Congratulations! You have your job interview scheduled and now it’s time to prepare. It should be obvious nowadays, that the right fit has to work both ways. And yet we tend to forget to ask about the company culture, leadership and growth possibilities during the initial conversations.
So how can we determine if our potential future employer shares strong and consistent values that mirror our own matrix? We don’t want to end up in a toxic environment with burnout after a couple of months, do we?
I gathered a couple of questions that might be worth asking. Pay attention not only to the answers but also to the initial reaction, body language, mimic, word choice and general willingness to engage in this kind of conversation by your counterpart (I will touch on this topic in a later follow up blog article).
- What did you change recently based on the feedback from your employees? It doesn’t happen often. Companies that value their employees listen carefully, discuss individual needs and continuously implement changes. Some only listen and debate, but don’t do much about the issues and some don’t give a damn. You choose.
- Tell me about the person on your team who is the most different than you. You want to hear about the complementary skills and how this person contributes to the team’s success. Praising someone completely different demands high self-awareness rather than a fragile ego and a positive reaction to this question confirms that the contribution of different personalities is highly valued.
- Why is this position open? Why have you not promoted one of your other colleagues to this position? Yeah, why John? Nothing personal against Johns. In an article published in 2015 The New York Times noted that “fewer large companies are run by women than by men named John”. 2019 analysis showed a persisting underrepresentation of females in key executive positions, but this is a separate topic to discuss.
- As a manager how do you promote a collaborative work environment? A company’s success is never one man’s doing and an efficient collaborative mindset requires deep engagement and constant dedication from all team members. I would be interested in the company’s efforts to promote this kind of behavior.
- Have any of your employees been promoted? Tell me about their performance. This one is self-explanatory.
- Have any of your employees been fired? Tell me about their performance. This one as well.
- Tell me about the time you had to resolve a conflict between two or more of your employees. The conflicts are usually resolved (or not) directly between the parties. A leader who is capable of (successfully) mediating between colleagues is a rare breed.
- How long have you been with the company and why have you stayed? This one is tricky, I admit. It’s hard to expect an honest answer due to personal reasons. It’s worth a try, though! Is it because of the benefits? Team mindset and spirit? Salary? Interesting projects? Growth opportunities? There must be something!
- What exactly do you do for diversity and inclusion? Watch out for buzzwords and empty promises. Ask how diverse the teams really are and push for precise answers!
- Is there any hesitation you may have about me not being able to fulfill the role? This is my ultimate favorite one and a real game-changer. You might receive three types of answers:
- A clearly positive one: it’s a good sign that underpins the opinion of your counterpart
- A neutral one: even though you might not get any clear direction, you showed your confidence and willingness to receive feedback and improve
- A negative one: there might be some skills or experience that you’re missing. In this case, you have to anticipate the answer and prepare the response (or just accept the fact that the role might not be the best fit). On the other hand, you might be told something that was misunderstood during the interview. If this is the case, you will have a chance to turn the ship around!
So here’s the thing:
You have nothing to lose. Prepare, gather your courage and go for it next time you have the chance. Some managers learn to hide their toxicity and know what to say. Nothing we can do about that. The good ones will appreciate your genuine interest and the opportunity to reflect on the company culture and how they have grown.