Congratulations! You have the job offer in hand. You have spent months perfecting your resume, honing your interview skills, searching and applying for jobs online, and now you have the offer. But should you accept it? You’ve spent so much time and energy pursuing the job offer, but have you truly considered whether this job is a good fit for you? Here are 10 questions to ask that will give you real insight into the company, the role, and whether it will fit you.
The first two questions are intended to help you better understand what you will be doing from day to day and how the duties vary over a year. The title and job description may not tell the whole story. The day to day duties can vary greatly for a given job across companies or across different groups within a company. Your daily tasks may reveal important facets about the company such as levels of bureaucracy,
1. Tell me about a “day in the life” of this job. — This question can help you understand what you will actually be doing during the day. For example, as a “Project Manager” how much time do you spend in meetings as opposed to collaborating with your team on how to overcome obstacles?
2. Tell me about a “year in the life” of this job. How do the duties vary across a year? — This question helps you understand the cycle of projects and activities over a longer period. Do projects and assignments last for weeks, months, or years? What is the cycle of a project from planning to execution to completion?
The next two questions will help you understand what it takes to succeed at this job and to ensure you are the kind of person who succeeds here. Are you the first veteran they hired? Or do they have a long history of veterans delivering successful results in this company? Are you a straight-laced, no-nonsense, type A personality joining a team of laid back hipsters? Or are you an easy going person joining a pressure-cooker environment? Make sure your experience and personality are a good match with these two questions.
3. Tell me about someone with my background who has succeeded in this role. What did they do to succeed and what was the outcome of that success? — This question will reveal whether you fit right into the mold of a successful employee or whether the company is “going out on a limb” in hiring you. It’s not a bad thing if you are the first veteran to work there. You can show them the skills a veteran brings, and soon they will hire more. But you do want to go into the situation knowing the degree to which you fit or stick out from the crowd.
4. Tell me about someone in this role who has not succeeded. What went wrong? — This question can help you learn from the mistakes of other so you don’t repeat them. It may also help you be aware of preconceptions or concerns your new teammates may have if the last person in this role did not work out.
The next two questions help you understand the company’s commitment to developing talent from within its ranks. A company that frequently brings senior people in from outside the company rather than promoting from within will not offer you much of a career path. This may also reveal a company’s commitment to proactively developing employees for more senior roles.
5. How often do you promote from within? What programs are in place to prepare employees for roles with increased responsibility? — Some companies have extensive training in place to develop employees so they are ready for the next role. Most do not. You are unlikely to find a civilian company that takes career development and training as seriously as the military does. That said, many companies do promote from within and the training and experience you have in how to lead others and how to get things done should help you climb the ladder.
6. Tell me why internal candidates were not selected last time you hired an external candidate for a senior role. — In some companies, a culture of jealousy of the big name companies prevents current employees from being promoted. This thought pattern leads upper management to think they have to look to a “hot” company to bring in leadership. Rather than promote from within, they want people from Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, etc. If you join a company with this mentality, the career path may not lead very far.
The next two questions help you understand your “freedom of maneuver” or ability to apply initiative to solving problems in new ways. Some companies encourage this while others discourage it. The discouragement could be based on culture or external regulatory issues. You may not consider the military to be the most flexible environment, but in many leadership roles within the military, you do have significant authority and responsibility. You may find you have less of each in a civilian role.
7. Will I be able to exercise initiative to solve problems in the most effective way I can, or will I have to seek approval before trying anything new? — this can help identify to what degree you will have authority so long as you “stay within your left and right limits.” You may be surprised how little authority comes with the new role.
8. In what areas will I be able to identify creative ways to improve and in what areas is change forbidden or tightly managed and why? — Companies have to comply with a tremendous number of regulations. These regulations vary by industry and company function. If your role is in a highly regulated industry or function (think Sarbanes–Oxley or HIPPA), you may find most of your effort is geared towards compliance rather than improvement.
The last two questions help you evaluate the company’s culture. The relationship with management question likely reveals much more than the dress code question.
9. Would you describe this workplace as strict or flexible when considering things such as dress codes, working hours and similar concerns? Why? — You probably learned much of this during the interview process, but if not, make sure you know the answer.
10. How often do employees talk to their second and third level supervisors? Do second level supervisors know each of their employees by name? — This question can reveal how isolated management is from the other employees. If a second or third level manager rarely talks to employees or doesn’t know them by name, does it mean management spends all day in meetings and is disconnected from the workforce?
With answers to all of these questions, you will be in a good position to evaluate how well you will fit into a company and you will reduce the number of surprises caused by the new job “culture shock.”
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