Employers, if they are smart, will spend most of a job interview asking questions to see if the candidate is a good cultural fit for them. Similarly, smart candidates will ask questions to see if they are a good cultural fit for the company. In the end, even if they meet all of the qualifications, they still may not be right for the job because the company is just night right for them.
So what should you ask?
Who succeeds here? This is the question, if you are having a telephone interview, and only have the chance to ask one question, that you should ask. What is amazing is that employers sometimes have difficulty answering. They respond to a different question: Who succeeds in the position? Then you have to repeat the actual question and clarify: Who is successful at your company?
That’s the direct question about culture. Let’s take a simple example that probably will never happen. If they say, “We micromanage everyone,” and you can’t stand being micromanaged, don’t waste any more time interviewing.
The beauty of the question is in that last phrase, “don’t waste any more time.” By asking the question you are sending the message that you don’t want to waste your time or the employer’s. Employers like that! So if the response is acceptable, you have just raise your stature in the eyes of the employer.
Do you promote from within? Well, not exactly. You should know the answer by viewing the LinkedIn profiles of their employees. So you should either ask, “I see from the LinkedIn profiles of your employees that you promote from within. How does that work? Do you have a formalized career development/advancement program?” Or, the question could be, “I was surprised when reviewing the LinkedIn profiles of your staff that none indicated that they were promoted from within. Is that accurate and, if so, why don’t you promote from within? Do you have any career development programming?”
What is your turnover rate? This tells you everything you need to know about the company. First, if they don’t know the answer, move on. Second, if they won’t tell you, move on. Third, if it is high, ask why and what they are doing about it. Fourth, if it is low ask why and see if you possess the qualities of their longest tenured employees. (This is different from “Who succeeds here?” in that a person can be very successful at a company and leave after three or four years. But if everyone leaves after three or four years, there’s a problem.)
Interested in learning more? Watch my interview on Jessica Dewell’s program:
Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 300,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.