14 (Deeper) Questions You Should Be Asking During Your Interview Process

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W7RWLHPKX4 The interview process (whether for a job, a second date, a business deal, even for quality advice) is never just a one-way street. You might be sweating, nervous or excited. Doesn't matter.

You REALLY want your future boss (or girlfriend, business partner, mentor, even friend) to like you, but you can't forget the basic premise - you're either getting value for your precious time and energy investment or you're wasting time. Never presume that a good company means a good manager or team - for you. Each situation's different and must be seen as such.

Your preparation's everything. Do your homework! Ask the hard questions now. If things don't work, it can be painful parting and restarting elsewhere.

Not only do good questions show your thoughtfulness and curiosity, but also a commitment to high standards. To demonstrate these shows your interviewer that you care and won't say yes to anything. That is a signal that you're capable, prepared and have a clue about the way things work - you're mindful.

Over the years, I've interviewed at countless companies - both large and small and in between - in law and finance, healthcare and consulting, startups, banks and hedge funds, young and agile teams and older, more established ones, people of every generation, age and gender.

Both from mistakes and positive experiences, I've learned to look for what's important in the process of the interviews, as well as research - both the before and after. One must be very careful what to ask - as well as what to hold back to yourself and find the answers on your own.

Here are the things I've learned that are the most important for a person interviewing to know about his or her role, team and company before he or she signs on the dotted line to start:

1) How does your manager-to-be resolve conflicts? What is his or her personal style - conciliatory? Domineering? His/her way or the highway? Ask him or her!

2) What Professional Development opportunities exist for employees on the team and company as a whole? In other words, how much opportunity will you have to grow in your role? How much do they care about keeping their employees' perspectives fresh and relevant?

3) How solvent is the company financially? It may be the greatest company, team and boss in history and you as a worker may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but if the company's finances are poorly managed or in danger of poor cash flow and/or revenue management, you'll be in deep trouble and soon if you start there. Check very carefully how the finances look, because if they're bad, your head could be on the chopping block in the next cycle of layoffs.

4) Do your manager- and team-to-be pass the beer test? You'll be spending a hell of a lot of time with these people (more than with your family, likely). You better make sure you can not just stand them, but will actually enjoy their company, work ethic, humor (or lack thereof, more likely) and blather. Do team members talk about others behind their backs? You'll be the "others" soon enough, then. Are they dull, humorless cubicle dwellers or bro-me-all-day-bro frat boys fresh out of college? Know exactly what you're getting into if joining and that you won't be the odd man/woman out

5) How easily does management take suggestions for improving the company's bottom line, strategy and/or execution? If nobody cares or bothers to listen to people in the company, then you'll be in an echo chamber  while working there. If this is important for you, think twice before joining a company where internal feedback is not treated as a strategic asset.

6) What are your maybe-future-boss's biggest pain points? What can you do to make his or her life easier with your skills and experience solving similar problems? If the two don't align well, it's not a good fit. Also, what are the biggest challenges this role would face?

7) What do you need to do to hit the ground running and hit it out of the ballpark (to use two annoying sports expressions you'll hear often on the job) in the first 100 days? Can you do this and will the process make you happy and fulfilled?

8) What will this role look like 3, 6, 12, 24 months down the line? How will it evolve, if at all? Also, how has this role changed in the past? What does a successful candidate look like for this position right now? These are all critical things to know in order to nail your first 100 days and beyond.

9) What keeps the manager and other interviewers at the company? Why did they come here, in the first place, when they had other choices? Get the interviewer to tell you his or her story. Carefully note the tone and level of sincerity when these questions are answered. If the answers are clearly scattered BS - or otherwise Kool-Aid of the worst sort, then it may be a sign of lack of communicated vision/mission by leadership - or otherwise of working in a cult. Been there, done both. No, thanks.

10) What is the performance review process like here? Is it formal? Informal? Quarterly? Annual? Is there continuous feedback? What metrics will I be measured by? If the level / frequency of feedback and performance review are inadequate for you, don't join.

