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What Questions Job Seekers Should Ask About Specific Companies

If you’re quite advanced in your job search, then you probably already have a masterful grasp of your industry. That means your primary focus is finding just which company you should work for.

Lifestyle at work and away from work

With at-will employment, declining loyalties, and the average job lasting two years or less, lifestyle has become the most important deciding factor in finding new work. The term lifestyle is used here to include the lifestyle both at work and outside of work because there isn’t much distinction between the two anymore.

These days, most people agree that if you’re going to spend 9 to 14 hours of your waking day devoted to a job, you’d better enjoy it. Life doesn’t start at retirement. People want to enjoy who they work with. People want autonomy to make their own decisions about their time and how they do things on the job.

Be sure to ask the following questions to determine whether the lifestyle the company offers is what you want:

  • What’s it like to work there?

  • What’s life like outside the office?

  • How much autonomy do you have?

The work itself

Sometimes a job posting doesn’t give you much info about what you’ll actually be doing on a day-to-day basis. Marketing Coordinator may actually mean Copy Writer. Account Executive may actually mean Telephone Rep.

You want to understand what the daily tasks are. How much teamwork will you have and what are the dynamics of those teams? Will you travel? If so, how much? A really great question to ask your info source is, “What’s your typical day like?”

Available opportunities

Many recruiters agree that most job opportunities aren’t posted to job boards. Sometimes, it takes weeks to get a job posted on a company’s own website. Your best bet to find out about opportunities at your target company is to talk with people who work there — hence the beauty of the informational interview. The info interview is your chance to get behind-the-scenes information about where to focus your job search.

During your interview, find out what areas the company is growing in. Which departments are hiring? If a job opens, is it competitive? Ask whether employees receive a referral bonus for new talent. Many companies give monetary rewards to employees whose referrals stay for at least three months. This means that your contacts at the company may have an incentive to push your résumé to the top of the pile.

Advancement

A good job is one that offers you the chance to grow and develop mastery in your skills.

Find out from your contact how that company supports advancement, mastery, and success, including professional development opportunities to take courses, training, or attend conferences. If you get bored with your job, will you be asked to leave? Or will the company find you a parallel role in another department? How will the company feel if you spend 20 percent of your time doing something other than your immediate job role?

Compensation

Naturally, compensation is going to be of interest, but instead of asking the person you’re interviewing how much she makes, try a less personal question, such as “Compared to other companies, do you think the salary is higher or lower than average?” If the salary seems low, you may inquire about the typical job path. Find out how your contact got where she is and how long it took.

Make absolutely sure you ask about healthcare and other nonmonetary rewards for employment. When it comes time to negotiate an offer, you want information about other perks. This info gives you more leverage to ask for more than just a higher salary.

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