Turning The Tables On Interviewers

Josh Didawick

Josh Didawick

HR Professional

In an ideal world, interviews would be positive interactions where interviewers and job candidates have productive conversations. These discussions would give enough insight into applicants’ skills and competencies for hiring managers to make informed hiring decisions. Interviewees would get to know the hiring manager, job and organization better. That would be an ideal world, and in many companies that is exactly what happens. Unfortunately, in some cases, the hiring process can feel very one-sided. The interviewers are often asking all the questions and making all the decisions, but it does not have to be that way.

As a candidate for a job, you still have significant say in the matter. You need to find out if the job is right, if it is an organization you want to work in and if you and your boss are a good fit to work together. You can decide a lot of this through research and keeping your eyes and ears open, but asking the right questions during the interview is another way for you to turn the tables on your interviewers and size up the company. Consider some of these questions when the hiring manager asks, "Do you have any questions for us?"

How has your career progressed with this company?

Pay attention to your interviewers’ reactions when you ask about their careers and experience with the company. If they have been with the organization for any amount of time, they should be able to explain how the company has supported their growth and development.

It is also interesting to find out how long people have been working somewhere and whether or not they have had any upward or lateral mobility. Keep in mind, not everyone is going to have some great story about rising through the ranks, but movement within an organization can be fulfilling. It can say a lot about an organization when people have opportunities to work in different areas, or get to make lateral moves. This is an investment by the employer in its people, helping them broaden their knowledge and skills within the business and industry.

What keeps you working here?

I like this question because it can go in so many different directions, but you can get a sense for what matters to those individuals. Some employees stay with an organization because of its mission, others because of the people they serve, and some are there because of the people with whom they work. Hopefully you see a twinkle in an interviewer’s eye when they are talking about why they do what they do.

Tell me something about the organization that I wouldn’t know as an outsider?

We can learn a lot about an organization by reading the news and checking out the "About Us" page on their website, but you never know a place like when you work there. It can be fascinating to ask this question of companies with certain types of reputations. Whether those reputations are good or bad, oftentimes this question results in transparency about the inner-workings of the organization, its values and culture.

The response might also be more narrowly focused to the team with which you would be working. This type of information can be extremely helpful. When you are going to be working alongside others in a group, having insight into their habits and interactions will aid in your decision making. Is the team organized in a flat hierarchy or is it top-down? These types of answers can help you gauge your own fit.

How would you describe the organizational culture?

This is similar to the previous question, but a bit more to the point. Again, questions about culture can go in many different directions. Pay attention to the description of the organization and its culture? Words like entrepreneurial, fluid and dynamic are very different from stable and process-oriented. In truth, some companies could be described by any and all of those phrases.

What would you say are the company’s core values?

Can the people that are interviewing you articulate the organization’s core values? Are those values written down or informally understood? Does everyone know them or is that something only management needs to know? These are important things to look out for because you may be in a position to make a considerable contribution, but isn’t it important to know what is valued?

How would work be different if you were working for an organization whose core values aligned with your personal values and you had pride in what you were doing? Work can be so much more than a paycheck; it can be a means to affect positive change. A few years ago, General Electric aired a commercial in which some of their manufacturing employees visited a children’s hospital where the equipment they had built was being used to help diagnose and treat diseases. That commercial was not just a marketing campaign. It was a reminder to customers and employees about what GE stands for and that they understand the importance of their work.

Is this an existing or new position?

This can be an insightful question because in an existing position, many of the processes and procedures will already be in place. A new position is often created to fulfill a need, with a vision of what it will be. In an existing position, they may need to plug you in where someone left, get you trained and on your way. On the other hand, if it is a new position and there is going to be some ambiguity at first and documenting of procedures until the kinks are worked out, some people have more trouble in that type of environment. Listen to the history of the position or how it came about and their expectations for the new hire.

Use your time to find out as much as you can about the job and company. This will involve some research beforehand, but don’t be afraid to turn the tables on your interviewers. When you are considering putting your talents to work in a new position, you want to be able to make as informed a decision as the hiring manager.

About The Author

Josh Didawick
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Josh Didawick

Josh Didawick is a seasoned HR professional and consultant with extensive experience creating and guiding organizations’ HR strategies, as well as coaching individuals committed to successful careers. He specializes in taking on complex organizational issues to affect positive change and high performance. For individuals, Josh helps them put their best foot forward when seeking that next career, promotion or milestone in the workplace. Josh has had several articles published and presented at conferences on HR-related topics.

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