Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Questions Every Job Candidate Should Ask

Questions Every Job Candidate Should Ask
By George F Franks III

Job interviews are often viewed as a one-sided experience. This should not be the case. A job interview is an opportunity for the job candidate to learn as much as possible about not only the specific job they are interviewing for but also about other important factors about the company or organizations with which they are interviewing. While some of the questions recommended for the candidate may seem to be common sense, there are a number of job candidates who are either too nervous, shy or afraid to raise these critical questions.

What is the work environment? This question, while broad, can cover everything from the formality of an office to the physical layout of the work space. Depending on while both of these areas are important, the former one is of great interest to manner younger job candidates while the latter one is of more interest to more senior job seekers.

What are the opportunities for development? This question gets to the issue of how much the company or organization values their people. Specifically, the response should address formal training and development programs including opportunities for academic and professional coursework. Those interested in professional degrees or on-going education must clearly follow-up on the response to the question if it does not address those areas. An additional area of inquiry is the selection process for future executives and other leaders. What is the process and how does it work.

How much travel is anticipated and what type? Some people crave travel. Other people hate travel. The job candidate needs to know up front how much travel is anticipated and what kind. Some businesses put travel in percentages: 25%, 50%, 75%? What kind of travel? Is it local? Cross country? International? Will it require being away over weekend? Unless you are committed to working 7x24, these questions are very important.

What is the policy toward telecommuting? Speaking of working 7x24, it is important to ask about the home office policy. This may be very important or not important to the candidate at present, but it is something that should be known up front. Whether due to a personal situation or bad weather, everyone wants to work from home occasionally. And it is essential to know about front about the potential employer’s policy toward home office work.

What is the opportunity for advancement in this position and what is the career track? While fewer if any companies or organizations guarantee careers or any kind of job security, most do surprisingly have career maps for each of the jobs in the company or organization. Often but not always, these are tied to the organization chart. Is the next step from the job a lateral position? If so, what? Is it a promotion? If so, what are the responsibilities? Do these require relocation? If so, what are the possibilities? These questions are not out of line. It is appropriate to think 3-5 years ahead while interview for the first or next position.

What are the expected work hours? Again, this may seem like a naïve question but it is an important one. When does the work day start? When does the work day end? Is there overtime pay for anything over that? What about weekends? If so, how often? One more time…unless you are willing to work 7X24 for your base pay it is critical to ask these questions during the interview.

What are the benefits with the position? This should be an up front question not an after accepting the job question. Benefits whether extensive or meager are part of the total compensation package (salary, bonus, any other incentives such as stock or options and all benefits). What is included? What does the employee have to contribute? When do they start? Which are included and which are optional? Which are most used by employees? Least used and why? This is one more case where the questions are either not asked or asked AFTER the job offer has been made.

What is the cash compensation? While more and more hiring managers and human resources managers get this question out of the way up front, it is a critical question. This encompasses base pay, bonus and other incentives excluding benefits. Related questions include: what are raises based on and how often? What is a typical raise? Does everyone get a raise? What are bonuses based on? Did everyone get a bonus last year? If not, why? Are options available for this position? While these questions sometimes are answered up front, they should be the last questions discussed once the others are out of the way. They are important, but they may not be the most important questions for most job candidates.

Finally, get the phone number and e-mail addresses of each of the people who interview you. If you do not get to ask all of these questions during the interview process, you need to follow-up with them to get the answers. A follow-up call or e-mail is often as important as the follow-up thank you letter or e-mail which is mandatory for all candidates.

Job interviews can be fun and they can be terrifying. They are an opportunity for the company or organization to see if the candidate is a fit for their open position. But equally important, it is an opportunity for the job candidate to find out if the company or organization is a fit for their goals, attitudes and life-style.

George F. Franks, III is the founder and CEO of Franks Consulting Group - a Bethesda, Maryland based management consulting and leadership coaching practice. George is a member of the International Coach Federation and the Institute of Management Consultants (USA). He can be reached on gfranks@franksconsultinggroup.com.
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