GUEST COMMENT: Three questions to ask during an interview

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We've all seen variations on the list of common questions interviewers ask, but how much have you thought about what questions you should ask a potential employer?

The best interviews are really conversations, as well they should be. You want to know if the position is the right fit - just as much as the company does. After all, the work you do makes up a good portion of your waking hours, so the company, and the team, you may join has to meet some of your basic needs.

Here are a few seed questions that can reveal facets of the position and the company you might not get otherwise.

Why did the last person leave this position?

This will tell you a lot about the dynamics of the company. Is the job vacant due to a promotion? Great. That means there's room for advancement. Did the person get fired? That calls for additional probing to figure out what caused the company to take such drastic action. Is this a new position? Great again. That means growth, but also calls for more probing to see if it's smart growth, or the kind that will have you out of a job in three months.

Can you describe what my first day, week, and month look like?

This will tell you how far they've thought though your onboarding process. Is it sink of swim, or do they have a reasonable plan with some mentoring? It can also give you a clue as to what to expect at first, and what their expectations are for your coming up to speed. Also, phrasing the question as if you are already the selected candidate can't hurt in the neuro linguistic programming department.

Can you describe the ideal candidate for this position?

This is a good one because rather than all the "who are you and what have you done" stuff of interviews, they'll have to tell you exactly what they want. Then, in your closing statement, you can use the information to create the narrative of you as that exact person.

In addition to those three mainstays, make sure you hit the potential employer's Web site before the interview. That research will usually help you come up with additional questions to ask.

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