Interviewing the Interviewer - Five Questions to Ask by Hallie Crawford

Everyone does a lot of speculating about job interviews from the perspective of the person being interviewed. "What will they ask? What types of responses are they looking for?" But there is another aspect of interviewing that is equally important - interviewing the interviewer.

Why would you interview the interviewer? First, it's as important to you as it is to your potential employer. You need to know if the job is a good fit for your skills, talents and work style. Second, if there is an ideal work situation that you envision for yourself, now is the time to find out if this is that kind of place. Third, if you were dissatisfied with your last job, you can learn if things will be the same in this new place. Now is the time to ask questions, and find out the answers you seek!

So the person who is doing the hiring has finished giving you the full drill. Now it's your turn. What do you want to know? Here are five key questions to ask:

1. Can you describe the work environment?

If possible, find out how many people you'll be reporting to. Ask if you can be introduced to your future boss if you haven't already. Find out how many people make up the immediate department and in what ways will you be interacting with them. Try to open up a conversation about the general "scene" of the workplace, and the company culture... what is a typical day in the life of someone who holds this position? Ask your interviewer that question too!

2. What types of responsibilities will be expected of me?

Beware of open-ended job titles which can involve pretty much anything. You might be under the impression that the "marketing coordinator" does things like run and analyze reports, manage advertising campaigns and things of that nature. Then later on, you discover that your job responsibilities include proofreading and setting up meetings, neither of which you enjoy or excel at! Find out the details before you make a decision.

3. Is there potential for growth?

Many companies have what is known as the "glass ceiling" - where you have just a few opportunities to advance professionally, and then suddenly you hit a barrier and can't go any higher. It's one thing to receive a pay raise every year. But if you're forever stuck in the same job with the same duties, it may not be worth making the commitment. Find out whether the company you're interested in offers training programs for future leadership positions. Ask if there are openings in areas where you can develop valuable skills that you can "take with you" on the path of career development.

4. Can you tell me about employee benefits, sick day policy, vacations and such?

This one should be saved for the second interview, assuming there will be one. Some employers find it off-putting when potentials seem overly eager about taking vacation before they're even hired. Nevertheless, these are all legitimate questions that are important when weighing your options between different potentially rewarding jobs.

5. Will there be any travel involved?

To some people, travel is a rewarding aspect of their career. But to others, things like being in an unfamiliar city and managing your time between flights, hotel check-ins, conferences and trade shows can be very stressful. So find out ahead of time: how much travel, if any, will be involved and under what circumstances? Do you find travel a stimulating part of doing business? Great. But if you think that travel could negatively impact your job performance, don't accept the offer no matter how enticing the pay. There's a better fit out there for you!

Many people go into the interview hoping and praying the company thinks they're the right person for the job. But they are forgetting that it's just as important to find out, "Is this job the right one for me?" Better to learn the answer up front. Remember - a job interview is a two-way street. Make the most of yours.

Want free tips, tools and expert advice on finding a career you're passionate about? Visit Career Coach Hallie Crawford and sign up for her monthly career newsletter.

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