If Your Interviewer Can't Answer This Question, You Should Not Take The Job

May 29, 2019

I was in my mid-20s, and a recruiter asked me to interview with his company. I met with the regional Vice President, and I could tell the interview was going well. In a short period of time, the VP was talking more about the company than asking me questions. This meant he was trying to sell me on coming to work for the company.

As we were wrapping up, I had one more question. “What is the long-term vision for this company, and what is the plan to achieve that vision?” Usually, this is the type of question an interviewer asks the applicant. I could tell my interviewer was nervous and after stumbling around trying to respond, it was clear the company did not have a growth and development plan. Or if it did, it was not shared with this individual. Neither scenario was positive, and I elected not to take the position. That company no longer existed a few years after that interview.

A few years later, I sat in another interview, with another regional Vice President. I asked the same question. The response I received was immediate, succinct and well-considered. I did accept that job opportunity and spent ten years working for that company with great success.

The interview may be your one and only opportunity to prove why a company should hire you.

It is also your opportunity to discover if you really want to work for that company.

That is why it’s important to ask the right questions when you are being interviewed, such as how you could benefit the company or meet its business needs. Don’t project a self-serving desire to simply land a job.

In a previous post, I shared three questions every individual should consider asking when being interviewed for a job. The first question was “What are the greatest challenges facing your company or team right now, and how can I help meet those challenges?” The second question, while appearing similar on the surface, is a much different question but equally important.

Question #2: What is the long-term plan or vision for your company (or team), and what skill sets are necessary to achieve that vision?

Every business and component of a business should have a long-term vision or plan. Whether this is a three, five or even 10-year vision, it should be well documented and understood by the business leaders.

By asking this question, you will get a clear understanding of the company’s vision or that of the business unit. If the interviewer can't give an immediate and concise response, or if they hesitate to respond, then it becomes clear there is no vision.

Assuming a long-term vision is in place, is the interviewer aware of the skill sets, the talents and the resources necessary to achieve this vision? Have the company leaders established and communicated what they need from their team members to make that vision a reality?

Finally, by asking this question you can determine if you have the skills and talents required for the job. If not, are you prepared to learn and develop that skill set? You can also decide if the goals and initiatives set forth in the vision match the goals and initiatives you have set for your own career.

Asking about a company’s long-term vision, the skill sets necessary to achieve that plan, and future goals are the best ways to fully understand the company. Not to mention, you will be able to decide if this is the right company for your career.

Next week, question #3.

Brian T. King is the founder and owner of multiple firms encompassing design, construction, real estate, and manufacturing, and currently president of the integrated Design-Build firm A M King. Brian shares his passion for mentoring young professionals, rising managers and entrepreneurs at speaking engagements around the country, on podcasts and via his blog.


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