These are the questions candidates must ask during a job interview

https://www.fastcompany.com/90763864/these-are-the-questions-candidates-must-ask-during-a-job-interview

Job seeking is a grueling process, but it is also an opportunity to put your best foot forward in order to find a company that is the best fit for you.

Although it can be nerve wracking to sit through one interview after another, candidates should remind themselves that these interactions are a two-way street, and they have every right to ask challenging questions to make a decision, should the offer come.

Here are the critical questions you as a candidate must ask during a job interview—because remember, you’re interviewing the employer, too.

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE APPLYING FOR THE JOB

Before setting off on your job search, make a list of the types of companies you’re interested in. 

  • Is this a place you see yourself thriving in?
  • Do you believe in the mission?
  • Why do you want to work at this place?
  • What attracts you about the organization?

Oftentimes, our current situations dictate how we go about making our next move. Perhaps you’re working in an environment that you find suffocating and want out, or you’re seeking more responsibilities, or are looking to become a people manager. 

Whatever the case, be sure to keep in mind that in every new workplace, there will be pros and cons, no matter the salary or job description. So be cognizant of all the aspects of a new role that are truly important to you; also, be mindful of what your personal dealbreakers are.

PREPARE A LIST OF STRATEGICALLY PLANNED QUESTIONS

Interviewing is a two-way exchange. While candidates are being scrutinized by the potential employer, the skilled candidate will have an opportunity to evaluate the company based on the flow of the conversation.

Typically, candidates aren’t given the opportunity to ask questions until the very end of the interview. That’s not to say there aren’t ways to integrate specific queries into the conversation, as long as you remember that you’ll get full control of the floor in the grand finale.

In a previous Fast Company story, Patrick Mullane, executive director of Harvard Business School Online, shares how interviewees often will drop the ball when the interviewer tosses out the famous line, “Do you have any questions for me?”

“Candidates forget that when they’re given control of the discussion, it’s an opportunity to do two very important things. First, it’s a chance to learn something genuinely useful about the firm you might be joining. Second, you get to show that you’re thoughtful and conscientious,” he said. “Both are hugely important as you look to make a change. Don’t waste the opportunity.”

When it comes to the questions candidates typically ask companies during an interview, the “big three” revolve around corporate culture, the interviewer’s personal experience (“How have you liked working here?”), and growth.

Rather than default on these inquiries (which interviewers likely receive quite often and may respond in kind with generic answers), Mullane challenged candidates to take these questions and reframe them in a more thoughtful, strategic way:

Culture questions: Rather than asking, “What’s the culture like here,” ask something along the lines of, “Can you share a time when the company’s culture made you excited to work here or helped you during a challenging time?” This bypasses a typical answer like “It’s collaborative,” and dives into the intersection of employees and culture, offering an in-depth look into a specific, and perhaps relatable, scenario.

Personal experience questions: Instead of “How do you like working here?” try, “I noticed you left X company for this one. What convinced you to make the jump?” This reframing achieves two things: It shows the interviewer you did your research and gives you insight into their decision-making, which may help you make your own.

Company growth questions: A question like, “I noticed the company is growing rapidly. Do you expect that to continue?” will often bear a generic, dead-end answer. To get additional, more useful information, put a spin on it. Ask something like, “I noticed the company is expanding rapidly. Is this putting a strain on your customer service team?” Getting information on a company’s financials is not particularly difficult, especially if it is already publicly traded. But asking a question of this nature is especially useful if you are interviewing for a role like Customer Success Manager, as it allows you to get a better sense of how growth impacts the day-to-day of the team.

Overall, it will only work in your favor when you do your due diligence in gathering intelligence on the company you are interviewing for; also, you’ll be setting yourself up for success by having prepared questions that lead to a conversation and present yourself as a thoughtful and conscientious candidate.

“In a hot job market, it’s tempting to be lazy when doing the upfront work to prepare for an interview,” said Mullane. “It’s easy to figure that the interview is over when the person interviewing you gives you the floor. But it’s not. Asking better questions in the right way can significantly increase the chances you’ll not only impress the interviewer, but also gain valuable insights that can help you decide if the position is right for you.”

