Tuesday, November 20, 2018

30 Questions Every Person Must Ask When Job Interviewing

Since many of my readers will plan to start looking for a new job in the new year, which is fast approaching, I thought this post would be appropriate.  I recently wrote that some candidates are so anxious to get a new job and an offer that  they neglect to ask tough questions of the companies and people they are meeting.  The result is that they end up making poor decisions.  

This list is made from comments made to me as to the reasons why candidates are leaving jobs.  All too often I hear candidates say that, “If I had only known…” The truth is that they failed to ask important questions about the company and its people before accepting a job.

When I was first recruiting I met a really good account manager who had been working on a gigantic account at one of the top five agencies.  He was an account director, with about ten years’ experience.  He told me that he was looking (after only six months on the job) because the account was so large that the senior management of his agency attended every single meeting, often leaving him out.  He was looking because he was made to feel like an assistant account executive.  While interviewing he had neglected to ask about his responsibilities and involvement on the account.  I thought of his experience while writing this post.

Following is a list of critical issues and the questions that must be asked (this list is pointed towards advertising, but is valid for every profession).  Obviously, many questions should not be asked on the first interview.  Ultimately, getting a complete picture of the job, its opportunities and possibly its drawbacks, will enable a candidate to make a good decision.

Some of these questions should be asked multiple times with different people in order to determine the consistency of the responses; this is particularly important when finding out about the person who would be your direct manager.  While interviewing, listen carefully to the responses that people give you.  Sometimes what is not said may be more important than what is said.  But if you have suspicions about information being withheld or the answers are evasive, ask the question directly.

1.    Why is this job open?
2.    May I meet the previous person who had the job?
3.    If they have left the company, may I contact them?
4.    What business issues exist with the client?
5.    How is the client’s relationship with the agency?
6.    How often will I be with the client?
7.    What level(s) of client will I be dealing with?
8.    If you have been dealing with the client for a long time, will I be able to establish a good working relationship with them?
9.    What problem(s) will I be responsible for resolving?
10. What will I be responsible for doing vs what my manager will be doing?
11. Who will I be reporting to?
12. How long has that person been in his/her job?
13. What is the likelihood and timetable for their promotion?
14. How often do people at my level receive rotations?
15. What business issues are this company facing?
16. How often can I expect a raise (not for a first interview)?
17. To be asked of a manager – when was your last real vacation?
18. How does the company feel about employees taking their allotted vacation time?
19. Does the company give bonuses at my level?
20. What will my exposure to management be?
21. How involved is senior management with this business?
22. Will there be occasions when I am asked to do things on other accounts or on new business?
23. How integrated is the agency?  Who is responsible for all of the disparate elements?  What will my involvement be?
24. What will be the limits of my authority (especially important for senior executives)?
25. What will I be responsible for?
26. What will my typical day and week be like?
27. What is the real culture of the agency like?
28. Will there be travel?  If so, how much?
29. Who will report to me and what is their background?
30. If I were to get this job, what distinguishes me from other candidates you have met and interviewed?

Most of these questions can be answered during the course of chatting with people in the interview chain.  They can be handled in a way so as not to put the company interviewer on the spot.  However, they are all relevant to getting a complete understanding of the job.

Fully understanding the job is the entire purpose of interviewing.


  1. Great comments, Paul. These questions are applicable to physicians who are considering leaving private practice for hospital employment. Have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving. Best to you. RG

  2. Great list of questions...saving this post, for sure. I think people often don't ask some of the most important and probing questions you pose because they either need or feel they really want the job and don't want to ask any questions that may - in some way - jeopardize their candidacy. They fail to recognize that not knowing the answers is often a recipe for disaster.


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