In all life situations, we ask questions when we are interested in something. Especially when it comes to important decisions that will influence our lives in the years to come. But with applicants, the brain region responsible for important questions switches off as soon as they sit in the interview. Ok, not exactly. Because they have some questions like “Who is my direct superior?” In their heads, which are definitely harmless and not a problem for the other side. At least that is what even the most up-to-date application guides still tell candidates today: Beware of unusual or overly critical questions to the company! I think the time has come when applicants can ask all questions the answers of which they are really interested in and which they also need to help them decide for or against a new one Meet employers. Here are 45 questions so that you as an applicant don’t buy a pig in a poke.
Warning: All questions are just examples from me as a guide for you. You should neither memorize these questions nor just fire them off in conversation. Depending on the position and the company, think about what really interests you and what you dare to ask as a question. It’s about your self-awareness and your attitude as an applicant. Your questions should suit you as a type and the respective situation in the conversation. After all, you don’t want to turn it into an interrogation!
Questions about the boss
“Employees leave their boss, not the company” – was the headline of a career magazine recently. That’s the way it is. I also experience that in career counseling. The task is secondary, the environment has to be right. In addition to colleagues, this primarily includes the boss. For you as an applicant, this means that you should put your boss through its paces beforehand to get a good feeling about whether you will work well together later. Here are 10 boss questions you might be interested in:
- Do you enjoy working here and what do you particularly like about the company?
- What motivates you personally to do a good job?
- What does leadership mean to you and what characterizes your leadership style?
- Which professional experience shaped you the most?
- According to which goals are you controlled in the company?
- Which departments and colleagues do you have the best relationship with?
- If you could, what would you abolish/introduce here tomorrow?
- What is particularly important to you when working with your employees?
- Who takes action in the event of a conflict: your own boss or your employees?
- Suppose I discover an error in your records. How should I react?
Questions about the company
This is not only about assessing a secure future for your new employer, but also questions about corporate culture and management. Pay attention not only to the facts and content of the answers but also to the reactions. Evaluate for yourself what the answers and the behavior of your interlocutors could mean for the climate in the company and the subsequent cooperation.
- Where do you see the company in 10 years?
- What are the company’s strengths compared to the competition?
- What is the company’s image with customers and business partners?
- Which topics are currently most preoccupying the industry?
- What weaknesses is the company still struggling with today?
- How do you think the employees would describe the corporate culture?
- How would you describe the current mood in the house?
- Presence or result – what is more important here?
- How do you experience your top management at work?
- If the company were an animal, which one would it be? (very daring!)
Questions about the team and the workforce
For many employees, collegiality is extremely important. It’s just stupid if you don’t have a clue before the first day at work who you are working within the team and what makes your colleagues tick. Both the boss and the HR department know their Pappenheimers very well. So if working in a team is important to you, then the answers to these 10 questions could shed more light on:
- What qualities would you use to describe your team and how they work?
- Who do you think I will get along with best as a team and why?
- In your opinion, what are the particular strengths of the team?
- Do you know whether colleagues also meet privately in their free time?
- What are the most important interfaces between the team and the company?
- How well is cross-departmental collaboration going?
- What challenges will the team have to master in the coming months?
- Are there special measures for team development in the company?
- How high is the fluctuation rate and why do employees leave the company?
- How do you appreciate how my new colleagues will greet me on the first day?
Questions about the position
A lot is said about the position itself in the conversation anyway. You should also ask all questions here to get a complete picture of your future area of responsibility. This is the only way you can assess for yourself whether the job appeals to you and whether it will fill you up. I leave out questions about money (you as an applicant are of course also interested in this). Listen for signals from the company as to when it is a good time to address these issues. If they are important for your decision for or against a position and the company has so far been silent about this, then you can also ask your questions about salary and possible special benefits.
- Why is the position vacant and what can I do better than my predecessor?
- Why is this position important to the company?
- Where do you see the particular challenges of the position?
- What will I find on the first day to familiarize myself with the tasks?
- Which colleagues will I depend on to get my work done?
Questions about your own development
Personal and professional development are important future issues for many employees. You should therefore also use the interview to assess which career paths and prospects there are in the company and how your employer will promote your development. You should be careful not to appear too demanding or even scare your counterpart by appearing arrogant or aiming too high too quickly.
- Why do you think I will fit this point?
- How will you support my induction in terms of content and timing?
- When and how would you know that I am doing a good job?
- How will you show me that you are satisfied with my services?
- Is there a personnel development strategy and what are its goals and measures?
- How will you specifically support my professional development?
- How will you support me in my personal development?
- What career models are there besides the management career?
- How do you react if a team leader wants to give up management responsibility?
- Where will you see me here in 10 years? What would be typical development steps?
Applicant questions: Your real interest in the answer counts
These questions are examples. Find your own questions that suit you and you. As an applicant, deal intensively with your potential employer during preparation. Surf on its homepage, look for press releases, or take a look at the rating portals (e.g. kununu). If you have questions that really interest you, write them down. At the end of the research, evaluate what is really important to your decision and also be aware of why the answer is so important to you. Prioritize which topics you would like to address in the first conversation and which questions have time for a second round.
As in any good conversation, a mutual real interest in the other counts. The point is not to lead the company side on the ice with your unconventional questions because you believe that the recruiter will do the same with you with their tricky questions. This motivation for your questions would immediately throw you out of the running.
Think of the interview as getting to know two prospects who each other and decide at the end of the process whether there is an employment contract. Sure, the company has more leverage and you would like a job so that you can finally finish the application marathon. But instead of rushing blindly into the next job, you should use the meeting as an opportunity to gain more clarity and thus certainty about the upcoming decision.
No more harmless! – Isn’t that too dangerous?
Most companies and their HR employees are unlikely to be prepared for such questions today. Bosses rarely worry about how they would describe their leadership style to a stranger. Yes, you may not only surprise your interlocutor with questions like this but also overwhelm them. Your counterpart also takes this risk, for example with the demanding question of how many Smarties fit into a Smart. So why should you only be allowed to ask harmless questions at the elementary school level, the answers of which are of no use to you?
Yes, there is a real risk that in your role as an applicant you will be perceived as too brash, bold, arrogant, critical, clever, or even cheeky. However, this is where your tone also makes the music. And yes, if you are looking for low-key or good yes-sayers, you will not accept these questions from applicants. But: As a future employee, would you like to work for a boss or a company that resents such questions and rejects you for this reason? Where today everyone is looking for highly qualified employees with strong communication skills, strong assertiveness, and resilience.
I believe: You as an applicant show genuine, especially through your important questions that you have dealt intensively with the company and your role as a new employee. And maybe even your interlocutors from the company will take valuable impulses from getting to know each other for themselves and will appreciate that.