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4 'ballsy questions' everyone should ask in job interviews—but most don't, says hiring CEO of 10 years


The key to nailing a job interview isn't just about giving the right answers. You also have to ask the right questions.

After running a recruiting firm for more than 10 years, I've found that most candidates fail to ask the hard-hitting questions during job interviews — out of fear that they might look clueless or less confident.

From a hiring manager's perspective, however, not speaking up actually makes them look disengaged. But you can't just pull a random question out of a hat. It's always the ballsy — and often uncomfortable — ones that impress me the most.

Here are four questions that I wish more candidates would ask during job interviews:

1. 'Can you give examples of people who previously held this role, but were a bad fit? And why?'

If your hiring manager describes someone who sounds a lot like you, it's a clear sign that you should reconsider whether you're right for the job.

Also be on the lookout for the manager who dismisses a previous employee by citing non-specific reasons. A few examples: "They seemed very lazy" or "I just never knew what they spent their time doing." More often than not, these are warning signs of a boss with poor management and leadership skills.

If this happens, try responding with, "Were there any individuals that you respected on a personal level, but weren't qualified for the position?"

2. 'How many hours do you expect the person in this role to work per week?'

For many people, this is a hard topic to bring up, as they don't want to give the impression that they're not a diligent worker who is willing to work longer hours.

However, if a company is expecting you to work 80-hour workweeks, that may not be feasible based on your lifestyle. If you're a parent who requires more flexibility, for example, you could say, "I know I'd be great at this job, but it's also important for me to be able to pick my kids up from school in the afternoon. Is that something you'd be okay with?"

Hiring managers appreciate when candidates are honest and make their priorities clear right from the start. It saves both parties a lot of time and energy.

3. 'How often does this company give salary raises to its employees?'

Discussions about money are always tricky. Most candidates try to avoid it altogether during the interview process. Or they'll wait until after they're given an offer to bring it up. So I'm always impressed by people who aren't afraid to ask about it during the initial stages.

I once interviewed a candidate who was bold enough say: "I'm looking for a job that offers financial viability. How often are employees considered for raises, and based on what factors?"

If an employer finds a strong candidate that they really want on their team, they'll often go out of their way to offer a competitive starting salary. They may even throw in a bonus agreement, like: "If you meet [X, Y, Z] expectations during your first year on the job, you'll get a salary raise of [X]%."

4. 'What kind of professional development benefits do you offer?'

When someone asks me about career advancement opportunities, it tells me they want to exceed expectations. So don't be afraid to ask about professional development benefits. Many employers offer partial or full financial coverage for continuing education classes or relevant certifications.

I always appreciate a candidate who thinks about how they can grow their skills and add even more value to a company. Believe it or not, employers don't want to trap you in the same role forever; they want to see you grow into a more advanced position at the same company — and to continue doing so for a long period of time.

Atta Tarki is the founder and CEO of ECA Partners, a data-driven project staffing and recruiting firm. He is also the author of "Evidence-Based Recruiting." Prior to starting ECA Partners, Atta spent six years as a management consultant at L.E.K. Consulting. Follow him on Twitter @AttaTarki.

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