Don’t Ask!!

As a candidate there are a number of questions you’d like to ask, but don’t.  Some of these questions may be sensitive; others can be awkward, while still others should be avoided.  How can you get the information you need without jeopardizing your candidacy?  Here are some questions along with ways to ask them to get meaningful answers:

“What happened to the last guy in this job?” – You might want to be a bit more diplomatic by asking, “How is it that this position is open?”  The answer may give you a clue about the opportunities for promotion, insights about the work environment or the layoff’s that have just been completed.  You’re looking for signs of important issues.

“What am I suppose to do in this job?” – This is not a very refined question. It’s better to ask, “What are the short and long term performance results you are looking for from this position?”  The question is powerful.  Always position yourself as someone who gets results.  The answer will also give you some insights into the boss’s requirements and standards.

“What’s the pay?”  The wrong question at the wrong time.  If you become a finalist candidate, you’ll be provided with all the information you need.  Better to ask, “How does your compensation system work?  Industry driven?  Pay for performance?  Objective criteria?  Incentives?  Individual, team or corporate results?”  It’s too early to ask about an offer.

“Where is the company going?” – Better to ask a business question like, “With all the competitive forces, what are the planned strategies that will differentiate us in the marketplace?”  It’s the same question but with a different emphasis.  The answer should provide you with an awareness of how your function integrates with the company’s direction.

“What kind of boss will I have?” – The Company isn’t going to describe an ogre, even if it’s true.  Better to ask, What are the attributes of an effective manager in this company?”  This information will tell you what’s important and where the priorities are placed.

‘Who or what are the sacred cows?” – This is an important question that should be asked when you are given an offer that you plan to accept.  It should be asked of your immediate supervisor,  “Are there any sensitive issues or people that I need to know about beforehand?”

I’m sure you can think of a number of additional questions that you would like an answer, but can’t ask the question.  Send me an email of questions that you would like an answer.  I’ll respond to you personally and maybe write an article about the issue.

Contact Bill Kaufmann with questions or comments:

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