, so ask if there are any challenges specifically for this position. You should also ask about any communication obstacles between the department you will be working in if you’re hired and other departments. Will you manage any difficult personalities or navigate through a complex organizational structure to make decisions that affect your projects?

Finally, when getting ready for an interview, prepare your questions in advance. Make sure you save a few follow-up questions for the end of the interview to clarify certain points. If the interviewer has already answered your prepared questions, try closing with “next step” types of questions. For instance:

  • What are the next steps in the interview process?
  • When do you plan to make a hiring decision?
  • When should I expect to hear from you?
  • Finish with reiterating your interest in the position. You want to let the interviewer know you are serious about continuing in the process and enthusiastic about the possibility of working with the company.

    Remember that your decision to work for a company is just as important as its decision to hire you. Take the initiative and make sure that you have your questions answered and that you understand the benefits and challenges of the position.

    Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.