COVER THE BASICS

It can be easy to get caught up in nerves when interviewing for a company you are extremely attracted to—or even in general. Interviewing is a lot of pressure!

However, when preparing to ask your questions, the areas that you as a candidate must focus on should give you a well-rounded perspective on multiple aspects of the company, not just the specific job description.

This Fast Company article shared a roundup of all the pertinent focus areas that your questions should fall under to get you the best answers, which include:

  1. The specific role you are interviewing for
  2. The management style of your would-be boss or team
  3. Company culture and reputation
  4. What performance metrics look like
  5. What kind of colleagues you can expect to work with
  6. Opportunities for growth

ASK TOUGH BUT FAIR HIGH-LEVEL QUESTIONS

Sometimes it’s not enough to consider the high-level questions, such as salary and work culture. Many of us are in a unique position in life, whether that involves our personal situations, families, health, or other concerns.

When considering your interest in a company, it’s helpful to understand how they can help or support you as an individual beyond your contributions to the job.

On the flip side, you’ll want to know other aspects of internal support for employees. How does this company support internal mobility? How do managers deliver feedback? In other words, what will a day in the life of this role really be like? 

Prepare to ask the employer a series of questions tailored to your situation. FlexJobs’ team of career coaches offers guidance in this Fast Company story, including specific inquiries to ask your interviewer, such as:

  • Why is this position available? This can give you some insight into the way things are handled at the company. Was someone fired? Are they unable to keep the position filled because of the workload?
  • What makes it a great day at work, and what makes it a challenging day? Answers to this question can vary depending on the personal experience of the interviewer, but it’s good to get a sense of how they approach the question.
  • How are criticism and feedback handled within the team? Mistakes can happen, and knowing that managers on the team can handle employee errors with grace will offer a sense of relief rather than unnecessary conflict when they do occur.
  • Do you have any Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)? How do they support the company’s DEI plans? This question gives you an opportunity to understand where the company stands in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and how well they support the objectives of ERGs, as well as pushing forward their higher-level strategy.
  • How does the company approach salary differences? This can highlight whether the company pays people differently based on location, if they work remotely, in-office, or hybrid. It can also shed light on whether the company has done a pay audit to achieve equity, especially for women and underrepresented groups.
  • What’s the company’s approach to supporting work-life balance? Many companies have put forth specific benefits and incentives to support employees in the past two years, including mental health initiatives, fitness classes, therapy, and flexibility. This critical question will help you determine just how the company views employees as individuals and not just by their work output.

An example of a tough conversation to navigate can pertain to how the organization supports employees in specific work situations. If this particular job requires you to relocate, an example of how to navigate the question of moving-cost accommodations might go something like this:

Candidate (C): I noticed this position is based in San Francisco. Is there an option for potential hires to work remotely?

Interviewer (I): I’m afraid our new company policy is to operate on a hybrid schedule. This particular role is based in the Bay Area and requires the individual to come into work three times a week.

C: I understand. Sometimes companies need to make tough decisions based on their needs. 

I: Do you think you would be willing to relocate, should we decide to move forward with your application?

C: I think this role is a wonderful opportunity for me, and I truly believe my personal values align with those of this company and its culture. If all goes well, I’d like to learn what the company’s budget is in regards to supporting moving and transition costs. 

In this scenario, the interviewer is honest about the new hybrid model their company has adopted. If you, the candidate, are first learning about this aspect during the interview, it’s important to ask direct questions about how the company plans to support potential moving costs, rather than framing the question in a way that offers a loophole or an out. 

Organizations are aware that with the plentiful options of remote jobs, finding talent willing to relocate or adopt a hybrid work life will be tougher. Know that the ball is in your court and be straightforward about expensed costs if you are willing to relocate.

WRAP UP THE INTERVIEW WITH THESE KEY QUESTIONS

This will likely be the last time you interact with this team member before either moving onto the next stage or the decision-making process. 