11) What are the company's strategic goals and how does management plan to reach them? What sorts of new product or product lines are being launched to gain or maintain market position? What's in the pipeline that I should be excited about? Lack of ideas may be a sign that things are headed in the wrong direction.

12) What is the team that I'll be working with like? What are their personalities and backgrounds? What other departments will I be interacting with? What should I know about the team? How about career progression for people on this team? Are you hiring or downsizing on the team? Who will be my direct reports?

13) What is the work environment like? Is it an open floor plan or cubicles / offices? Is there a pantry? What kind of office and / or team activities do they do? Is there a formal vision or mission statement that they have? Do people collaborate a lot of contribute independently? What's different here from any other place you've worked?

Pro tip: When you get into the office for the interview, ask for water and walk around, if possible, to see how people interact (and if they're friendly), how they look (formal or casual, stressed or chilled out, hipsters or suits, young or old or a mix, etc.), what the lobby and pantry look like, where the management sits (in the same place as everyone else or in their offices).

14) Is there anything about your experience or skills that concerns the interviewer (especially manager)? Address this right away with examples of how you would ramp up quickly by picking up a certain skill or level of experience you're missing. Worst case, address this in your thank-you note. What are the next steps in the process? What is their timeline for hiring someone? Any other questions they haven't asked of you yet?

And while this list is not exhaustive, it's a very good start. There are always industry- and company-specific questions you should ask if they are particularly important for you to be answered. The main thing is, don't be afraid to ask.

What NOT to ask: salary (negotiate later, when you know they want you), work hours, vacation policy, perks and benefits, etc. These are not relevant until you get an offer.

Now go out there and interview with confidence! I'll be rooting for you. And as always, let me know if YOU have any (interview-related or any other) questions.

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Are there other important interview questions you've asked before choosing where to work next? Please share them with the Community in Comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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Like what you see? Visit BlueprintToThrive.com for more great strategies and tips for better health and wealth, plus improved productivity.

Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.

