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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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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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

Can The Right Life Coach Really Help You Succeed?

***SHAMELESS PLUG: A good life coach can make a tremendous difference in your life (and quite quickly) by identifying the root causes of your mental pitfalls and helping you to work quickly and effectively to attack your problems intelligently and in a sustainable manner, for life. Get in touch if I can help you break through your limitations and improve your life, your job situation or anything else that's in your way to a successful and meaningful life.

YURI.KRUMAN (AT) GMAIL dot COM

Now, the article:

http://m.fastcompany.com/3017546/can-the-right-life-coach-really-help-you-succeed?utm_source=facebook

Constructing Your Career Castle

Another good one by Dr. Maria Gottschalk: Constructing Your Career Castle - Harvard Business Review

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/08/constructing_your_career_castl.html

5 Common Mistakes That Will Ensure Your Resume Gets Tossed

Critical mistakes to avoid when it comes to your resumes. IT'S ALL ABOUT METRICS AND SPECIFIC SKILLS, not boastful words. No excuse for making these rookie mistakes. As corroborated by a top executive recruiter with 20+ years of experience (not the author, but someone I know, who gave quite similar advice):

http://m.fastcompany.com/3006345/5-common-mistakes-will-ensure-your-resume-gets-tossed?utm_source=facebook

37 Tips for Writing Emails that Get Opened, Read, and Clicked

One of the most important practical skills you MUST master, no matter your field or set of interests. Practice, practice, practice, A-B test, iterate, repeat. Persevere. The results will take you to the next level. 37 Tips for Writing Emails that Get Opened, Read, and Clicked

http://www.copyblogger.com/37-email-marketing-tips/