5 Questions to Ask Before You Take a New Job
When opportunity comes knocking in the form of a cool new gig, sometimes our critical thinking skills can go out the window. Whether we’ve been on the job hunt for a while, or are just really excited about a role, we might skip over some critical questions that can help us better understand expectations and the reality of what we’re stepping into.
I’ve been in numerous positions where in the rush to get to yes and seize a great opportunity, I let questions slide that I knew I should be asking. And you sort of hear yourself say them in your head right? Each one of these has run in my head one time or another before taking a new adventure, and they’ve either gotten forgotten or shushed for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I didn’t want to seem too greedy, sometimes I didn’t think the answer would impact my day to day work. In all cases, I would have been much better off with this understanding up front! If you’re about to take a new job, be sure you’ve worked these questions into your interview process!
1 | Why is this position open?
This one seems 101 interview style, but it’s easy to skip if you’ve been referred by a colleague or friend, or, if the job specs seem particularly appealing. Even if you have a little sense of why there might be a seat available, hearing this answered in different ways at different stages of your interview can be really illuminating.
2 | Who else does a role like this in the organization?
Some of the trickiest new jobs I’ve landed in have been ones where I didn’t realize that someone in another part of the organization was doing really similar work to what I was trying to accomplish. Granted, this is more of a risk in big firms, but you’d be surprised where there are pockets of crossover across many businesses. This question ensures that when you show up on day one, you have a better sense of who you can collaborate with to learn best practices, grow your network, and just generally get the job done.
3 | Can I meet with the team or do some peer informational interviews?
Oftentimes in a rush to get you onboarded, senior managers will run you through their peers and higher ups, but that doesn’t do much for you getting an understanding of the day to day. In any instance it’s not offered, consider asking for a peer lunch or informational interview. It will be the most revealing peek you’ll have into the team culture and dynamics without actually being hired yet.
4 | What is the expectation around night and weekend work and keeping in communication?
I like this question much better than the idea of talking about “work life balance” which means something different to everyone and, in my opinion, has become a really difficult thing to break down to actual work behaviors and culture.
Bottom line-what most of us want to understand are the cultural norms around scheduling — is your boss an early riser who leaves by 3 on Fridays? Or, do people roll in late, but stay on their email into the late hours? Knowing this going in helps you understand if this aligns with your personal idea of balance.
5 | What type of roles do people take further on in their careers after doing this kind of work?
Thinking about the end at the beginning is important, as strange as it may seem. Again, this is all in the question structure and timing in terms of where you’re landing it in the interview process. This question allows your interviewer to give you a broad response and offer up some various longer-term career path planning ideas.
Their demeanor around this ask is important too. Do they have to really think to come up with an answer? That might mean people feel stuck in this team or career track. Do they say people scatter off to really disparate seemingly unrelated things? That may mean the manager has a hard time skill building on their team or supporting people growing into a structured career path. These may or may not be deal breakers, but are helpful context points as you plot this opportunity into a longer career arc.