By: Nikki Winston
The days of asking “typical day” questions in a job interview are gone. Many people find themselves in unsatisfying jobs simply because they didn’t ask the right questions. If you come across a role full of chaos, or dealing with highly manual environments, or a manager who wants to know your every move, and you’re willing to endure any of the above – great.
The problem arises when you unknowingly enter into an environment where defunct systems, having to pick up the chaotic pieces from your predecessor, and being micromanaged will be your norm. That leads to frustration and burnout.
Regardless of your industry or pay grade, it’s important to pursue the job opportunities that you enjoy and that align with your career aspirations. Most have yet to find that perfect dream job, but you can get close by asking the right questions.
These three questions will provide the clarity you need to make informed career decisions.
What’s it like working here?
Ask this question to understand what you’re really getting into. The interview is not just for putting your skills on display – you obviously have an appealing background if you’re at the interview stage for the role.
What if you go into this role as a person who works well independently, only to take the job and learn that your boss is a micromanager? And three weeks into the job, you’re ready to quit? You’re back on the market, realizing too late you don’t thrive in this environment and considering all the “TEE” – time, energy, and effort – you’ve put into a job that doesn’t suit you.
Candidates feel awkward asking these questions for fear of being too assertive, thinking it will ruin their chances of getting the job. If you don’t feel comfortable asking pointed questions, practice in the mirror or do mock interviews. Find a way to get comfortable.
While preparing for the interview, check out the interviewer’s background to find shared interests or same universities, something to ease your way into the questions. It may be uncomfortable at first, but you’d be surprised how transparent some hiring managers are willing to be.
What’s your approach to leadership?
Back to micromanaging – many people don’t do well with someone constantly looking over their shoulder wondering if they’re working and what they’re working on.
There are some instances where micromanaging is warranted, especially with performance issues. If an employee is underperforming, it’s necessary to have more frequent check-ins and status updates to ensure deliverables are met.
That being said, you don’t want a boss that’s aloof, either. Asking your potential new manager how they will lead and provide feedback is important to your professional development.
Most managers fall somewhere in the middle, and asking this question tactfully will provide insight into the type of manager you’d be working for. It’s important to align yourself with a manager who will help you identify goals and a plan to achieve them.
[Related: First-Line Managers Can Reduce Stress With Compassionate Management]
Why did the last [insert job title] leave?
This question is very telling, and you should listen closely to the response. A lot of what you’ll encounter your first several weeks on the job will likely be linked to your predecessor in some way.
Depending on the departure, this person may have left urgent projects undone that you’ll quickly have to learn to take over. You may find yourself inundated with inherited messes.
Why are these three questions important?
Notice that these questions focus on the things you’ll deal with at work on a daily basis, even if your job responsibilities vary. If you’re working on analysis today and a new project tomorrow, the culture and leadership remain constant. Also, the answers to these questions most likely aren’t mentioned in the job description.
Speaking of the job description – study it. Look at how many bullet points there are. If there are three or four bullets, maybe the company threw a job description together just to get the job posted. That speaks to the haphazardness of the company and usually means there’s an urgent need to simply get someone in the job. Lazy job descriptions attract lazy candidates.
On the flip side, let’s say there are so many bullet points that the description is overwhelming to read. That means you’re waving goodbye to any ability to disconnect from your job to have a life. A long job description either means there’s such a great need in the role or the company is looking for talent so specific that they will only consider candidates that meet all requirements.
Either way, you must scrutinize these job descriptions the same way these companies are scrutinizing your resume. It’s a mutually beneficial thing. Considering the sometimes insane amount of time we spend working, it’s important that you treat your career like a business and manage it accordingly.
Had you known on your first day what you know now, would you have accepted your role? Money aside, benefits aside, talking strictly about what you do every day? Is your job that you’re doing true to what was presented in your interview?
[Related: Make Your Team a Place People Want to Work]
Nikki Winston, CPA is a CPA exam coach and host of The WERKin’ Mommas podcast. She has been a featured speaker at national accounting conferences and her career advice for millennials has been featured by Forbes, Ellevate Network, and Reader’s Digest. Catch her on social media @NikkWinstonCPA sharing accounting insights, career tips, and all things mom life.