First and foremost, it is vitally important for the job candidate to have questions ready for each of their interviews. The questions preferably focus on the particulars of the interview. That is, the initial interview may have more general questions but the subsequent interviews should be more specific.
Of course, once the question is posed, listen to the response; what are they saying? What are they not saying? What is being said between the lines?
If you have the opportunity, try asking the same question of multiple interviewers; how are the responses different? How are they the same?
Regardless of the job market, both parties are better served to assure teaming up meets the objectives for the position. Personally, I always favored candidates that came prepared with questions, and my best hire was a candidate that had multiple pages of questions. They were prepared to assure the position was a good match for them (he is now a VP at the company).
The interview question topic, though, is very broad. Companies and employers in different fields will have different characteristics and thus require a different set of questions. Similarly, different positions will warrant different questions.
Important, too, is to gain a sense of how the different interviewers within a firm relate to each other. Folks that don't seem to get along or present contradictory information, for example, should set off some red flags for the candidate. I recall interviewing for a department head position at a multidisciplinary consulting firm about whom I had followed through the years and about which I had a high opinion. After a series of interviews including the president, other officers, and members of the department, I had my last interview with the Board Chairman, along with the president. Not only was conflicting information presented, but the whole "vision" as conveyed by others was markedly different than previously conveyed, a fatal red flag for me.
Questions from the candidates are, of course, tells for the interviewers, so a judicious selection of questions is important. For example, something like "do you sponsor happy hour in the office" may not be well received. However, something like "do you offer opportunities for co-workers to get together and get to know each other" would tend to present better to the interviewers.
Fundamentally, what is important to you? What do you want from this position, from this firm and how can you get to know your objectives will be met? Do you know someone at the firm? Do you know someone that knows someone at the firm? If not, the interviews will be critical to help assure this is the correct match.
Do research on the firm – what is their customer base? How long have their customers been doing business with them?
Do the principals participate in professional activities?
Is the firm public or privately held?
Are you interested in ownership potential?
What is the succession plan – for co-workers and for clients?
Is the firm "technology" oriented or more "commodity" engineering?
Are you more interested in engineering work or project management? How does the firm approach these two career paths?
What does management do to promote mentoring and collaboration amongst co-workers?
What do co-workers do to support each other? Are co-workers competitors?
How have current staff progressed during their tenure at the firm?
How many senior staff have been brought in from outside the firm?
Naturally, the candidate likely will not get through all their questions and may very likely be pursuing a line of conversation that originates with one of their questions! Not to worry; if you get lost in the dialog, that is probably a good thing.
Charles Howard P.E., M.ASCE
Sent: 01-09-2022 07:49 AM
From: James Williams
Subject: Interview the Interviewer
A company, its employees, and clients play significant roles in our professional development as well as our mental well-being after business hours. Those who have researched the company and developed professional plan/goals are often equipped with a pretty decent set of questions prior to the interview. However, there are at least three (3) periods when questions come to mind that would have provided invaluable insight into the company and the management team; these periods are 1) directly after the interview; 2) the early days on the job; and 3) the first job crisis. There are a countless number of questions that fall into categories and sub-categories that vary based on career stage (e.g., pre- & post licensing), field, industry, sector, company size, and location. What is a question 1) you wish you had asked; or 2) have asked; or 3) would like to ask? Why is this question important or significant?
James Williams P.E., M.ASCE
POA&M Structural Engineering, PLC