38 Questions Your Candidates SHOULD Be Asking

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Interviewing is a two-way street. Interviewing is like dating. Interviewing is a conversation between two intellectual friends. However we phrase it, we know that selecting a new team member or a new job is a complex decision for both parties. 

Candidates who know what they are looking for will be asking detailed questions. Knowing how to showcase your startup’s strengths and response to the challenges of your business environment is key to overcoming the hurdles that smaller, relatively new and unknown companies face in the recruitment process: your path to success is just not as clear as at more established companies. How can you mitigate this risk? 

If the hiring team, from the junior recruiter to the head of department, is prepared to answer these questions and can spot someone who knows the right questions to ask, your team is better positioned to give the right impression & spot the candidates who have done their research. 

recruitment strategy, questions candidates should ask in an interview

Vision & strategy

A top candidate will have researched & understood most of these already, and will ask to clarify smaller points. If they cannot articulate your business model, in most roles they won’t be worth your time. 

  • Who are your competitors? How does your vision of success differ from your competitors?
  • What technology or strategy differentiates your team from your competitors?
  • How big is your target market—what’s the strategy to win it?
  • Is there a roadmap in place? 
  • Is there an exit strategy

Financial stability

The unspoken question: will you be able to pay me now and in the future? That’s hard to ask with a straight face, so candidates will try to flesh this out from different directions: 

  • How much funding (and what kind) have you received and plan to receive? What’s your runway? 
  • Do you have product-market fit?
  • What is your current YOY growth rate? Is that targeted to change? 
  • How is the overall financial situation right now?
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Compensation

  • What’s the base salary range for this role? 
  • What benefits are offered? Ownership / equity? What sort of vesting terms? 
  • Is there a bonus structure – KPI based or other? 
  • How are raises determined and on what schedule?

Impact

  • What decision-making power is given to team members, especially around core areas of the business?
  • How can one individual team member positively impact your customers or your business?
  • How much exposure does each employee have to high-level business decisions?

Management and Structure

  • Who are your investors & founders? What’s the profile of the management team? 
  • How does my role fit into the management layer? 
  • How do teams collaborate and how are decisions taken?
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Personal & company development

You don’t need to have a defined career plan for each role, but you should be able to say what is possible if they are successful in the role they are interviewing for. It can be as simple as letting them know that they would move into people management as the company grows. 

  • Why is this role open? 
  • What’s the 30-60-90 day plan for this role? 
  • What progression do you envision for someone in this role?
  • Does this role contribute to higher-level decisions?
  • Will I be able to learn new skills and technologies in this role? If I am interested in a different role, could I transfer there? 
  • Do you have or want a structured feedback process
  • Is there a training budget or access to development resources?  
  • How much is the headcount now and how much change is planned in the next 12 months? 

Culture & Communication

Culture either makes or breaks the team. Candidates should be evaluating a company culture that fits them, not trying to project an image that fits into the culture you just described for them. For example, someone who likes to keep their head down and work hard might not fit with a team that socializes hard as part of their team bonding. 

  • What are this company’s core values?
  • How are these values reflected in the development of company processes and policy? 
  • How have team members contributed to, and changed, your culture?
  • What kind of people—who are otherwise successful—don’t work out or don’t feel at home here? What kind of people find success on your team?
  • Do you have or want a structured feedback process? 
  • What is the general level of socializing?
  • What are company social events like?
flexibility in the workplace

Flexibility & time off

The startup lifestyle is famous – 60+ hour weeks, no holiday, crunch times, etc., but this might not be reality in your company. Nevertheless the stereotype may drive away potential candidates who have an established lifestyle, even if they would not encounter these in your start-up. Candidates will be curious about the work-life balance and how this could turn out for them. 

  • What is the policy on remote work and flexi-time?
  • What is the vacation policy? 
  • Did the founders take vacations this year?
  • Are there other people in similar life situations to mine working here? (If I am the only person with kids, will I fit in?)

Not everyone needs to ask every one of these questions – don’t expect a junior account manager to ask about your runway! However, your team should be prepared to answer anything that comes up.

Happy recruiting!

TheresaJohansen

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

TheresaJohansen
Pragmatic. Informative. Uses a machete to cut through red tape.

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