Saturday, March 05, 2005

Across the Interview Table

Lifehacker picked up an entry from Management Craft on questions the interview-ee should ask during an interview process. Mostly from Lisa Haneberg's Management Craft. "How to Interview Potential Employers" is a nice guide to the advanced class on the interview process. Hopefully, you've already read "Uncle Mike's Old School Guide to Interviewing" and "The 25 Most Difficult Interview Questions." The interview is not a one way process. You should be there to work with the hiring manager to determine if you are a good fit for the company. Help them through this process. You need to find out about the company, more than you can find through Google. You need to find out about the person you will work for and the people you will work with. You will also need to find out about the specific job. To those ends:

About the hiring manager:
  • Do you like your job? (WATCH how they answer, read the signs).
  • What are your career goals? (Where is this person going? Are they done? Is there room for movement once you get in the door and prove your value?
  • Of which accomplishment are you most proud?
  • How do you tend to manage people? What are your hot buttons? What stresses you out?
  • What is turnover like in the department? Why do people leave the department? (Again, pay attention to the body language. People usually leave because of the supervisor. Do they blow off this question?)
  • Describe the work culture. What type of person is most likely to succeed/fail? How many people have you promoted? (This goes hand in hand with the turnover question. A good manager gets his people promoted up and out of his/her team.)
About the company:
  • You have done your homework on the company and its industry, right? (You should know the company's history, its product/service evolutions, its performance, its market, its competitors, its customers, its current and future challenges.)
  • Is the company meeting its current goals? Why?
  • Who does the company feel are its main competitors? Is this company the only one that provides such a unique offering? (Jerry Garcia said that you should try to be the only one that does what you do.)
  • What is the company doing to adapt to changes in the industry, the world, etc?
About the gig:
  • Define success for this position.
  • Where have those in the past failed? Why?
  • If they were successful, where are they now? Were they promoted? Moved to other projects, etc?
  • Discuss and understand the evolution of the position.
  • How will success be measured for the person in this position? Not the same as the first question. Defining and measuring are TWO completely separate elements.
  • Describe a typical day/week. What is the lunch/break ritual? Do people run for the exits? Do they eat at their desks? Does everyone commune in the break room?
  • How many people are working at 7pm, 9pm, 11pm? (Assuming a 9-5 day). Why are they doing this? If the answer is high, there is a staffing problem. Is it temporary?
  • Define meetings. Type, frequency, attendees, length of each. I am a big fan of Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni. Meetings should always help, never hurt.
  • How is communication handled? Email? Voice mail?
If you are lucky enough to meet with someone that would be a peer, that is, someone that also works for the hiring manager (and you should ask if you can meet with such a person and probably be very concerned depending on the level of the position, if you aren't meeting with more than one person):
  • What is it like to work fir the hiring manager?
  • Ask your work environment questions from above?
  • What do they like most/least about her work?
  • What is turnover like? (it never hurts to doublecheck)
  • What type of person has found success in this position? Why?
  • Is it fun?
Be sure not to flip open your pleather legal pad holder that you thought you needed to have because everyone else has one and start ripping off these questions one after the other. The hiring process is a dialogue. Talk. Communicate. Most importantly, try to remember, no matter how desperate you may be, that just because a company is willing to hire you doesn't mean that you want the job. Take it from someone who knows.

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