*The views expressed herein are his own*

21 Toxic Thoughts Keeping You In a Rut (and How To Overcome Them)

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We've all been there before. Nothing is working and you feel like crap about yourself. Everything's hopeless, so it seems. It looks impossible to get ahead. All people suck. I have bad luck. I never get a break. You know the deal.
Maybe you were just born a pessimist. Maybe your life's been hard, so far - maybe quite hard, indeed. Maybe your father beat you or your mother had to work odd hours. Maybe you had to immigrate, escape oppression in your mother country. Maybe you didn't have much of a childhood 'cuz you had to hustle early, all the time.
Maybe you simply took a risk and failed. Maybe a second or a third time - or the tenth. Maybe you just got fired last week. Maybe somebody cheated you or lied to get your money or your time. Maybe you're gun-shy now, expecting to be disappointed.
Maybe your girlfriend or your boyfriend left you. Maybe you're out of money and you lost your job. Maybe you have a family and bills to pay - and awful student loans. Maybe you don't know what to do in life. Maybe you're feeling stuck and want to scream your lungs out at the world.
You're dazed, confused and pissed. How could this happen to me, of all people? What did I do? I don't deserve thisI'm a decent human being.
You get into a funk. You start to think all sorts of toxic thoughts about yourself and other people and about your life. You can't see a way out. You get depressed and start to think of awful, morbid things.
After a while, you just get really sick of all your baggage and your negativity and want to live. Not only that, but now you want to make up for lost time, get cured and better, get your stuff together, not survive, but thrive. You really want to rid yourself of toxic thoughts and get on moving forward in your life. Easier said than done, but the first step is always to acknowledge what the problems are.
Before you rush to read about increasing productivity and better health, about the newest tips from rich entrepreneurs and wisdom from the new-age gurus who work little and rake in a ton, look inward. There's a world of hurt and pain.
There is a black box in your mind that's full of awful scripts (from childhood and from family, from life experience and friends) that play inside your head reliably when faced with all the situations that have stressed you in the past.
Before you can improve your life consistently, you must clean house.
These are the thoughts that hold you back, whether because you're poor, depressed, because you've failed some tests in life, because you see yourself as damaged, less than perfect, if not worse:
1) "Beggars can't be choosers." "I can't afford to say no to [crap job / boss / a deal you can't refuse]." Dead wrong. Your time is just as valuable as a wealthy or successful person's time. Your health is just as valuable as anyone else's. What you do with your precious time and money and mental resources is critically important and must be chosen carefully. This means saying no a lot and choosing very carefully how you spend your days and dollars. When you start valuing your time and money, others will start valuing them, as well. That's exactly how you can increase your value instantly in the eyes of employers, potential mates, business partners, investors, etc.
Beggars MUST be choosers even more than wealthy people. They have less room for error if they want to make it out of their rut.
2) "I'll spend a little today because I don't know how bad tomorrow might be." This is a sure-fire recipe for financial disaster and a series of other problems to follow. Yes, you should reward yourself for small wins to stay motivated. But, when you spend money without a clear sense of how much you take in and how much you pay out (budgeting), as well as without having clear financial goals (more than just making it to the next paycheck - saving for retirement, buying a house, going on vacation, paying for your kids' college, etc.), you will end up broke, depressed and worse. Instant gratification is incredibly expensive in the end. Learn to postpone gratification, seek meaning and great experiences above material things. Your reward will be much greater than anything you can buy now.
3) "I have the worst luck of anyone I know." You're alive and well. You live in a free country with relatively no oppression. You have opportunities to work, make money, go to school, get married to whom you want and raise your kids how you want. There are hundreds of millions of people living under oppressive regimes, starving and/or without an opportunity. Stop complaining about your bad luck. Stop making the same mistakes by learning from them. Work on being resilient and pivoting quickly to improve what you do and how you do it. Iterate quickly.
4) "Whatever little money I have isn't enough for saving, investing, or planning for the future. I just get by." This simply isn't true, no matter how tight your money situation is. There are almost always ways you haven't considered to save money by optimizing your monthly purchasing and also to take in more income than you have now.
Saving money goes beyond shopping in bulk to price-comparing online and through relevant apps, knowing the best time in the year when to buy big-ticket items (cars, houses, TVs, etc.). This also includes careful budgeting and saving, setting financial goals and investing wisely.
Extra income can be had from using your car to become an Uber or Lyft driver, using your foreign language skills to translate, writing and proofreading essays for others, earning money by helping people move, babysit, assemble furniture (on TaskRabbit, for example), reviewing social media feeds, doing surveys, etc.
5) "I'll cut out my indulgences will save my finances." Cutting out lattes or cigarettes doesn't replace careful financial planning. If you have no clue what you take in and what you pay out each month, then making yourself miserable by cutting out indulgences won't make your finances any better. It's much more constructive to make a sustainable monthly budget to include your indulgences than to assume that cutting something out from your spending will make a real difference in the long run.
6) "Sounds good. Sign me up. I'll read the fine print later." Congratulations! You just signed up for a nightmare in exchange for a trinket. If you have no clear idea of what you're signing, what each term means to you in terms of rights, obligations, timing and payment, then you may have just exposed yourself to a world of pain, if you have second thoughts.
ALWAYS do your research and due diligence on the counter-party of the contract and on the terms of the actual contract. It will give you peace of mind and protect you from a lot of problems down the road.
Are they well known, reliable and in business long enough? What do others say about dealing with them? Are they accredited with the relevant bodies? Are they registered with the Better Business Bureau or something similar. Are they solvent? Ask for references and speak to the references, recommended and otherwise.
Regarding the terms of the actual contract, always know the price involved - up front and altogether, your rights and obligations and protections (for example, a warranty), plus the rights and obligations and protections of the other side.
7) "I can't trust anyone in this world except myself." This is a deadly cocktail of pride, arrogance and false self-sufficiency that has to go. There is always someone you can trust in your life - whether your family, your friends, your colleagues or at least people you hire through trusted sources.
Don't trust anyone automatically - trust is earned, after all - but also don't try to do everything by yourself. Do what you're best at on your own and outsource the rest to professionals.
