9 Questions The Best Candidates Will Ask You

August 12, 2014

On a LinkedIn Influencer post last week, I presented this Job-Seeker’s Decision Grid as a means to help job-seekers decide when to leave a job and what to look for when comparing offers. Recruiters should own this chart. It covers every possible reason a person will reject or should consider your job opening.

The bottom half of the grid represents the reasons why people consider switching jobs. The upper half represents reasons why they accept offers. These negative and positive motivators are divided into extrinsic (short-term) motivators shown on the left, and intrinsic (long-term) motivators shown on the right.

job-seekers-decision-grid-vicious-cycle

I suggested that many job-seekers overvalue what they get on the start date of their new job – a title, location, company name and compensation package. While what a person gets on “Day 1” is a positive motivator, these are short-lived and if the job doesn’t represent a long-term career move (the upper right “Doing – Year 1 quadrant), job satisfaction will decline and the negative motivators will quickly reappear. I refer to this as the “vicious cycle” of dissatisfaction, underperformance and turnover. This is shown by the dotted red line. Recruiters can break this cycle, but they need to know the job, work closely with the hiring manager and intercede whenever candidates tend to emphasize the short-term benefits over the long-term opportunity.

To make more balanced career decisions I suggested that job-seekers should take matters into their own hands and ask recruiters and hiring managers a very specific set of 9 questions. The questions will help candidates figure out what the job really entails, what’s it’s the environment in the company and what is the size of the career opportunity.

In turn, I want to encourage you, recruiters and hiring managers, to read over the following list of questions and prepare a solid set of answers. They will help you attract and close the best candidates, even if your Day 1 motivators are not as flashy as those of your competitors.

The questions best job candidates will ask you:

1. What’s the most important goal the person in this role needs to accomplish in order to be considered successful?

When candidates ask this questions they are trying to figure out the real job needs. Their goal is to clarify job expectations, find out the scope of the job, the resources available and the importance of the job.

2. How will this skill be used on the job?

When hiring managers start box-checking skills or asking a brain-teaser, smart candidates will ask how the skill will be used on the job. If as the recruiter or a hiring manager you cannot answer this question, it means that you haven’t defined the job well.

3. Why is this position open?

The point of this question is to discover if there is some inherent problem with the job or if it’s the result of a positive change.

4. What happened to the last person in the role?

This is often a clue to the manager’s ability to select and develop people so make sure you have a good answer.

5. How will my performance be measured?

A strong manager can give a very specific answer to this question and set the correct expectations for the role. You should have a clear idea how to reply even if the role is brand new.

6. Can you go with me through the organization chart?

The goal for the candidate here is to find out who’s on the team and who they’ll be working with. They’ll want to meet some of these people before accepting an offer or if they’re inheriting a team, they may want to know about the quality and the opportunity to rebuild it.

7. What is the manager’s vision for the department and the open role?

This question will reveal the capabilities of the hiring manager, his or her aspirations, and the upside potential of the open job.

8. What is the manager’s leadership style?

There could be a problem if the manager is too controlling or too hands-off, reactive or a planner, or a coach or a super techie, etc. Make sure you clarify the hiring manager’s working style and whether it would mesh with the one of the candidate – otherwise both parties will be disappointed in a few months.

9. How are decisions made at the company? What’s the appetite for change? What’s are the politics/the intensity/the sophistication of the infrastructure?

These questions are probing into what your company culture is really like – the candidate wants to see what’s behind the platitudes and the fancy vision statement. Give an honest and thoughtful answer – hiring for cultural fit is quite important.

The best people – whether they’re active or passive – are more discriminating than most candidates when they change jobs and compare offers. This is why I strongly advocate the preparation of a performance-based job description when opening up a new requisition. When the recruiter and hiring manager prepare this together and share it with everyone on the hiring team everyone will be able to answer these nine questions with a consistent voice. More important they’ll be able to higher stronger people for the right reasons while eliminating the 90-day wonders. These are the people you hire with high hopes, but 90 days later you wonder why.

* image by Stefano Bertolotti

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