7 Questions to Ask an Interviewer

Asking questions is a vital step for any job-seeker in an interview. You may think that asking questions makes you look unprepared, but the opposite is usually true (unless you are unprepared!) Having several specific questions in mind before you go to your interview can ensure that you end the interview giving a good impression. If things brought up during the interview intrigue you, ask about them. If you feel like you have a good grasp on things, ask questions anyway. Even if you land the job – and even once you’ve been on assignment – you won’t know all there is to know about it.

With that in mind, here are seven basic questions to pick from for your next interview. Asking two or three questions like these can set you apart from the pack and get you one step closer to getting the job.

1. What does a normal workday for this position look like? This question can reveal a lot about the job that’s not listed in the job description. It can also demonstrate to you the level of knowledge the interviewer has about the job itself. And, asking it shows that you’re interested in more than a paycheck and benefits.

2. What does your typical day at work consist of? People love talking about themselves. Asking this question not only gives the interviewer a chance to share about themselves, their answer can show you how much someone in the position you’re interviewing for would interact with you on a daily basis.

3. What is the biggest challenge someone in this position typically faces? This is one of the tougher, more insightful questions you can ask. It may put the interviewer on the spot, but it also shows that you are thinking critically about the job. The fact is, there are challenges in any job, and showing that you know that and are willing to face them is a great trait for any job seeker to demonstrate.

4. What are the opportunities for career growth in this organization? You probably don’t want to tell the interviewer that you want their job in the next two years. Believe me. I’ve sat in interviews where job candidates said that, flat out. (They didn’t get the job.) But demonstrating that you’re interested in career growth shows you’re committed to your field and the organization. And, the interviewer’s answer can also tell you a lot about whether this is an organization you really want to join.

5. What is the growth plan for this company in the next five years? Asking this question shows that you can think beyond yourself and your job. Managers are held accountable for their department’s contribution to the company’s goals and bottom line, so asking the interviewer about the company’s plan for growth not only shows your business acumen, it can tell you a lot about the stability of the organization you’re considering tying yourself to.
 

6. Why is there a vacancy for this position? This can be a tough question, but it’s often worth asking. If there are personality conflicts or management issues in a department, and someone left for those reasons, this is a great time to find out. Sometimes, a position has been created because you’re joining a growing team or a person left because they were promoted. Both are answers you deserve to know.

7. When can I expect to hear back from you? If you don’t ask this, you might never know. You can end up spending a lot of time waiting by the phone if you don’t know the interviewer’s schedule for filling the position you’re seeking. It can also help you know when to follow up or send a thank you note. For example, if they’re planning to make the hiring decision that day, you’ll want to send an e-mail or leave a note at the front desk as opposed to mailing it.

Remember, the interview is also your chance to find out about your potential employer. If you land the job, you’ll spend a lot of time and energy working for the company. That’s why you need to make sure you want the job, fit with the organization’s culture, believe in its mission and understand its goals. So, on your next interview, take the opportunity to ask meaningful questions.

What questions have you asked in past job interviews? Were they a hit or a flop?

Ace the Interview by Asking Great Questions

So you’re at the point in the interview where you’ve given your background and qualifications. You’ve demonstrated your people, problem-solving and follow-through skills. The interviewer has asked their questions, and hopefully, you’ve answered their unasked ones. But now, they toss things your way and ask if you have any questions.

If you’re like many job seekers, you will say simply, “No,” or “I  don’t think so,” or “Not at this time,” take this as your cue the interview is over and exit, leaving opportunities – and often a chance at the job – behind.

What you may not know is the question-asking time can be one that sets you apart from other candidates. Interviewers are paying careful attention to what you say during this part of the interview. They want to know that you have thought about the job beyond the description you read when you applied. You can use this as an opportunity to show your thoughtfulness, enthusiasm and self-confidence. Asking well-thought-out questions can demonstrate:

  • Your knowledge of the company.
  • Your passion for the job.
  • Your curiosity about the industry.
  • Your ability to take charge.
  • Your desire to stand apart.

Check back tomorrow to learn what questions you should ask when you’re on a job interview. 

Don’t Let a Roadblock Derail Your Raise Negotiation

roadblock your raiseYou’ve done your homework, booked the meeting with your boss and prepared yourself mentally. You’ve made the pitch that you are well deserving of a raise based on your performance, progress toward your goals and value to the organization.

