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In a job interview, you are interviewing your prospective employer as much as they are interviewing you. They need to know if you have the skills and experience to get the job done that they will potentially be asking of you. You need to know if this company is a place you want to spend the majority of your waking hours. The only way to find that out for sure is to ask questions. Being curious will both make you a more attractive candidate for the job and help you decide if you really want that job or if it is better to keep looking. Here are a few questions you need to make sure you ask before the end of every job interview.

“Do people tend to take work home with them or stay connected after hours?”

There are a number of variations to this question, but what you are looking to find out is whether or not employees answer emails, make professional phone calls or handle other business after hours. Some companies can cite an official policy that handles this issue. Others may not have a specific policy, but the culture likely swings one way or the other. Either people tend to disconnect entirely from work when they leave the office or they are forever plugged into the business.

The answer to this question will tell you a lot about the culture of the company. It will also help you determine if you are a good match culturally. If most people disconnect after work and you prefer to be able to take care of low priority business after hours, it will drive you crazy if you cannot get in touch with anyone until the next morning. On the flip side, if you want to be able to leave work at the office, you are going to be facing serious risks of burning out if you feel like you can never get away from people demanding you answer emails or work related phone calls. 

“What is the potential for growth in this position?”

Asking about the potential for growth in a position is an important question for multiple reasons.
The first, of course, is that you want to know what your career has the potential to look like at the company. If there is limited potential for growth, you are unlikely to want to stay there for a long time. The second reason is that this question makes it clear to your interviewer that you are seriously interested in the position. You would not be asking about potential career paths and future growth if you were only planning on staying for a year. 

“Am I replacing someone who left or is this a new position?”

There are several variations to this question, but the gist of what you want to know is why the position you are interviewing for is open in the first place. Did someone leave? Was someone fired? Were there simply not enough people to handle the workload? Has the company branched out into something new? Are they building a new department? The answer has the potential to tell you a great deal about the situation into which you might be entering. If you are filling in an old position for someone who left, you might want to pose a question later about turnover. The person you are replacing might have been promoted, moved or retired after serving for years in that capacity. You might also, however, be looking at a company who churns through people, and you will be either pushed out or miserable in a year. A new position, on the other hand, tends to indicate growth of some kind. Your position may have been created to handle an influx of work that the preexisting staff simply could not keep up with, or you might be one of the first employees in a new department. 

Filling a new position is not necessarily a better thing than filling in an old one. A new position comes with its own challenges, including the fact that your workload might not be certain yet. Just as filling an old position could indicate heavy turnover, a new position might mean that you end up dealing with far more work that you planned on or wanted. 

“How is feedback from employees incorporated?”

Questions about feedback are always important to get answered. If your manager never bothers to give you more than vague feedback, you are going to be essentially flying blind. If your supervisor, however, has to check every email you ever send, you are likely going to lose your mind at the micromanaging. Feedback from employees to managers, however, is just as important as the other way around. Working at a place that does not bother to listen to or incorporate employee feedback is miserable. You will feel ignored and unimportant. Problems will likely go unsolved.  This can also be the sign of a boss who insists that it is “my way or the high way” which stifles creativity and can lead to employees being unwilling to point out potential improvements for fear of being seen as troublemakers or losing their jobs. 

“Are there any concerns or shortcomings I can address?”

The entire point of an interview is to get the job. As such, you want to know before you leave if there is something that your interviewer is concerned about or that is keeping them from giving you an offer. If there is, you might be able to assuage those concerns before the interview ends. For example, if they feel that there is something missing in your resume, you might be able to show them that the skill they are concerned about is one you possess. You might also be able to get a sense for where you stand in terms of other applicants. If they give you a long list of places your resume is a little thin, you can expect that you are probably not their top candidate. On the other hand, if they tell you that you have everything they want and more, it would not be unreasonable to hope for a call back or an offer soon.

When it comes to job interviews, you are trying to learn about the company just as much as they are trying to learn about you. In the same way that there are things they need to know about you, there are things you need to know about them. The last thing you want to do is to get a job offer, uproot your life and find out that you do not mesh with the company culture at all. That is a recipe for both being miserable and being seen as a bad employee. Rather than deal with that, ask a few questions in the interview to make sure you actually want that job.