When considering a new job, most candidates know to ask questions about what their responsibilities will be, to whom will they will report, and compensation, title, and structure of the role. However, there are many more questions a job seeker should get answered before accepting a new job. You need to probe on whether you will be happy and successful on the job now and in the long-term. Here are 10 questions to help you dig deeper on whether to accept a new job.
How will the company know it has made the right hire 30 days from now? After six months? After one year?
You may have been given a written job description or a verbal summary of the role and responsibilities, but when you probe with the above question, you force your interviewer to confirm the most important priorities of the job. You get clarity on how you'll be evaluated and on what timetable. If you ask this question to several of the people you'll be working with, you can also gauge if company priorities are shared across the board or differ widely. Beware of vastly different priorities—how will you please everybody?
Whom will you work closely with?
Sometimes an interview process just includes the recruiter and your immediate manager, but you want to know everyone that you will be interacting with on a regular basis. Ideally, you can meet most of these people, but at the very least, understanding how your role fits with everyone else will add depth to the original job description.
Whom will you manage?
Ideally, you can meet the people that you'll manage, not only to verify that you will have a dedicated team, but also to get a better idea of how you'll need to manage them. Are they experienced? Is morale good? Did someone on the team lobby for this job? Managing your new team may be more difficult or time-consuming or simply requiring a different style (e.g., more hands-on training) than you have previously managed. That may be a welcome challenge or a deal-breaker for you.
Why is this position open?
If it's a new role, you want to understand why the company has committed resources to it now, and hopefully gauge by their explanation how committed they are in the long-term. If it's a replacement role, you want to know what happened to your predecessor. High turnover isn't necessarily a bad thing but you want to know as much as you can about what you're getting into.
How long has the position been open?
Length of a search helps gauge whether the company is having a hard time filling the role. If the role has been open for a while, this gives you more leverage because the company could feel more anxious about filling it. Alternatively, a long search could also be a red flag that the company doesn't really prioritize this role, or they don't really know what they want, or they have unrealistic expectations about who they can find.
Whom else were they considering for the role?
If an internal person was considered, why didn't they get it? It could simply be that you were more qualified, or it could signal that the company doesn't promote from within. Once you get there, that means you might also have a tough time getting promoted down the road. Even if there's no internal issue and it was just external candidates considered, it's useful to know what other backgrounds they looked at to give you a better sense for what the company priorities are.
What will the first week, month, and quarter look like?
The job description will give you an overview. Asking about priorities and timetable gives you even more specifics on your role. However, asking about how your day-to-day will look in the first week, month, and quarter helps confirm what, if any, plans the company has to help you on-board and transition. It also gives you another question to confirm any immediate initiatives and actions you'll need to take.
What qualities and skills do the people who have been most successful in this role or department or company share?
You want to find out what backgrounds, personalities, and skill sets do well in a company you might be joining. If it matches who you already are, that confirms there is strong potential for you here. If it doesn't, you have a chance before you join to decide if you're willing and able to develop the attributes you're missing.
For the hires who didn't work out, what happened?
Similar to the above, understanding what doesn't work gives insight into what missteps to avoid. For example, if you discover that the people who didn't last were people who didn’t develop strong relationships across different functions, then you know to prioritize relationship-building.
Where do people go after this role?
It's never just about the role you're stepping into but also where this role may lead. Regardless of how optimistic you are about your potential to make an impact, you also want to look at the historical precedents. Do people who have this role go on to more success at the company or outside? Remember to define success by how it matters to you—e.g., promotability, scope of business challenges faced, and variety of skills developed.
Remember that not all of these questions should be asked during the interview process or even to people at the company. Questions like length of the search or what happened to people who didn't last or what happens to people who leave can be perceived as too probing. These might signal to the company that you're having doubts about the role. You might appear difficult when asking difficult questions.
Therefore, ask the positively-framed, success-focused questions during your interview process, and always be diplomatic when asking tough questions. Consider tapping into people who have already left the company or recruiters who might not be working on the search firsthand but know the company or industry. By all means, get your questions answered, but remember that you're still trying to market yourself as an enthusiastic, all-in candidate.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine coaches executives and entrepreneurs and is a member of the Columbia Career Coaches Network. She is a career columnist for Forbes.com and formerly wrote for Money.com, Time.com, CNBC, and Portfolio. She is the author of three books: "Jump Ship: 10 Steps To Starting A New Career" (2015, Forbes), "Six Steps To Job Search Success" (2011, Flat World Knowledge), and “How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times" (2010, Two Harbors Press). She teaches Professional Development and Negotiation courses at Columbia University and received a grant from the Jones New York Empowerment Fund for her work with the mid-career professional. A classically trained pianist at Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music, Ceniza-Levine stays active in the arts, performing stand-up comedy.