Job seekers often feel intimidated or as if they're being interrogated during the interview process. However, when armed with questions, you can level the playing field and turn the interview into a mutually beneficial exchange of information. This should be your goal.
Do you like your future job requirements? Chances are this new job won't be like your old job or any job you've heard about before due to the unique mixture of people and the company culture. Don't assume you know what they have in mind. Be sure you have specific questions written out and ready to ask. And yes, you can have questions written out and yes, you can reference them. The interviewer references a list of questions to ensure they cover everything—you should too.
Another way you can get a true feel for the job is to observe someone who works in the position already. While this isn't always possible, it's worth asking if you can shadow someone currently in the role. But wait until the end of the interview process before making this request. Asking too early would be like ordering dessert before your meal.
Do you like your future boss? Pay close attention to how your future boss interacts with you during the interview. But also keep in mind, many managers do not like the interview process or may not be trained in how to conduct interviews, so this may be stressful for them as well. During interviews, you want to understand how your future boss will manage and lead you. Does he talk about himself during most of the interview or does he talk about the success of his team? Dig deeper and ask questions about people he has managed and what they've gone on to do. You could also ask how he would describe his star employee to understand what skills and traits he values.
Do you like your future co-workers? Much of the work we do today is team-based. If possible, be sure you have the opportunity to spend time with your future colleagues. Always have questions to ask in this situation too. You want to understand each individual's role on the team and how they interact with each other. What are their backgrounds? What do they like most about working at the company?
Additionally, don't be afraid to take notes. They're most likely taking notes too. Taking notes serves a couple of purposes, it shows you're listening and interested, as well as provides you with details to reference when you write them individual thank-you notes after the interview. There isn't always enough time during the interview to get to know them well, but you can ask to contact them outside of the interview process. If you've been offered a job and still don't feel like you know your future teammates well enough, consider asking if you can come back in to meet with them again.
Are you making the right decision? There's a saying among those who assess turnover or retention rates in companies: employees don't leave companies, they leave managers. You can prevent your premature departure from your next job by making sure you know as much as possible about the new opportunity and people you'll work with. The interview process is the time to get all your questions answered. Don't wait to find out until you're on the job.
Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.