The Art of Tactfully Interviewing the Interviewer


As a professional looking for a new job, you take all the right steps to prepare for an interview: in-depth research of the company and those with whom you are interviewing, answers in your pocket for potential questions you will be asked along with solid examples of your past work to really wow the interviewer, etc. However, as any job seeker knows, an interview is a two-way exchange. It’s your chance to also learn more about the company and culture, your potential manager and your fit across the board.

You are sure to have questions about the role for which you are interviewing, but you want to dig deeper and determine what it is really like to work for and with an individual and what the work environment is really like. Yet, you want to ask questions that are not off-putting. What, then, are some questions to help you uncover the heart of a company and the interviewer and how do you ask them?

Get creative. You don’t want your questions to sound like you are grilling the interviewer. One way to be less direct is to give scenarios and ask how the interviewer would typically respond in such cases. For instance, to phrase a question to glean information about management style you could ask, “If someone or your team has hit it out the park with great results or accomplishments, how would your recognize or reward them?” Or you might ask: “If someone on your team misses the mark on a project or task, how do you like to communicate with the team member?” In asking these questions, you want to discern if the interviewer is tolerant of mistakes and has a coaching or mentoring style.

You can ask more specific questions, too, such as:

  • What would I have to accomplish in the first three months to really blow it out of the water and prove my value to you? This will help you understand goal priorities going into a new position.
  • What’s a typical workday like? Asking this question will give you information on work-life balance and expectations for putting in long hours or working after hours. You also discover if the company has a culture of playing hard as well as working hard.
  • Does the team use any communication or project management tools or how do you like to communicate? By inquiring in this way and by using some simple follow up questions, you might learn the interviewer’s communication preferences and how well the team manages projects. You may also discover how tech savvy the team is.
  • What’s the process like for creating strategy in the department? You might discover from this query whether the hiring manager likes to work collaboratively with input from the team or if he/she prefers a controlled, lone-wolf approach.
  • Can you share some of the goals and objectives for the team for the year ahead? One of the great benefits of this question is that it gives you a good idea that real strategies with obtainable goals are in place, but it also gives you a way to think about how your skills can contribute to reaching annual targets so that you can address them in a follow-up thank you note.

Skip the common nuts and bolts questions, such as vacation time allotted, benefits and general perks. Plus, many corporate websites readily post that information to attract talent, and if not, those basic inquiries can be saved for later when an offer is extended. And you shouldn’t have to spend time asking for extensive background information about the company. Your pre-interview research should have uncovered that. Instead, focus on getting information that will help you assess how well your work style, skills and preferences align with potential teammates.







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