8) "I can just 'feel' if someone is a good person and I can trust him or her." See 6 above. Put emotions aside. ALWAYS read the fine print. ALWAYS do thorough research / due diligence on your potential mate, business partner, person who wants your money and someone whose money you want. NEVER presume anything, either for the bad or the good.
9) "I'm a nice guy / girl and do lots of nice things for other people. They owe me." NOBODY owes you ANYTHING in life except by contract, law or religious precept that you both subscribe to. If you want the other person to actually owe you something, put it in writing as a contract. Don't obligate someone to do something for you through guilt. Offer something to a stranger long before asking him or her for something. Ask for a job, receive advice. Ask for advice, sometimes get a job.
10) "Only a miracle can save me. Nobody has it half as bad as me in life." Relying on miracles denies you of the agency to save yourself and also assumes you have no way out of your situation, both of which are false. Step outside of your situation. Understand that there have been many people who've lived through the same and worse - and lived to tell about it. Find how they've solved the same problems effectively and apply the same techniques to your own life. Take baby steps. Make a plan and break it down to small digestible bites. Start small. Be patient with yourself. Rely on yourself as the only person who can bring you out of your situation.
11) "Finding good help for my problems is out of my price range." Have you ever heard that the best things in life are free? Thanks to the internet and market economics, amazing (free or inexpensive) resources exist online and in person for helping you out of your rut.
Research how others have solved the same problems as yourself. Find forums discussing your issues. Download free apps and other tools to help you organize, plan, execute and analyze your performance. Seek out people and ask for advice - you'll be shocked how willing and happy many people are to help you solve your problems.
12) "People can read all my problems and weaknesses in my face. Why should I bother pretending to be someone I'm not?" Work on making yourself look tougher and more resilient. Ask for honest feedback from loved ones and friends about what impression you give. Learn to talk / psych yourself into a good mood, into confidence before interviews and negotiations. Work on improving your posture and your expression when speaking to others. Finally, build on your strengths and always remind yourself of what they are before interviews, negotiations, dates and other interactions with people. Fake it 'til you make it. Focus and you'll get there!
13) "Nobody ever wants to give me a chance." Make your own chance. For example, if nobody will publish your writing, self-publish or blog it and spread the word through your networks. Build a fan-base for your work. Build your networks in person (invite friends over and have them bring new friends to introduce) and on LinkedIN through shared interests.
Learn to provide value to people long before asking them for something in return. Never take no for an answer. Keep trying again for the same job / company and don't take rejection personally. Grow some cojones, become resilient and move forward, even if it's one small step at a time.
14) "Nobody cares enough about me to help." You don't care enough yourself to ask for help when you most need it. There's absolutely nothing shameful in wanting to better your existence and your family's situation.
15) "I don't know what to do with my life. I don't know what I'm good at." Try doing things you enjoy doing that can also bring in some income. Find a way to deliver value doing what you love and you'll find what to do in your life. It's always better to have backup options (the day job) that will at least interest you and help you reach your other goals.
If you don't know what you're good at, then you need to try doing things that fit your personality and make you feel good about yourself and those you're working with. When you enjoy the actions that make up your work and the people with whom you work, you are already ahead of four-fifths of all people in the workforce. When you can make your job into a paying vocation, you'll have found a job that contributes to your mission and purpose in life - and can help you sustain both.
16) "My Health can wait. I have to make money first." Without health, there is no work and no money, either. Your health always comes first - before your boss's demands, your bonus for working overtime and that expensive car you want to buy. Always look out for #1. You're not made of steel or immortal. All your bad life choices will come back to bite you in the behind, sooner than you think. Stay healthy, eat well, exercise and relieve stress safely and effectively on a regular basis.
17) "Either I do exactly what I want in life or it's not worth it." True wisdom is learning from every man and woman you meet, from every job you take and every single experience you go through. The journey is more important than the destination. Also, when you pay attention to the journey, you will arrive much wiser and better prepared at the destination.
18) "Rich people are always born with a leg up. My family is poor and I have no hope of catching up." How many rags-to-riches stories do you need to hear? Stop complaining and get to work! Rome wasn't built in a day. Because you're poor, you're already super hungry to succeed. Now learn the lessons from others who have done it (read lots of their books and posts, talk to people you admire) and apply them to move forward at least a little every day.
19) "I'm not cut out to be [productive / rich / successful / a professional]. 90% of your success, productivity, professionalism and wealth are directly correlated to your having a mission and purpose in life, getting organized, planning the steps to reach your goals and executing on those plans, step by small step. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is success, productivity or wealth.
Learn from the best by reading their books and articles and doing as they do. Find the best tools available for free or cheap and make using them part of your routine. Organize your daily routine carefully and be consistent every day. Meditate and reflect constantly on your progress in life toward becoming the person, professional and human being you want to be. Learn to think like a professional, wealthy, productive and successful person. Emulate until you make it.
20) "I don't have any connections. I don't know anyone important." First of all, you do or someone you know definitely does. Your biggest non-internal asset to today is your network size and how well you can leverage it to achieve your goals. Get out of your shell, read up on how to build and maintain networks effectively and execute on that strategy to grow. The more people you have in your network, the easier it is to grow it. Start ASAP, if you haven't already.
21) "I can't negotiate in this case. This is just not something that's negotiable." Everything is negotiable. Salary and benefits and responsibilities are all negotiable. Prices for goods and services are always negotiable, no matter what anyone says. So negotiate! Learn from the best, start with small items in bulk and work your way up to bigger and more expensive items.
Know the sales commission cycle for the item you want to buy (month-end and quarter-end quotas for salespeople mean that the best time to buy certain items is at the end of the month and quarter). Know when certain items are in season or not. Negotiate for larger item discounts out of season. Negotiate better terms. Be creative with what you offer in return for a discount. Offer free publicity for their product or a partnership for providing you the product for free.
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Now that you're more aware of all the toxic junk that's clogging up your mental energy, get working on resolving it, cleaning it out. Get therapy, if needed. Once you decide to change and start to work hard, there's no looking back.
I'm rooting for you. You'll do very well.