Then your boss throws you a curve ball, “So, Peter, what’s happening? Ah, now, are you going to go ahead and have those TPS reports for us this afternoon?”

You are unsure where the conversation is headed when you boss adds, “Oh, and next Friday is Hawaiian shirt day. So, you know, if you want to you can go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt and jeans.”

If handled correctly, this blatant attempt to change the subject can work to your advantage. This tactic is used frequently by managers because it gives them the opportunity to regroup and hopefully discuss something else. You need to remember that this is your meeting, and you’re on a mission. Here are a few suggestions to help you reach your goal.

What do I have to do? Ask your boss to explain the career path that will allow you to increase your responsibilities as well as your bank account. Set time tables and measurements so you (and more importantly your manager) will know what’s expected.

Take responsibility. Offer to take on additional responsibilities and have your raise be reassessed in 90 days if your manager is pleased with your performance. Point out that you will be doing more work for the same pay. If your boss is open to this, consider suggesting that the raise be retroactive to the day of your meeting. There’s no sense leaving three months of extra money on the table.

Offer alternatives. There are other ways to get the raise without increasing your salary. A 5% raise for someone making $35,000 a year equates to an additional $1,750. If you know this going into your meeting why not suggest a one-time performance bonus equal to your raise. If that’s too much for your manager to digest, offer quarterly installment based on performance.

Get another job offer. I’m hesitant to offer this as a suggestion because it can backfire. You might mention that you have another job offer, and your boss will give you an empty box and show you to the door along with your last pay check. If you are going to attempt to use a job offer as leverage to get a raise, be prepared to leave.

Good employees are even more valuable in today’s tight labor market. It will cost the company more money to replace you and retrain a replacement than it would cost to give you that well-deserved 4-6% pay increase. Sometimes you have to rattle the cage to get your manager’s attention.

Best of luck to you, and let me know how it goes.

How to Get the Raise You Deserve

deserved raiseWhen was your last raise? If it was more than a year ago you may be losing money.

In 2006, the U.S. inflation rate was 3.24%. That means goods and services cost more today than last year. The price of gas has increased. Milk costs more. Cable costs more. Everything costs more.

If you haven’t had a recent pay increase, you are actually making less today than you were yesterday. So, what’s stopping you from getting that raise?

Many people are afraid to ask for more money. It could be conflict avoidance, fear of rejection or that you don’t know how to pull it off. If you are one of those people, I have some suggestions to help you successfully add some green to your future paychecks.

Know the market value of your job. Research how much your peers are making at other companies. It is dangerous to compare job titles with other companies because you might not be comparing apples to apples. Your best bet is to compare job duties or job descriptions. Online job boards and sites like Salary.com can help you develop a pay range for your position based on your job duties.

Timing is important. It’s not wise to broach the subject when your boss is in a bad mood or on a tight deadline. You should also avoid asking for a raise right after you screwed up a project, went over budget or survived a layoff.  The best time would be after you completed a significant project or after you’ve taken on more responsibilities and proven you’re up to new challenges. Many companies create their budgets in the fourth quarter of the year. Employee compensation is an important part of each department’s budget so it’s best to get your request in early.

Stand strong. Don’t just walk into your boss’s office and demand a raise. You’d better put together a convincing case of why you deserve to make more. Examine your goals, progress and accomplishments. This is your opportunity to sell yourself. If you go in unprepared, be ready to get a quick brush off.

No boot kissing. Whining and groveling are pathetic in most business scenarios. You will be rewarded for your performance and confidence. Stating you need the raise because you’re getting divorced, having a baby or you need to get out of debt are not legitimate reasons. Any raise is based on your work performance. Not on what happens at home.

This should help you prepare, but it’s up to you to book the meeting and to make it happen. If you don’t ask the question, you’ll never get the answer.

This is evident in a recent study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University. Researchers found that four times as many men (51%) as women (12.5%) pushed for a better deal in negotiating a job offer. Not surprising, the individuals who asked for more money received 7.4% more than those who accepted the offer without debate.

The study cited a primary reason that women avoid salary negotiations. Women who pushed for more money were seen as “less nice” and were at times viewed negatively.

Have you recently experienced a successful raise negotiation? Do you feel you’d be looked at negatively if you ask for a raise? Are there different rules for women and men?

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss the appropriate course of action if you meet some roadblocks when asking for more money.

