I stumbled upon this list on Twitter and I’ve struggled to find its original author (if you know, please share in the comments!). The beauty of the list is that it applies to many situations beyond job interviews. I would argue that these questions should be used for every new project, new client, and new team you encounter.
Let’s use a new client as an example:
- Can you describe a typical day? i.e. How would you like to interact with me on a typical work day? What should our relationship look like on a day-to-day basis?
When you start a new client engagement or a new project, it is so important to set communication expectations up front. Does your client prefer a quick check-in phone call each day? Daily round-up emails each afternoon? Or can it be more casual as questions or updates come up?
- How long as you been at the company and what makes you stay? i.e. Talk to me about your role and your goals at X company.
When you have a new client, new manager, or new team leader, that person has both a past and a future. It is your job to know a little about both so that you can help them to achieve their goals. This question is often best asked in an informal setting, such as when grabbing coffee or over lunch.
- How would you describe the work environment and corporate culture? i.e. What do I need to know about your culture to succeed here?
Every team and every company is different. Rather than assuming you will fit in, cut to the chase and ask what it will take to succeed.
- What are some of the goals for the company in the short and the longer term? i.e. What are we trying to accomplish here? How does that fit into the big picture?
There is no excuse for not fully understanding what you are working towards. If you don’t know both the short term and long-term goals of your project – ASK. This applies to everyone, even the newest and youngest hire.**
- How would my performance be measured? i.e. How and when will you determine the success of the project?
Don’t be scared of this question! Yes, some clients will be more metrics focused than others and actually putting numbers on paper can be very intimidating. But identifying that your client or manager has unrealistic expectations up front is MUCH BETTER than finding out later, when your beautiful project doesn’t live up to an impossible dream. I’ve also had the opposite occur, and it is wonderful to know that your client has unnecessarily low expectations so that you can blow them out of the water. Ask about performance metrics up front, then continue to discuss the “how” and the “when” until all parties agree.
- What types of career opportunities may open up down the road for someone in this position, assuming all goes well? i.e. Assuming this project goes well, how else can we help you in the future?
I find that when a leader starts a project or a client starts an engagement, they almost always have some idea of what may happen next, even if they don’t want to commit to it just yet. Teasing this out up front is a great way to have a clearer view of what opportunities may arise in the future.
- What are some of the company’s initiatives regarding learning and development? i.e. What have you been reading lately?
More than once, I have had clients or managers who are “readers” – devouring business and marketing books faster than I devour podcasts. It can be rather embarrassing when they can quote the latest marketing bestseller and you haven’t read it yet. Just asking a few casual questions up front will help you to know if you need to step up your game – it isn’t hard to brush up on your client’s favorite author and it can help you to tailor your efforts and recommendations accordingly!
** Though incredibly important, these are fairly in-depth questions. Please choose the correct time and place to ask them. I was once running a team with a very tight project deadline. Several weeks into the project, during what was supposed to be a 10min team check-in, one of my younger team members started to pepper me with questions about the client’s long-term corporate goals, so he could “understand the big picture of the project.” It was very difficult to keep my patience. The questions were A. a little too late – he should have asked them up front, and B. ill timed – a 10min team check-in is not the place to discuss overall strategy. If you are ever unclear on any of the questions above, by all means ask, but do your best to ask up front or clarify during an appropriate meeting.
How have these questions worked for you? What questions would you add to the list?