In a prior Fast Company story, the founder of executive search firm The Mullings Group shares the best questions to ask when wrapping up.

Don’t let the conversation end without answers to the following questions, so you have enough information to help you reflect on and assess your experience and understanding of the company.

Am I a good fit for this company? The feeling needs to be mutual. Be sure to determine whether your skills, interests, personality, and goals align with the direction of the company. 

What are the expected deliverables for this role over the next three months to a year? Depending on the role of the person you are interviewing with, you may get different answers. This is a good question to ask to get a sense of the priorities as it relates to different stakeholders. 

How will we both know that I have succeeded in this role? This is another question in which the answers may vary, but it will be helpful for you as a candidate to understand how to work toward specific goals and measure your own impact so that, when it comes time for a raise or promotion in the future, you have the evidence to back it up.

What are the growth opportunities in this role, and what important skills will I learn? It’s not enough to make a lateral move. You need to know how will working for this company enable you to grow and thrive.

Who will I become? Your environment and the people you work with will directly influence your work output, ethic, and your future values. Asking questions about the kind of people you will interact with regularly will help you get a sense of what your day-to-day experiences will look like.

Getting a new job is a big deal. You will be working 40 hours a week in a specific environment that supports a certain culture and hires a certain type of colleague. It’s not just the job description that matters, nor the skill set the company requires to perform in that role. A new job is a combination of your livelihood, a commitment to learn and grow, and contribute. 

Remember to be selective in your process because you’re interviewing your next employer, too. 

Stay Vigilant, CFOs: Your Compensation Strategy Matters More Than Ever

https://www.forbes.com/sites/paulmcdonald/2022/06/15/stay-vigilant-cfos-your-compensation-strategy-matters-more-than-ever/?sh=697b638f18f7

There’s been some speculation in the news lately that wage growth in the United States might be topping out. This could be the case for some employers, especially smaller companies that don’t have much more give in their current staffing budget. However, don’t think for a moment that compensation is suddenly losing its power as a tool to help secure top talent in a market where unemployment is low, the quits rate is high, and there are nearly twice as many open jobs as there are available workers.

The suggestion that employers are becoming more conservative in their salary offers also might be hopeful thinking for those trying to control rising inflation. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, for example, recently referred to the labor market as “unsustainably hot.”

While some big companies may be considering cooling down on hiring, some are paying higher wages to median-salaried employees than they did before the pandemic. (Significantly so, in some cases — think six figures.) And although the U.S. economy has seen some job-shedding in recent months, layoffs overall are at their lowest level on record.

The takeaway for chief financial officers (CFOs) is that you can’t afford to sit back and wait on wages. You can never really be sure when or if it will “top out,” especially in this unusual economy and candidate-driven hiring market. Your business needs to be prepared to provide standout compensation packages to hire stellar candidates — and keep your best people, too.

Compensation remains the not-so-secret weapon for besting competitors targeting the same talent, including the high performers who are already part of your organization. The trick is to use compensation as an offensive strategy that gives you more control. Following are three ways to help your organization make that pivot:

1. Review Current Employees’ Compensation Levels Now

While its name has been overexposed in the media, the Great Resignation is real and still in motion. Some are even referring to the phenomenon now as the “Forever Resignation”— a cycle of voluntary turnover that may never end. Buzzy labels aside, the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way people look at work, and what it means to them. They aren’t as willing to put up with things they don’t like about their job — like a low rate of pay. They know they have options, and they will seek them out.

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. workers who left their jobs in 2021 cited insufficient compensation as a reason for quitting, according to a Pew Research Center survey. To avoid turning your company’s valued staff into part of the “Class of 2022,” don’t wait for them to ask for a raise. Make sure to review their current compensation and if needed, bump it up, or extend another financial perk, like a spot bonus or paid time off.

And, if you find that employees are beating you to the punch, encourage an open discussion about pay. For example, if this person’s job responsibilities recently expanded or they’ve gained new skills, an immediate raise (or the promise of one soon) may be in order. If the employee is just feeling the crunch from inflation, offering a flexible work arrangement to reduce the burden of a costly commute might be an alternative solution for in-office workers.

