Tuesday, April 18, 2017

15 Questions You Wish You Had Asked When You Were Interviewing

Over the years, many candidates have told me that they found out things once they started a new job that they wish they had discovered while interviewing.  These questions apply to everyone at every level.  If you can find out this information, you will be able to make a much more informed decision as to whether or not to take a job.

1)     What is the number one reason for turn-over at my level at this company?
It would be great to determine what or where employee dissatisfaction comes from.  Glass door could be a help, but meeting other contemporaries at the company while interviewing might yield a treasure trove of information.

2)     While I am meeting the senior executives during this interview process, what      is their involvement in the business I am being interviewed for?
Many people tell me that they had to meet the senior management while interviewing and then never saw them again.  Not a good sign.

3)     Does senior management like the business I am being hired for?
Terrible to get hired and afterwards find out that senior management is not involved and does not like the client you are being hired to handle

4)     Would my clients willingly be a reference for this agency?
If the clients do not like the agency/company, it should be a yellow light signal.  It is one reason why you may want to meet your client before accepting a job.

5)     Are there any other accounts that are in jeopardy now?
Be wary if there are businesses in jeopardy.  It could significantly affect your employment.  I once had a young assistant account executive fired on his first day of work because the agency lost another large account.

6)     What are the biggest conflicts among management at this company?
Terrible to find out after you are hired that the management team does not get along or that they have differing points of view on direction.  Best to find out, if possible, before you start.

7)     If there were a strategic disagreement between account management and  creative management, who would win?
Best to find out before you start where the power lies.  If you are an account person and creatives control, you must meet the creatives you will be working with.  And vice versa – creatives don’t normally interview with senior account people, but if the account group controls, best to find out in advance what they are about.

8)     If offered this job why should I take it?
Let the company sell you on them.  Where do they see you and how will you progress. This is true at every level.

9)    How will I be evaluated?
This is a critical question to find out before starting work.  It lays out the criteria you will need in order to achieve advancement.

10)  What problem(s) do you want me to solve/resolve?
This should give you clear direction before you start and will give you criteria against which to measure your own success.

11)  What tools will I be given to resolve those problems?
Will you have control of your budget?  If there are client problems, will you be able to establish a relationship?  I can think of one executive who was told that he should not visit the client so often because the client was in a different city and the travel budget was low.

12)  How extensive will my authority be? 
Can you make the decisions to hire and fire staff?  I was once the head of account management at an agency with a terrible account group and the president of the agency would not let me clean house.

13)  Why me?
This small question packs a big wallop.  It will give you insights into what the company has in store for you as well as where they see you going.

14)  What will be my security if I accept a job here?
Most companies do not give contracts, except to their most senior employees, but you should find out what their plans are for you.  This information can become part of an offer letter.

15)  What can I do to stand out from the other employees at my level?
You need to find out if you are special or just part of the herd, especially at larger companies.


  1. Perhaps my commentary a bit long here, but a good case in point … I once resigned from my excellent senior management position at a Top-Ten global agency to take what I thought was at least a similar position on national AOR accounts at a much smaller independent agency. My primary reason for leaving being MONEY (a lot more money; like double my current base.) That was my first mistake. My next mistake was not asking how much income each client contributed to the agency’s bottom line. That is, were they disproportionately dependent on any single client account or were they evenly balanced? But my KEY mistake, and the one that specifically pertains to this article about interview questions, was not asking to meet with the two primary account people who would be reporting to me. Big mistake, as I soon learned, because both were expecting to be promoted into the position I was hired for. Fortunately for me, one of them took my hiring in stride and carried on with me and our client very professionally. Unfortunately for me, the other (on a different account) did everything possible to undermine my success within the agency, as well as bad-mouthing me directly to the client. Long story short, I left the agency after only a few months and, thank God, went back to my former employer. LESSON LEARNED: Ask to meet with your new direct reports and peel their onion for insights about them. Because you can’t win with a divided team (just ask Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony).

    1. Asking to meet the people working for you is risky. But, as I said above, insuring that you have the ability to hire and fire those below you is essential.

    2. Even given the authority, firing "bad people" is not so easy. Because if you're the new kid on the agency block and your client loves your "bad apple", you're in a jam.

    3. A good manager can learn how to set this up very quickly.

  2. Great list. Two comments.
    Question 7: If you don't know the answer to this question by looking at the agency's work, you shouldn't even be in our business. GREAT agencies understand it's a balancing act, but both the creative group and the marketing group should be in service of the client, not themselves. Instead, ask a different question: "May I see the agency's pitch reel?" If the work of the account you're going to service isn't on that reel, ask why.

    Second, NEVER ask all these questions of the same person. You'll immediately be labeled a diva or troublemaker. Space them out and ask at appropriate levels. That way you won't have as many jobs (28) on your resume as I have.

    1. Great response, Steve. And while agree with your point about question 7, some agencies exaggerate their own creative prowess.

      As to your second point, I fully agree, but during the course of interviewing, these questions need to be asked and answered.


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