What are the major problems facing the company and this department?

Notice if this is consistent with what you have heard before. Often, in the final stages of the interviewing process, a hiring authority may "come clean" with you about issues in the company or the department that no one wanted to mention before. Up until now they didn't want to discourage you as a candidate, but now they don't want you shocked at some issue the first day you show up for the job.

What are the traits you see in me that are good for this job and made you want to hire me?

You need to know how you are perceived.

Based on what you know of me, what might my weaknesses be in light of this job?

Ditto to the last answer. Neither one of these answers may be reality. The perception of you and how you really are once you are on the job will be different. You just want to know what the expectations are. Don't worry about the weaknesses, we all have them. Again, you want to get an idea of expectations.

Why do you want to hire me? What did I demonstrate to you that the other candidates didn't?

Really listen to this answer. You might have assumed, up until now, why you were being offered the job. You will also learn what you might have done to outdistance the other candidates. This information may come in handy if you need to negotiate regarding salary, benefits, etc. when the time is right. If you ask this question and the answer is, "Well, we had three finalists, any one of you could do the job. I just like you a little better," you may not have much leverage when it is time to negotiate. If you hear, "We looked for six months, could only find two of you that could do the job, and the other person took a job last week. We are exhausted and tired of looking, and we are so glad you are here," you may have some real negotiating strength.

Why didn't you hire from within?

You probably already know the answer, but it doesn't hurt to ask again, now that things are getting serious. Don't be surprised if you hear, "We sure came close to promoting from within, and if we don't work things out with you, that is what we might do." A little of your leverage just slipped away.

What aspects of the job or the company am I going to be surprised about?

A smile will come across the face of the hiring authority. He or she will think a minute and then either drop a bomb on you with a fact or information that will probably shock you. Or he or she will say something like, "What a nice person I am."

What are the worst aspects of the job?

These issues were mentioned somewhere in the interviewing process, but now that things are getting serious you need to make sure you know them.

Is the company planning any layoffs or downsizings?

This will be a simple "No" or "Not that I know of," or "Oh, yeah, we go through that every year or so." If you get a funny feeling when you get this answer, be bold and ask, "If there were layoffs or when they come, how will it affect this job?" It is obvious that no one is going to intentionally go to the trouble of hiring anyone and then lay him or her off soon after hiring. But I have seen it... even been involved in providing candidates where it happened. They were hired and within a month or so laid off. No one can predict these things ... or at least will never admit to it.

As mentioned in previous chapters, the business environment is more erratic than it has ever been. Your new job is going to only last 2.5 to 3 years anyhow. Even if there is a concern about layoffs, the opportunity may be worth the risk.

How will my success be measured in this job?

Listen up! You need to know exactly how your success will be measured. If you are in sales, it is obvious that you will be measured by the sales you make and the quotas you attain. But success in other professional positions is not quite as easy to measure. Also know if and how this measurement will be reflected in salary reviews. Get specifics and write them down. No one will feel more stupid than you if you take a job and get surprised by the way performance and salary reviews are practiced.

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