2. Designate an Expert to Oversee the Compensation Process

In addition to taking stock of staff compensation levels as soon as possible, consider putting a formal process in place to ensure these levels will be monitored and adjusted proactively.

Compensation analysis will require, among other things, keeping tabs on the latest salary research and market trends, analyzing and updating job descriptions, and setting pay ranges and communicating them to staff. Look for someone in your human resources organization who could take the lead on managing this critical process. Because the market has changed so fast, it’s critical to keep continual tabs on what’s happening with pay rates and hiring dynamics for your company’s most mission-critical roles.

3. Watch Out for Pay Compression

The need to pay higher salaries to top candidates is in many cases resulting in new hires earning more than existing staff. Even small differences in pay between employees who are performing the same job, regardless of their skills or experience, can turn into big staffing headaches — namely, turnover. Feelings of resentment and disengagement can especially rise in the workforce when new hires with less experience are paid the same as, or more than, tenured employees in the same positions, or when individual contributors are paid more than their managers.

Inflation, competition for in-demand talent and the company’s failure to keep up with current market rates for compensation can all lead to pay compression. Conducting regular pay audits as described above and quickly bringing up the base salary of underpaid employees are solutions for resolving and, ideally, preventing, pay compression.

When raises aren’t an option, consider offering compelling non-monetary perks such as upskilling opportunities, better benefits, health and wellness programs, a more welcoming corporate culture, or all of the above.

That said, you can be sure that, no matter what, leading employers will continue to pay salaries that will attract the top talent they need to drive innovation and stay competitive.

Companies ignoring employee demands will falter

Dive Brief:

  • Companies that fail to adjust to labor shortages and satisfy the growing demands of workers will likely falter as they lose the battle for talent, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said in a letter to CEOs.
  • “No relationship has been changed more by the pandemic than the one between employers and employees,” Fink said, noting that “employees across the globe are looking for more from their employer — including more flexibility and more meaningful work.” Fink, while leading the world’s largest asset manager, has sought for a decade to influence corporate behavior through an annual CEO letter.
  • “As companies rebuild themselves coming out of the pandemic, CEOs face a profoundly different paradigm than we used to,” Fink said. Companies can no longer overlook employee mental health, insist that staff work in the office five days per week and provide modest wage increases for low- and middle-income workers.

Dive Insight:

CFOs considering an increase in prices and employee wages need to balance the imperative to sustain profits with pressures from the worst inflation and labor shortages in decades.

The persistence of COVID-19 has slowed the labor market’s post-lockdown recovery and churned up company payrolls. Fink noted that in November the quits rate, or the number of workers who left their jobs as a percent of total employment, rose to 3%, a record high first breached in September.

CFOs aiming to attract and retain employees with wage increases must take into account a 7% jump in the consumer price index (CPI) during the 12 months through December — the biggest surge since 1982.

“Workers demanding more from their employers is an essential feature of effective capitalism,” Fink said. Describing “a new world of work,” he said, “companies not adjusting to this new reality and responding to workers do so at their own peril.

“Turnover drives up expenses, drives down productivity and erodes culture and corporate memory,” Fink said. BlackRock manages more than $10 trillion in assets for institutional and retail investors.

In order to satisfy workers, CEOs must look beyond pay and workplace flexibility, Fink said. The coronavirus “shone a light on issues like racial equality, childcare and mental health — and revealed the gap between generational expectations at work.”

Fink also reiterated his support for “stakeholder capitalism,” saying that “a company must create value for and be valued by its full range of stakeholders in order to deliver long-term value for its shareholders.”

“Stakeholder capitalism is not about politics. It is not a social or ideological agenda. It is not ‘woke,’” he said. “It is capitalism driven by mutually beneficial relationships between you and the employees, customers, suppliers and communities your company relies on to prosper.”

