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Carll Wilkinson has been with Smith & Wilkinson for almost 20 years and as the managing partner and CEO he provides professional level, director level, and C-Suite search services to organizations across the Northeast.  In addition to conducting numerous CEO searches; he has successfully completed dozens of searches in the areas of commercial, consumer, and residential lending, retail banking, technology, credit, risk, audit, compliance, operations, finance and accounting, and wealth management.  Carll has been a contributor to various banking publications including Banking New England, Connecticut Banking Magazine, and Massachusetts Banker, and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Banker & Tradesman, The Commercial Record, and SNL. Have a question for Carll? Shoot him an email with the subject line “Ask a Recruiter”!

Q: “What are some of the most important questions to ask during a job interview?” 

A: Asking the right questions during a job interview is critical: not only does it give you the opportunity to assess if the job is the right fit, but it also allows you to fully explore the nuances of the position, envision what the future of the role might be, and demonstrates your interest and seriousness as a candidate. But the quality of the questions you ask is crucial in making sure you get the most out of your interview and present yourself as a top candidate. 

This is a question we get from our candidates frequently, as our team sends dozens of people on interviews every week! Here are five of the best questions you can ask heading into your next interview. 

  1. “How will you measure the success of the person in this position?”

Perhaps the most essential question you can ask in a job interview: what does success look like for this role, and what kind of rubric will be used to assess your work? Everyone wants to succeed at their jobs, but there’s generally some key initiatives that hiring managers will be keeping in mind, when they think about their ideal candidate for their open role. Being aware of how success is measured in your potential new role is something that will frame the way you approach your goals. 

  1. “What are some of the challenges you expect the person in this position to face?”

Every new job comes with unforeseen challenges; this question can help you get ahead of some of them. Will you need to prepare for working within incredibly narrow budgetary restrictions? Is there someone on your team who creates a problematic dynamic? Are you going to need to hire new staff because the department is currently understaffed?  

Not only will this question prepare you for any workplace hurdles, it also presents the opportunity for you to showcase how you’ve handled challenging situations in past roles. Highlighting your problem-solving skills and flexibility is going to make you stand out to the hiring committee. And if the hiring manager would be your direct supervisor, it’s a great way to start working through some of those challenges together and provide useful information to you both. 

  1. “What are you hoping this person will accomplish in their first six months and in their first year?”

Like asking about how success is measured, there’s essential milestones and deadlines all new roles are expected to meet (key performance indicators: not just a business buzzword!). One of the best questions you can ask the hiring manager is what kinds of projects you’ll be tackling in your first 6-12 months on the job. This will help you picture yourself in the role, and will also tell you a lot about a company’s expectations (including whether they are reasonable or not).  

  1. “How would you describe the culture here? What type of people tend to really thrive here, and what type don’t do as well?”

We spent 40+ hours a week with our coworkers. It’s important to know that the office you’re joining has a culture that is supportive, collegial, and provides an environment where you can thrive. Not all workplaces are created equal: you deserve to find a team where you feel comfortable and connected. If you’re too focused on landing the job, regardless of whether it’s the right fit, you risk ending up in a place where you’re struggling. 

These are great guidelines for anyone interviewing; however, there is one question that we encourage ALL our candidates to ask above all others: the question that matters most to you about a potential new role. Do you want to know about opportunities for growth within a company? Is there a certain kind of project you can’t wait to take ownership of? Your interview is a perfect place to hash out all those nitty-gritty details about what your day-to-day life will look like in your new role.  

And of course, there are some questions it’s better to save for after your live interview. While salary and benefit considerations are an incredibly important aspect of any job search, your face-to-face interview time should be used to exploring the nuances of the job’s roles and responsibilities. Save the compensation questions for another time – or, better yet, have that conversation with your recruiter; they can help guide you through the compensation structure for the position you’re considering.  

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