Now that you’ve landed an interview with a hiring manager, you’ll naturally want to use the time talking about the many ways that you are qualified for the job. After all, your primary goal in any interview is to advance to the next stage in the hiring process. But it’s also an opportunity to get information that will help you evaluate whether or not the job is a good fit for you and possibly avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.
There are many questions you could ask during an interview to learn more about the organization, the company culture, the nature of the work, and measures of success in the job. Asking these questions will give you valuable information and demonstrate your serious interest in the position. But don’t overlook the interpersonal dimension of your relationship with a manager. Here are three questions that can shed some light on what it might be like to work for that person.
1. What decisions can I make without approvals?
It’s important to know how much autonomy you’ll have in performing your job function, and it’s even more important to ensure that your expectations are aligned with those of your manager. The details can be worked out after you start the job, but it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into ahead of time. Will you be working for a micromanager or someone who gives you a direction and lets you run with it?
A more senior role can be expected to come with more autonomy, while a junior position will have less. There are countless decisions that can range from expenditures to resource allocation to agreements with vendors and other partners, depending on the specific job function. The important thing is to get an understanding of the degree of autonomy you will have in the context of the job role and level of seniority.
For an engineering or technical role, you’ll want to understand the limits of your authority to determine the course of a project, the approach to solving a particular problem, when and how to engage with other parts of the organization, and when your manager expects to be consulted. The specific circumstances may vary depending on the project, so if possible, frame the discussion around the particular responsibilities of a typical project that you might be working on.
2. How does the team communicate?
Effective communication is a critical factor in the success of any organization. Work has become increasingly collaborative, especially in engineering and technical fields, and communication styles can vary widely among managers. Exploring how team members communicate with each other and with the manager will give you an indication of the pace of work and team dynamics.
Technology has given us a wide range of communication and collaboration tools for real-time messaging, document sharing, and audio and video conferencing. Which of these tools are in use within the organization, and which ones the manager prefers to use, is an important element of the work environment. If the role will involve working remotely, then it’s even more critical for you to know how will you be integrated into team meetings and the daily flow of communication.
Does this manager prefer written or verbal communication? Do they like to meet face to face when possible? Do they want regular updates, or do they only need to know when something deviates from the plan? Think about how these communication styles compare with your own preferences and how you might accommodate any differences.
3. How do you bring out the best in people?
It goes without saying that you’ll present yourself as a self-motivated and driven professional during the interview. But a good manager understands the importance of creating an environment in which each individual on their team can flourish. How a manager views this aspect of their role can give insight into their values and what it will be like to work with them.
Does this manager take an interest in the professional development of their team members? How do they remove roadblocks and protect the team from internal and external demands that distract from the true priorities? To what extent do they see themselves as a mentor or coach, and how do they approach that role? Having a discussion on these topics can begin to show you how supportive you can expect this person to be.
Finding the Right Fit
The interviewing process is all about finding the right fit, and this applies equally to the hiring manager and the job candidate. If the job is congruent with your skills, interests, and values, and there is a foundation for a good working relationship with the manager, then you are more likely to be a productive and successful employee. This is the ideal outcome for both you and the hiring manager, and it’s worth asking the questions that will help you decide if the job and the manager are the right fit for you.