3 hard interview questions to ask the hiring manager

Part of the interviewing process is asking questions of the hiring manager. While there are hundreds of questions out there, I’m oriented to ensuring you will fit well with the manager’s management style and reduce your layoff risk of taking a job. Your manager has the most significant impact on your career and no company is yet safe from a layoff.

To that end, here are the questions:

When there is conflict between team members, what do you do?

Conflict is good in a team — but not too much. If all that happens is people screaming at each other, nothing much gets done and it isn’t fun to be at work. Good conflict comes with the ability to see the other side, understand the issues and coming to a conclusion that works.

A manager needs to manage conflict on the team in a way that moves the team’s goals forward. How the manager does that shows a lot about management style — and whether it matches your temperament for a working style of your own.

What are the departments top 3 accomplishments in the last 3 months and why?

Too many questioners ask this and the time frame is over the last year. I’m of the opinion that you need to be producing results right now, not something from eleven months ago. “What have you done for me lately” has never been more important than right now in the business environment.

You need to figure out if what is said is really an accomplishment — it is finished — or just a lot of work in progress. Work in progress is nice, but it is not a result. If the department isn’t producing accomplishments, why would management want to keep it around?

As well, you need to settle on whether or not the accomplishment with the accompanying business benefit is really significant enough to warrant the work done in the department. Did the department save the company through the revenue it produced? That’s big. Did the department run the monthly “employee of the month” this last time? Not so much.

What happened to the last two people who had this job?

All sorts of answers can come forth here — got promoted(!), left the company or decided to “pursue other business interests” (read: fired). Whatever the answer, you have the opportunity to ask a follow-up question to clarify the answer. If the person left to go to another company, why don’t you ask, “what did that person find lacking in this company that would cause that person to leave?”

That would be an enlightening answer, don’t you think?

You need to sense the company environment

Your job is not just about your skills, but also how well you integrate with the manager and the team. Without that integration, you’ll find it tough to stay motivated to produce the results needed to really excel in your work.

Great managers won’t find these questions hard to answer. Poor ones will be all over the map.

What other great questions have you asked the hiring manager about the work?

13 Responses to 3 hard interview questions to ask the hiring manager

  1. Jacob Share says:

    A critical question to ask is “how do you measure (work) performance?” Some people work extremely well but are quieter than others, and that can have an impact on how their results are recognized. You need to know that your success will be discovered as it happens, regardless of how much 'marketing' you do.

  2. Scot,

    Great list! I would also add “What brought you here and what keeps you here?” and “How would you describe your management style?” These questions are very much in line with what you discussed above — company culture.

  3. Scot Herrick says:

    A very good point, Jacob. Too many companies don't know how to measure individual performance (but may be good at measuring team performance…). It is critical that you can independently measure your performance, without having just the opinion of the manager be the measure. That way you get reinforcement for doing well or not.

    How they answer your good question is a good indicator of whether or not management can truly measure your results. Thanks for leaving this gem.

  4. Scot Herrick says:

    More good questions, Heather. I especially like the “what brought you here” question because it gives you the opportunity to ask a follow-up question: “And did you find what brought you here to be true after you got here?”

    Nice.

  5. Rick Saia says:

    Very good questions Scot! I especially like the first two. Aside from evaluating the answers, get a feel for how long it takes for the hiring manager to answer these questions. If he or she has to think about it for a while (say, 5 seconds or more), that would leave me to wonder if he or she has a solid command of the department or team, or is trying to make up something.

  6. Scot Herrick says:

    Good point, Rick — much of communication is non-verbal and how long it takes to answer the question is a very good clue.

  7. Monica Fleur says:

    I like these questions so much! :D Thanks to everybody.

  8. Robert says:

    Great questions that I’ve used during interviews. Here’s a few that are slightly different.

    What is one thing that you would change about about your position? …about the firm?
    Here you get a sense about what’s really going on the group and the organization, what are the hirining manager’s pet peeves, what is really stressing the hiring manager, etc. You can come back with a killer resolution to help solve that problem or that is it something that you can prove (via your references) that you do not do.

    What is your next career move and how will you get there? When do you expect that to occur? Here you can see if this is where they want to be, in the position or in the firm. It might be that the hiring manager is on a managerial rotation and could really care less about the group since his or her expertise will always remain outside of his or her position. You can also gauge if the person is in it for him/herself or for the team. By asking the follow-up question, you will be able to understand if the hiring manager actually has a career plan, not just a 6-month job plan. Then ask yourself, if this doesn’t have a plan or not a clue to what he or she will be doing next then how will this person be able to support your goals and the team’s goals?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hi Scot

    I just came across this post and thought it was a great one. I think many people forget that a job interview is a two-way street and one way to wow the interviewer(s) is to make them do a bit of work too with some hard-hitting questions for them.

    Carl

  10. Scot Herrick says:

    The toughest employment security skill is interviewing — because we do so little of it. The first thing we forget is that interviewing is a two-way street because we just want a new job. Then we get our old job over and over again and wonder why it happened. So, yes, interview the manager. Interview the company. Make them show why the place would be great for you to work.

    Thanks for the comment!

  11. Scot Herrick says:

    Hi Carl,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, it’s a two-way street. Not so much as to put the other side on the spot, but for you to determine if this is a good place for you to work. If you simply accept the job without understanding the dynamics of the organization and the team, you leave yourself wide open for disappointment.

  12. Your correct. I will share this information in social networking sites surely.. Then only everyone knows about it..Thanks!

  13. […] the manager just is a poor interviewer but is a great manager. Ask questions about the work, the department, the current concerns and the current employees to get a sense of […]