Working in Singapore is tough, especially because times have changed and today’s workforce is all about working hard and smart. Gone are the days when interviews are perceived to be a one-way street where only the interviewer asks the questions. As a candidate, you want to find a good workplace that helps you grow and learn.
To do that, you need to interview smartly. We have an elaborate list that will give you an idea of the questions you can ask your interviewer to understand if you should take up the job or not.
Ask the right questions, to know what you are signing up for.
Your basic role and responsibilities
You should have read the job description before you walked in for the interview. However, a job description (JD) does little justice to what can be expected daily. These should be the top questions in your list as their answers will give you an idea of what your regular day at work will look like.
- What will I be expected to do every day?
- Is this a new position or did someone fulfil this role before me?
- Will I need any specific training for the job initially?
- Who will I report to?
- What role does this position play in the organisation’s success?
- Will I have a mentor to guide me?
- Are my responsibilities expected to change in the next six months?
- Which are the skills required to succeed in this job?
- How many people will I have in my team or reporting to me?
- Are there any other people going to be hired in my team in the short-term?
Red flags: These are questions that your hiring manager should sail through. After all, knowing what the company is hiring for is essential. However, if you see a lack of clarity around team structures, reporting lines and people assigned to you, then it is pertinent that you speak up. And answers like—every day at work will look different—sounds great in terms of keeping things exciting, but you should get more details. This could also mean—we don’t quite know what this role requires of you.
The growth opportunities
When you are switching jobs, you will obviously look at short-term growth and the increment you are being offered. However, the job’s long-term benefits must also rank high in your priorities. After all, you might have put in years in your current organisation and are willing to quit for a new company and profile. You need to ask your interviewer all these questions to understand if it is the right choice for you and your career in the long run.
- How are employees rewarded for going beyond their role expectations?
- What are the typical promotion timelines of the company?
- How often do you evaluate the performance of your employees?
- How is the formal process of performance evaluation here?
- Will I be encouraged to explore an opportunity in another department if it interests me?
- Do you have any tie-ups with any educational institutes for employees to pursue professional courses?
- Which qualities are needed to be an exceptional performer in this company?
Red flags: Promotion timelines are difficult to commit to, so it is OK if your hiring manager takes you through the process but refrains from giving you exact months or years that will take you to the next position. However, what is not OK is having no clarity on evaluation processes. Organisations today are spending huge amounts of time and money in ensuring that their employees are evaluated well, highlighting skills and growth areas. None of that in this company? Watch out, we say.
Once you have a clear idea about your role and where it is going in the next few years, it is time to get an idea about how well the company is doing. This is important as this job opportunity will give you the expected push to your career only if the company growth is solid and consistent. So, go on and evaluate if the company deserves to have you as an employee by asking these important questions. These should ideally be directed towards the human resource (HR) team representatives or professionals who manage talent for the company.
- Where do you see this company in the medium-term?
- Who are the company’s top competitors?
- Does the company have any diversification plans or product launches expected soon?
- What is the one mission that is core to the company and its leaders?
- How is this company different from its competitors?
- What has been the employee attrition rate in the last few years? Is it growing each year?
- Which is the most common reason for which the employees are leaving their jobs?
- Which are the immediate goals the company is focusing on? What is the broad strategy planned to achieve it?
- Is the company involved in any corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity?
- What is the company’s leave structure?
Red flags: If you are the kind where a job means more than a title and money, then you should try finding answers to these questions. And accompany them with some strong research at your end. The biggest red flag here is if the company’s HR manager doesn’t seem to understand the competitor landscape. Being unaware isn’t a skill you should have or appreciate.
As we mentioned above, the money and benefits you take home from your job are of prime importance but it is also important to reach home at a decent hour each day to spend time with your partner, spouse, parents, kids or pets. Therefore, the company culture and the way it treats its employees should be important criteria for you to consider it as your next employer. Make sure you ask your interviewer these questions to understand it well:
- What defines your company culture?
- Does the company and its leaders believe in work-life balance?
- How many team events does the company organise in a year?
- Is working from home/remote location when needed a well-accepted practice in the company?
- How would you describe the company’s work environment?
Red flags: In today’s day and age, companies that aren’t flexible with their approach to family emergencies, or have a closed-door policy to feedback, aren’t great places to work in, despite all the money they might be offering. A culture that encourages staying late and working on endless pitches that are not going anywhere can’t be your employer for the long term, as you are sure to burn out. So ensure you weigh the risks well. Read employee feedback on Glassdoor and ask specific questions around employee reviews.
About the interviewer
Your interviewer is the perfect window to peek into the company’s work culture and ideology. You also get a first-hand review from an employee. Make the best of it!
- How long have you been working at this company and where were you working before this?
- How different is it working here compared to your previous organisation?
- What is the best part about working in this company, according to you?
- What does your regular day look like?
- How much has your role evolved since you joined?
- What has been the most challenging project/task you and your team have handled?
- Which of your skills/qualities have helped you the most in this role?
- What excites you about the sector that you are working in?
- If you had the chance to change one management style of this company, what would it be?
Red flags: Your interviewer saying that he/she hates it there! Showing evident disgust to company management is another matter of concern. Of course, do remember that some of our journeys with companies are personal, and may have a lot to do with individual experiences rather than the company culture. So, ask for another round to get clarity.
Yes, your boss is important but so is the team you will be working with. After all, these are the people who will help you grow, stand by you through challenges and go drinking with you on Friday!
- How many people will I be working with closely?
- How do you encourage teamwork among your employees?
- Will I be working with any employees from other departments on a daily basis?
- Which are the greatest challenges my future team faces?
- What is my current team’s biggest success story?
Red flags: These will be people who will work with you for eight hours a day for most days in the year. If your instinct says that something is wrong, then it probably is. Also, look out for information like ‘we had few people leave last year’ or ‘members from the team were transitioned to other roles’. While some of it may be normal career moves, there is always benefit in figuring out what impacts these decisions.
We know that the happiest time of the month is when you get that message on your phone saying your salary has been credited into your bank account. However, there are various employee benefits that would make you happier than you think. Make sure you check on those before ending your interview:
- What kind of flexible benefits (such as dental, gym and medical expenses) does the company offer its employees?
- Will my mobile phone bill be reimbursed?
- How is my family covered, with respect to health and life insurance? Find out more about maternity cover, if it applies to you.
- Am I entitled to any corporate discounts?
- Are there any overtime benefits available for employees?
- Do you give your employees any paid voluntary time?
Red flags: These are standard policy questions and should be part of your contract. It always helps if an organization cares for your well-being a little more than other companies (or the one you are planning to leave). A red flag is having no insurance, compensation for life or leaving out dependents.
Always leave an interview with clarity on what is going to happen next. It also shows that you are looking forward to receiving an offer from the company. Ensure that you ask your interviewer these important questions:
- What are the next steps in the interview process?
- What is the timeline for the next steps?
- Do you require me to share any other details with you?
A red flag for you would be if you decided to ask all 55 questions! Pick the ones that work for you and are most important to achieve work-life balance.
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