How Smart Executives Use the Job Interview

interviewInvest in focused analysis as you prepare for the job interview.

The job interview is a tool that employers use to evaluate your candidacy and evaluate the level of risk in bringing you into the firm.

But there’s another perspective that many executive job candidates don’t always consider. Time and again I am surprised at the number of executive job candidates who do not ask thoughtful questions during a job interview. As famous business person and author Harvey Mackay says “the closer you get, the harder they’ll look.” The same should be true for candidates.

When the interviewer invites you to ask questions, this is a time to not only shine and show off your expertise, but it is an opportunity for you to uncover whether you want this job. There are always issues on a team and I believe it is important to know what those issues are before walking into an environment where you will spend 8-10 or more hours per day.

Sample questions that will uncover some of these situations include:

  • “Can you tell me what I’ll be walking into in this position?”
  • “Tell me about the former VP Finance. What caused his departure?”
  • “What does your most recent employee survey point to in terms of improvements?”
  • “What is the financial position of the firm?”
  • “Can you tell me about the team? May I meet them?”
  • “How does a typical day unfold in the department?”
  • “How often will I have access to the CEO (or other direct report)?”

Taking time to conduct your own due diligence on your targeted company will uncover potential red flags or it may confirm the company is an ideal fit for you. Understand your values—what’s most important to you in a company and design your questions around those values. If the company cannot or will not answer those questions to your satisfaction, be very careful continuing talks with them.

From a hiring manager’s perspective, a lack of questions on behalf of the candidate can be a red flag and sign of desperation in the candidate, even if that is not the case. Don’t disqualify yourself by not preparing thoroughly for this important and potentially life-changing opportunity.

According to the US Labor Statistics, 70% of employees are unhappy in their current roles. Don’t join this statistic because you did not take the time to ask the questions that could have prevented a disaster. Not only do I know this as a recruiter and a career strategist, I know this from personal experience. Had I asked the right questions at the time of the interviews, I could have sidestepped a position and an organization that did not fit my value system. Commitment is important to me, so leaving was not an option. This was one of those life lessons that I did not repeat!