Questions to Ask Interviewers Based on Their Role Scope
When you interview for a job opportunity, you should prepare some questions to ask your interviewer(s). Interviewers typically reserve time during an interview to allow a candidate the opportunity to learn more about the company or their potential role. This time is often kicked off with the interviewer asking, “Do you have any questions for me?”
When preparing questions for an interviewer, it’s important to consider who is interviewing, and what is their professional expertise. Some industries and companies use recruiters, team members, and managers as part of the interview process for candidates. For example, in an interview process for a software engineering role, the candidate may be interviewing with a recruiter, who then forwards them to the supervisor for the position. The information you can learn from the two professionals varies. When speaking with a supervisor, take the opportunity to get to know their management approach or their expectations for a new hire. In conversations with the recruiter, ask more general and organizationally based questions about the company.
Let’s discuss some types of professionals who could potentially be involved in candidate interviews, along with examples of questions that match their role scope. If you are preparing for an interview, consider what industry you’re engaging with, as many have interview stages unique to the field or role type. Not all industries will have you interview with some of the role types covered in this article, which is why it makes a difference who your interviewer is and what they do.
Recruiters and Human Resource Professionals
Professionals associated with recruitment or human resource (HR) functions tend to see the company or departments from an organizational perspective. These professionals are commonly brought in to assist in the facilitation of a hiring process for an open role. Many companies utilize HR or recruiting professionals to screen candidates by having them review application materials and conduct initial conversations.
HR professionals are generalists when it comes to company knowledge. Do not expect an HR professional or recruiter to be well versed in your professional or technical expertise. Many recruiters have been given a set of qualifications and preferences that a hiring manager wants. A recruiter's task is to find and create a pool of candidates with the desired qualifications before passing them off to the next round. From there, the hiring manager often continues the interview process. Every company is different in their operational structure for interviewing, and some HR or recruitment professionals are specialized to hire for specific role types. Regardless of you or the recruiter's professional expertise, here are a few general questions you can ask:
- Is this a new role? How did it become available?
- What does on-boarding and training look like for a new hire joining this company?
- What is the hiring timeline and interview process for this role? Who can I expect to engage and meet in the next interview rounds?
- How does the company support employees in continued professional development and growth?
Potential Colleagues and Teammates
Some companies give candidates the chance to meet with individuals who work directly with, or adjacent, to the open role. Interviewing with potential colleagues gives a candidate insight into team dynamics, personalities they could be working with, and a perspective on the real day to day experience of the job. These types of interviews are often used to measure cultural fit, and see how you'll mesh with others.
Questions you ask potential colleagues can explore their honest take on the company, and their expectations for someone joining the team. Here are a few general examples that can be used for teammates:
- What do you most enjoy about working here? What have you found to be the biggest challenge?
- What factors helped you decide to accept a role at this company?
- What advice do you have for someone considering this company and this specific role?
- How do you see this particular role interacting with your role? How can my role support the work you're doing?
- What expectations would you have of me as I got started in the role? What tasks and outcomes would you hope I prioritize?
Notice the last two questions have your interviewer considering you as an already hired candidate they'd be working alongside. Such a mental exercise can help your interviewer look at you as a potential teammate. Asking them to envision you in the role can hopefully help you standout and make you memorable against other candidates. This is a question framing technique you can use with any interviewer.
Supervisors can make or break a professional's experience at a company. Even if you really enjoy working at a company, a tense or poor relationship with a supervisor can lead many to reconsider employment elsewhere. This is why it's important to take full advantage of getting to know a potential supervisor when given the opportunity to do so. There are a lot of different question types you could ask a supervisor, but I'd recommend getting insight into their management style by asking questions like:
- How would you describe your management style? How do individuals you've supervised describe you?
- What are you hoping I would accomplish in this role? What will my priorities be?
- Do you have a specific communication style? How do you set expectations or provide feedback?
- What are some successful personal or team initiatives you have recently taken lead on in your role?
- Is there anything about my candidacy that you're excited about or that gives you pause?
Executive level interviews are more commonplace at start-ups, or for those interviewing for senior roles. Talking to an executive can be intimidating, as they are a pretty big deal to the company's structure. The type of executive who interviews you will largely depend on the function of the role you're interviewing for. The company's organizational structure often informs the functional areas for which an executive oversees, which also informs the type of executive who might interview you.
Asking an executive what the day to day of your role looks like is a poor question, as they tend to be more concerned with the bigger picture of a role, team or department. When asking executives questions, remember, they are trying to drive the entire company towards growth and success. Here are a few examples of questions better suited for executives:
- Of the goals and initiatives being taken on by the company right now, which are the ones that have you most excited for the company's future?
- How can my role support your goals and vision for the company? What expectations do you have for the person who takes on this role?
- What are some of the challenges the company is currently facing? How can this role help overcome those challenges?
- What do you hope every new employee understands about the company and it's mission or vision?
Many of the questions recommended in this article are broad so that they can encompass different industries and roles. A good interviewee asks questions, but a great one will personalize those questions towards the individuals who are interviewing them, and the company itself. Use the recommended questions to inspire questions you can ask interviewers, while always taking into consideration the professional scope of any interviewer.
Have you ever been in an interview where they didn't give you time to ask a question?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Nilza Marie Santana-Castillo