Ugly Uniforms Deflate Employee Confidence

Ugly UniformsLast week, I attended a conference at a hotel in Florida where all the employees were dressed in terribly outdated, unattractive uniforms – faded royal purple and turquoise jackets with pleated beige blouses and royal purple pants with pleats and elastic waistbands.

I think uniforms in general are fine, especially in customer service jobs. They simplify getting dressed in the morning and help customers easily identify employees. Uniforms don’t need to look like something the employees could walk down the runway wearing. But, there has to be a happy medium between hideous and high fashion.

If a company’s uniforms are so unstylish and awkward that they make even customers cringe, are they really serving their purpose? They certainly aren’t impressing customers or encouraging employees to perform their jobs with more enthusiasm. Ugly uniforms bring down employee morale and leave customers with a less-than-positive feeling toward the company.

In my working life, I’ve had to wear lots of uniforms. Some of them were more attractive than others. In my tackiest uniforms, I remember feeling distracted and eager to hide my clothing and face from customers. Unattractive uniforms also made me anxious to leave work so I could change into something more comfortable.

In my current job, I wear something of a uniform – business suit, dress shoes, hose. But, since I’m able to tailor this “uniform” to my own style, I don’t have to feel awkward or like a fashion ad from 1987.

What do you think about uniforms? When do they help a business, and when can they hurt it? What are some of the best/worst uniforms you’ve worn?

Working in the Great Communication Gap

Do you ever feel like you and your boss never exactly see eye to eye? Do you sometimes wish you knew the whole picture so you could understand why you’ve been tasked a certain assignment? Have you ever been blindsided by change that impacted your job or work environment?

If so, you know how frustrating it is to work in an environment where communication is dysfunctional. In the work world, one of the biggest complaints of both workers and managers is bad communication. And, your relationship with your boss is the one that will probably impact your overall job satisfaction, as well as your career the most. That’s why it’s vital to proactively communicate with your boss. In the book How to Be the Employee Your Company Can’t Live Without, author Glenn Shepard phrases it this way: “Answer the questions your boss didn’t ask.”

This can mean volunteering for tasks before you’re asked, asking for help when you need it or telling your boss you are interested in career advancement opportunities. For more on this, check out our podcasts on the book. You can see how taking the initiative to communicate with your boss really can boost your career.

However, the best communication is a two way street. With that in mind, if you could tell your boss one thing they could do that would make your job easier, what would it be? Vote in our poll below.

Preparing for a Successful, Less Stressful Trip

Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you’re preparing for a business trip? Maybe you’re a seasoned pro and packing for such trips is no big deal. For some, like me, just trying to figure out what you need to bring on a vacation, let alone a business trip, is enough to cause a panic attack. From laptops to dress attire, packing for a trip is enough to shake even the most confident of travelers. If you tend to stress before going out of town, here are some tricks that will help you be better prepared for any trip.

Travel Light – Travel size items are great whether you’re going on a three day trip or a week long trip. Travel size lotions, shampoos, conditioners, cotton swabs, razor sets and other items that can be discarded when you’re finished, help lighten your load on the way back. Hotels often supply some of these items as well. Another option is to pack clothing items that can be interchangeable. Packing a solid black or brown pair of dress pants or skirt and wearing them with different dress shirts will not only allow you a variety of outfits to wear, but will also lighten your luggage.

Confirming Confirmations – Confirming your hotel, car rental agency, taxi or other reservations is always a great idea. This saves you from last minute surprises when you arrive at your destination. When confirming, make sure you get the name of the person you spoke with, and write it down along with the time of your phone call in case there are any discrepancies.

Making a List and Checking it Twice – Ever get on the plane and wonder, “Did I pack my dress shoes?” And then, a sudden wave of heat goes over your body as you begin to worry because you can’t remember if you did or didn’t. By making a list and checking it off as you pack, you can avoid that overwhelming feeling mid-flight of whether or not you packed all of your belongings.

Front Door Service – The night before you leave, set everything, I mean everything, by the door – your jacket, keys, tickets, wallet or purse, suitcase, shoes, anything that you want to take with you on your trip. That way, if you’re in a hurry to get out the door, you can be assured that you’ll still be sure to grab everything.

By following these tips, you will ensure that when the airline attendant says, “sit back, relax and enjoy your flight,” you’ll be able to.