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Ask the Employer a Question or Two

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Use the interview to learn more about your hiring company.

Today's economy requires you to prepare for an interview by knowing the right questions to ask a potential employer. You can pose some smart questions of your own--and avoid moving to a job that might not be the best fit for your long-term growth.

What to Ask


Howard Falkow, Director of Human Resources at Multex.com, offers some simple advice. If the company is public, he says, then you should check out its financial records. You can access this information online at sites like marketguide.com. Marketguide allows you to screen and research over 13,000 publicly traded companies. If the prospective employer is not public, then bluntly ask the interviewer, "How can I learn more about the financial stability of your company?"
There should always be enough time for the jobseeker to get to know the company.

Falkow offers other important questions you should ask a potential employer during the natural flow of your conversation:
  • "Have there been any major staff reductions over the past six months? If so, why?"
  • "What can I expect during my first week of work here?"
  • "Do you have any formalized training programs for new hires?"
  • "What has been your best day at work here?"
  • "Of all the employees, who has been here the longest and why (excluding the CEO and COO)?"
  • "What does it take to be successful in this organization?"
  • "Do supervisors micromanage or macromanage?"
  • "Are you financially stable, and can you prove it?"
Falkow recommends that you never bring up compensation. But if the interviewer mentions it, simply ask, "What can I expect to make [if on a financial incentive program], and what would it take to get me there?"

Find Long-Term Opportunities
Tom Burnham is the VP of Human Resources at Allergan, a specialty pharmaceuticals firm based in Irvine, CA. He says that there has been a softening of the marketplace since early 2001. "The job market in general has changed dramatically over the last two years," he believes. "There are a lot more people searching for employment now than ever before. [By] the first of the year, we were inundated with applications for various positions. I think a lot of people made New Year's resolutions to seek new employment with companies that shared their long range vision."

In today's interview process, it is crucial for the employer to get to know the candidate. Yet there should always be enough time for the jobseeker to get to know the company, too, reports Burnham. His advises job hunters to approach the interview as a chance to develop their knowledge base of the cultural norms that drive the organization. You may have the skills that fit the job, but can you envision a long-term opportunity?

By determining the long-range career goals you hope to achieve, your search will be more directed and effective. When you leave an interview, ask yourself if that potential employer might fit your requirements. And never compromise a potential job situation. Because, as Burnham says, a career belongs to the individual; a job to the employer.
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