You feel the interview is going along nicely. So far, no question has stumped you, you still feel confident and you’ve been stressing how different you are from the other applicants the interview has to compare you too. Then as the interview nears its end, it dawns on you that when asked if you have any questions yourself, you should demonstrate your uniqueness by asking a question or two that set you apart as well. Too bad you hadn’t thought of this before!
Well consider something first. The employers expectations of you and your performance are likely to change over time, depending on the length of time you have been with the organization. It is fairly reasonable don’t you think that the expectations on a seasoned 5 year employee might be greater than someone just recently hired? By the time someone has been there 5 years, the employer generally has a pretty accurate picture of what that employee is not only capable of, but also their limitations and their strengths/weaknesses.
So knowing the above, a good question to pose might be to inquire of the interviewer exactly what the employer would be expecting of you over the first 2 to 3 months on the job. It really isn’t as simple as looking at the job description because presumably your job description on your first day is the same as others who have been in the job for years, yet the expectations are very different. Your time period in the question just might happen to coincide with your probation period, and if the probation period is longer, you still want to get off to a good start.
Some employers want newly hired staff to just observe, picking up practices and behaviours through observation before they are entrusted to be turned loose. Other employers expect you to be up to speed and fully contributing in a matter of days. The worst of employers out there provide little training, no mentoring, and just throw their employees to the wolves and expect them to thrive. Best you find out NOW what the employer is expecting so you know if you can deliver in that setting.
Another way to pose this question is to throw in one more variable to the question and instead of asking what would be expected of you in the first 2 or 3 months, ask what the company’s current top performers achieved over their first 2 to 3 months on the job. Now this is interesting. A question like this sets you up in the interviewers eyes all of a sudden as someone with determination who expects to be a top performer down the road. If you ask this question be prepared to have raised the bar when it comes to meeting the needs of your new employer and be prepared to be judged a little more critically. Are you up for it?
No matter what question you pose in a interview, one thing is terribly important. It is critical that you appear to be genuinely attentive to the answer and absorbing the response. If you are consulting your cheat sheets for the next question to ask so you look intelligent but aren’t paying attention to the interviewer and their answer, you’re missing an opportunity. You could also get in hot water of your own creation if the interviewer senses this and asks you to comment on their response.
In any case, knowing the employers expectations of you in the early days of your hiring is useful even as you walk in the door on your first day. Is the learning curve gradual or steep? Will you be sitting with someone to learn from for an extended period or do they expect you to be working independently by the end of the first week? Even if you are a go-getter and full of enthusiasm, there could be several very good reasons why the employer wants you to be patient and slowly evolve into working independently. Don’t assume they want someone who can learn quickly and be productive immediately.
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