Are there other toxic thoughts you’ve learned to cut out on the road to becoming successful in what you do? Please share them with the Community in Comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

– –

Like what you see? Visit BlueprintToThrive.com for more great strategies and tips for better health and wealth, plus improved productivity.

Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.

*The views expressed herein are his own*

How To Decide If You Want to Work In a Startup (or Stay Corporate)

DeathtoStock_NotStock5 How To Decide If You Want to Work In a Startup (or Stay Corporate)

Many of us have been there. Tired of the boring job at a large company, resigned to being ten levels under management with no room to grow, running in place, not growing as a human being. We start to daydream - what if I was a Startup Guy or Startup Girl?

Immediately, we think of airy lofts and open floor plans, tons of snacks, open vacation, equity, being buddy-buddy with the founders, helping build an awesome product that will change the world, etc. We talk to friends who work at startups and they seem so driven and excited all the time. I want my freedom! Screw this corporate crap!

Now, back to earth. Just like in any other company, a startup job can be amazingly rewarding - or pure hell.

Here's what to look for when you think of jumping to a startup:

1) How do you look at risk? Is it excitement for you or a heart attack? Are you gung-ho about new challenges and run with them and own the problem or are you used to doing what you're told?

Frankly, can you survive if suddenly, the company goes under or the job doesn't work out? What if your job description changes drastically? How flexible are you to go get coffee/donuts, even if you're high in management? If suddenly the founders need to pivot or to cut the workforce, it could be a sudden shock.

If you're ok financially and otherwise with this scenario, then it could be for you. Don't take the startup gig it if you can't take the sudden changes in direction, moving quickly, daily shifts in mood and job description. 

