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During interviews, female candidates sometimes hesitate to pose the questions they'd really like answered. They worry about interrupting the flow of conversation or coming off as intrusive by treading into untouched waters.
However, failing to seek information about important matters hurts a woman's ability to make thoughtful decisions about whether the company and the position will be a good match.
Don't make this same mistake next time you have landed a plum job interview. When the interviewer tosses a softball by wrapping up the conversation with the standard "Do you have any questions?" be ready to strike.
Not only will you walk out of the interview armed with the information you need to make a solid decision about the role but engaging in further conversation demonstrates interest, which employers like to see.
Resist asking trite questions that could be answered by reading the organization's website. Instead, probe for information that will be truly useful in gauging potential career satisfaction.
Here are a few possibilities:
How would you rate your organization's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and what is the company doing to ensure every employee feels included?
Performance and job satisfaction rise when a woman feels like a valued part of the organization. This question gives clues about what you might expect in terms of acceptance and support both in the everyday work environment and as you try to advance up the corporate ladder.
"Each of us has salient identities that are a part of who we are and how we show up in the workplace," says Kenyetta Nesbitt, founder and leading career consultant at Ambition Evolve Career Services. "When assessing your fit for a role, considering a company's commitment to DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) will help you to decipher the culture of your potential employer as well as the facets of support available to ensure employees feel a sense of belonging, equity, and accessibility, and not isolated and uncomfortable showing up as their authentic selves."
What, if anything, did you do during COVID to support employee well-being? How will these changes shape work-life and the company culture moving forward?
According to Cathy Wasserman and Lauren Weinstein, authors of "The Empowered Job Search: A Practical Guide to Build a New Mindset and Get a Great Job in an Unpredictable World," "It's appropriate and important to ask specifically how the organization responded to COVID." They add that a candidate "might want to probe further about what shifted for employees, whether or not there was a focus on well-being and mental health, and/or how the company is handling remote/virtual work."
Knowledge of previous responses offers a glimpse at what might be ahead if COVID variants impact workplaces again. Women significantly profit from a heads-up because many bear primary responsibility for childcare and remote education.
But listen for more than logistics. Does the interviewer mention efforts to maintain a sense of community among staff? Did the organization recognize the plight of working parents and take supportive action? Was stress management part of the equation?
With any luck, nobody again will face a crisis of the magnitude of a global pandemic. However, from shifting work hours to accommodate a child's doctor's appointment to allowing remote work for safety on a snowy day, flexibility and stepping up to the plate for employees in times of need will always be necessary.
If you had to single out one quality that's most important for this role, what would it be?
Employers frequently present a laundry list of traits they'd like a candidate to possess. Asking this question forces the interviewer to state the organization's top priority. If the response doesn't particularly match one of your strengths or likes, it could signal future discomfort.
For example, trying to live up to being the ultimate team player when you honestly prefer independent work sounds like a recipe for unhappiness. On the other hand, if you thrive on group activity, stress how you find collaboration invigorating and received kudos in the past for drawing the best out of others. You'll boost your candidacy.
What types of training, orientation, and/or professional development do you provide an employee in this role?
No woman wants to feel helpless or incompetent in a new job. Thus, it pays to learn the support mechanisms (or lack of them) the organization has in place to nurture success. An interviewer who is quick to describe a well-thought-out first-week schedule or touts the helpfulness of the company's mentoring program bodes well.
"This is important to know because although one is expected to possess some level of qualifications and transferable skills for the role they are interviewing for, effective training is imperative to helping new employees onboard and orient well to the position and the team. It also is an indicator of the organization's commitment to the development and preparedness of all employees, new or seasoned," says Nesbitt.
What are some of the potential obstacles I might face in this role?
An interviewer trying to attract top talent tends to paint a rosy picture of the organization and highlight its strengths. Asking this question shifts focus to potential negatives. You might gather rumblings about a micromanaging boss, an impossible-to-please client, or a lack of clarity about departmental objectives — all of which need consideration when evaluating an employment offer.
"You want to get a sense of the realities of the job as well as what challenges you might anticipate. This question reveals additional complexities that you'll want to be aware of going into the job," according to Wasserman and Weinstein.
If, upon asking this question, you learn about challenges for which you're particularly suited to tackle, speak up! Employers love problem-solvers. Describing how you overcame a similar dilemma in the past may catapult you into the top slot on the list of potential candidates.