Most stakeholders expect companies to help “decarbonize” the global economy, Fink said, predicting that so-called sustainable investment will surge well beyond the $4 trillion total.

BlackRock has asked companies to set short-, medium- and long-term targets for greenhouse gas reductions which “are critical to the long-term economic interests of your shareholders,” he said.

At the same time, “divesting from entire sectors — or simply passing carbon-intensive assets from public markets to private markets — will not get the world to net zero,” Fink said, adding that “BlackRock does not pursue divestment from oil and gas companies as a policy.”

Fink’s annual letter drew fire from environmentalists.

The letter “is just another rehashing of the same vague rhetoric, without any meaningful new commitment to actually help lead the necessary transition to a climate-safe future,” Ben Cushing, the Sierra Club’s fossil-free finance campaign manager, said in a statement.

New jobless claims totaled 184,000 last week, reaching lowest since 1969

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/weekly-unemployment-claims-week-ended-dec-4-2021-192034644.html

Weekly U.S. jobless claims fell to 184,000, lowest level since 1969

New initial jobless claims improved much more than expected last week to reach the lowest level in more than five decades, further pointing to the tightness of the present labor market as many employers seek to retain workers. 

The Labor Department released its weekly jobless claims report on Thursday. Here were the main metrics from the print, compared to consensus estimates compiled by Bloomberg:

  • Initial unemployment claims, week ended Dec. 4: 184,000 vs. 220,000 expected and an upwardly revised 227,000 during prior week 
  • Continuing claims, week ended Nov. 27: 1.992 million vs. 1.910 million expected and a downwardly revised 1.954 million during prior week

Jobless claims decreased once more after a brief tick higher in late November. At 184,000, initial jobless claims were at their lowest level since Sept. 1969. 

“The consensus always looked a bit timid, in light of the behavior of unadjusted claims in the week after Thanksgiving in previous years when the holiday fell on the 25th, but the drop this time was much bigger than in those years, and bigger than implied by the recent trend,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in an email Thursday morning. “A correction next week seems likely, but the trend in claims clearly is falling rapidly, reflecting the extreme tightness of the labor market and the rebound in GDP growth now underway.”

After more than a year-and-a-half of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., jobless claims have begun to hover below even their pre-pandemic levels. New claims were averaging about 220,000 per week throughout 2019. At the height of the pandemic and stay-in-place restrictions, new claims had come in at more than 6.1 million during the week ended April 3, 2020. 

Continuing claims, which track the number of those still receiving unemployment benefits via regular state programs, have also come down sharply from pandemic-era highs, and held below 2 million last week. 

“Beyond weekly moves, the overall trend in filings remains downward and confirms that businesses facing labor shortages are holding onto workers,” wrote Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics, in a note on Wednesday. 

Farooqi added, however, that “the decline in layoffs is not translating into faster job growth on a consistent basis, which was evident in a modest gain in non-farm payrolls in November.” 

“For now, labor supply remains constrained and will likely continue to see pandemic effects as the health backdrop and a lack of safe and affordable child care keeps people out of the workforce,” she added. 

Other recent data on the labor market have also affirmed these lingering pressures. The November jobs report released from the Labor Department last Friday reflected a smaller number of jobs returned than expected last month, with payrolls growing by the least since December 2020 at just 210,000. And the labor force participation rate came in at 61.8%, still coming in markedly below its pre-pandemic February 2020 level of 63.3%. 

And meanwhile, the Labor Department on Wednesday reported that job openings rose more than expected in October to top 11 million, coming in just marginally below July’s all-time high of nearly 11.1 million. The quits rate eased slightly to 2.8% from September’s record 3.0% rate. 

“There is a massive shortage of labor out there in the country that couldn’t come at a worst time now that employers need workers like they have never needed them before. This is a permanent upward demand shift in the economy that won’t be alleviated by companies offering greater incentives to their new hires,” Chris Rupkey, FWDBONDS chief economist, wrote in a note Wednesday. “Wage inflation will continue to keep inflation running hot as businesses fall all over themselves in a bidding war for talent.”