2) How do you work? Are you methodical and thorough, harping on every detail to perfection? Then stay away.

Or are you of the 80/20 mindset, focusing on things of greatest impact first and then the rest? This might be for you.

Do you take ownership or do you always defer to others? If it's the first, then you might be a Startup Guy or Girl.

3) What is your learning style? Do you learn best by doing or through books and manuals and specialized trainings? A startup job will often have you doing things well outside of your comfort zone (what you learned in college, what you did in previous jobs, etc.) If learning things by doing is your forte, working for a startup might just be the thing for you.

4) What sort of people push you toward doing your best work? If you're not used to Type A, crazy people cracking whips around you, you will not enjoy it. Startups are different, but their founders tend toward having a very strong vision and a mission. If you're not in line, then often, you'll be yelled at, overruled or sidelined.

5) How stable is the company, especially its finances? Have the founders built companies previously? Have they worked successfully as a team before? How much does the company have in the bank (runway/burn) to achieve its mission and how well is this money being managed?

6) How do you get along with the founder(s) and the team you would work with? Make sure to take the beer test, ask detailed questions and OBSERVE their behavior, above all. If you don't like how people treat each other or how they react to stress (ask!) or other aspects of the culture, then it will wear you down and burn you out. Is the startup full of mature adults or a bunch of bros? It often depends on your function. FInance will be quite conservative and experienced people, whereas the Product Team and Devs will often be 20-something hipsters or bros. Know with which teams and people you would be working and make sure to meet them and estimate how well you can work with them.

7) Where can you grow in your role? Up or out? Don't settle for vague answers from founders. If you're a Product Manager, you will want to grow into a Director of Product Management, for example. If you're an account manager, you may want to become a Sales Director down the line. Be clear in where you want to go and that the founders and management know it and are on board with helping you reach your goals.

8) What is the company's mission and how closely aligned with it is the vision and the execution? Why do you want to work for a startup? Is it because you identify with the mission or because you're after the equity? Don't be seduced by wanting to "change the world" or the Perk Trap or "moving fast and breaking shit."

The work is often insanely hard and the hours beyond crazy. Equity almost always vests after a year and even then may not be worth anything. Too many free snacks make you fat and sick. You can't actually take as much vacation as you want (you'll be fired immediately when you try). Most of what you do will not come close to changing the world. You may want to move fast and break stuff, but there are always constraints like money and hours in the day and personality conflicts.

9) How happy will you be just to lay out your everything on the line for the company and learn as much as you can and work with super-smart people on an important problem (unless you're building yet another video or chat app) and then walk away? In the end, this is by far the greatest benefit, unless you actually build something world-changing, your equity actually vests and is actually worth something.

10) Does your family situation give you breathing room to work for a startup? If you're a single, urban 20-something, you have little to lose except sleep and hair and life enjoyment. You'll be fine. If you have a family and commitments, then it may not be the best bet to work for a startup, given the insane hours and constant stress and often unpredictable schedule. It takes a toll on you because you live your job (or you lose it).

In the end, there is no magic formula for whether it makes sense for you to take the plunge. An overwhelming number of startups fail each year. Nobody but you can decide what lifestyle you want or what skills you want to learn, with what people to work or what your mission in life is.

That said, if you are lucky to find a startup job that aligns with your mission and values and gets you in the door, working with amazingly smart people on an important problem with money and a great team behind you, ABSOLUTELY GO FOR IT!

Your life will never be the same and despite the hellish stress, it will open a wealth of opportunities for you. Just know, the startup journey ain't for the faint of heart.

Are there other factors you've found important in deciding whether to jump to a startup? Tell us in the Comments below. We would love to hear from you.

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Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.

*The views expressed herein are his own*

The 1 Thing Hiring Managers Are Looking For

Excellent and critical insight into the hiring process. http://touch.thedailymuse.com/thedailymuse/#!/entry/the-1-thing-hiring-managers-are-looking-for,5229adfada27f5d9d0182270