ASK GENUINELY TOUGH QUESTIONS
As someone who oversees hiring for his firm, Harvey says he appreciates when candidates ask truly difficult questions about their culture and values. Rather than asking questions that allow the interviewer to regurgitate information from their recruiting materials, however, Harvey wants to see candidates that ask for specific examples that demonstrate how the organization truly lives those values everyday. Some of those tough questions include:
How much of your business is concentrated in a few major accounts or clients?
Can you describe the last time you pursued a bold new idea as an organization?
When was the last time something detrimental happened–like losing a major client or a round of layoffs–and how did management handle it?
Is mental health an open topic at this company?
Where will I have the final say in my work and what needs approval from a superior?
How has your approach evolved in recent years, and how did you go about implementing those changes?
Harvey adds that candidates should also ask specific questions about the company’s workflow process to get a sense of where there is room for experimentation and innovation, and what processes are bound by rigid guidelines or bureaucracy.
CONSIDER DIFFERENT THINGS DEPENDING ON THE SIZE OF THE COMPANY
According to research recently conducted by Great Place to Work, a consulting firm that focuses on culture and values, employees are more likely to succeed for different reasons based on the size of the company.
“A friendly atmosphere is extremely important at a small company, and as it gets larger being friendly is still a factor but even more important is the ability [for the individual] to make a difference,” says Kim Peters, the executive vice president for certification and partnerships at Great Place to Work.
As a result Peters recommends that candidates for positions at smaller companies ask questions specific to workplace atmosphere and friendliness. “What you’re listening for in their answer is things that describe how employees care about each other, how managers care about their staff, how communicative the CEO or owner is, generally a positive ‘family type’ atmosphere; those types of adjectives are a good sign,” she says.
Candidates applying for positions at larger organizations, on the other hand, should ask interviewers questions about the impact individual employees are able to make on the overall direction of the company, and where they would have a chance to make a difference.
“You’re trying to hear about the work you’d actually be doing and ways you have a chance to make a difference,” she said. “Maybe they’ll tell you about conversations that senior leadership has with all employees; maybe there’s community service opportunities you want to participate in.”