Marketers, here’s how to interview your prospective employer

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As more startups are founded, there’s an increasing need to acquire and retain top talent. At the same time, there’s also a massive mindset shift amongst Gen-Z and Millennials, as more of us look to go beyond the paygrade to find companies whose values align with our own.

It’s fair game — after all, we spend a third of our lives at work. But finding a company that you really connect with isn’t easy, particularly when you’re trying to impress the hiring manager during an interview. Often, we get so caught up trying to land the job that we don’t stop to think: do we really want it? And by the time we do figure it out, it’s often too late.

If you’re confident in your ability to deliver quality work, then it’s time to turn the tables during your job interviews.

Instead of trying exclusively to impress a potential employer, use this face time as an opportunity to reverse-interview them to see if they’re the right fit for you. It’s a chance to evaluate whether the company you’re interviewing aligns with your career goals, and resonates with you on a deeper level.

The truth is, if you’re not interviewing your potential employer, you’re not doing yourself justice. So how can you ask the right questions and get an insight into whether it’s a good fit? After years of meeting with different companies of all sizes and stages of growth, I’ve rounded up my personal list of favourite questions to ask your future employer.

Disclaimer alert: this won’t happen overnight

What I’m about to share can honestly be daunting to approach with a potential employer, particularly if you’ve never done it before. It’s not something I did early in my career (though I wish I did). Even when I did, it took A LOT of trial and error before I truly understood how to interview my employer effectively. These questions are what worked for me, but you have to find your own groove and comfort level. After all, how you ask the question and the way in which you ask it can have a big impact on the way in which someone will answer.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the approach varies depending on where you are in your career path. If you’re a first-time job seeker, you should be mindful of how many questions you ask, compared to someone else who’s a little further along in their career. 

Question 1: What’s the company’s plan for this year and the next 3 years?

This question helps you to understand if the company’s plan aligns with your own career plans. For example, they might be looking to invest more resources into marketing-led growth whereas you’re looking to learn more about product-led growth, which is quite different. If you stick around, you might not be able to progress further in the area you want to or get a promotion in the field you’re after.

If you’re not sure about their vision, don’t be afraid to ask either during the interview or (ideally) before. Understanding the company’s mission and vision gives a sense of purpose to the work you’ll be doing. This information should be known at all levels within the company. If your interviewers don’t know, it’s an instant red flag.

Question 2: What challenges are the business facing at the moment?

This question allows you to learn about the company’s level of transparency with their (potential) employees. If an employer isn’t candid about their challenges, or the challenges seem to be related to cultural problems or a toxic work environment, it may be time to reevaluate your next steps.

It’s also a good way to avoid any unexpected surprises in your new role.

Question 3: Who are some of your biggest direct and indirect competitors?

While you might be the subject matter expert in your field, your interviewers are likely much more knowledgeable about their product and brand. They’ll be able to shed light on the key players to look out for in the market, and who you’ll be going up against for your marketing campaigns.

Be mindful when asking this question not to position it as a rivalry between your employer and their competitors. The goal here is to understand the playing field, learn more about the industry, and understand if you have skills to help your potential employer win more customers or clients.

Question 4: Which area of marketing is the business underperforming in?

If you’re a generalist, this will potentially reveal where you should focus your efforts, especially in the early stages in a role. If you’re a specialist, this will also indicate where you may need to expand your skill-set, or which stakeholders to work with to improve the performance in this area.

Question 5: How would you measure the success of this role? What would the targets for teams and individuals look like?

This is key because it helps you gain clarity and certainty around how performance is measured, and what numbers are valued in the organisation. It’s also a good way to see if the walk matches the talk: if the overarching company goals aren’t lining up with individual KPIs, it’s worth digging into exactly why that’s the case. Is it a matter of leadership, a lack of understanding on which metrics to track, or something else entirely?

Question 6: How often do the team meet their targets? Is there anything preventing the team from hitting these targets at the moment?

Following on from the question before, this one will help you understand where you can add the most value to the company if you were to join them — and where the key blocking points are.

Question 7: Why did predecessors leave this role?/Why is this role available?

This simple question sheds a ton of light on your potential employer’s culture and processes. If the predecessor is leaving the role for a promotion at the company, that’s a great sign. Likewise, if the role is newly created, it shows that the company is looking to invest in new resources in your field of expertise.

Alternatively, ask about their marketing team’s turnover rate. By taking a macro view of the team’s churn, you’ll quickly understand what the company culture and senior management are like.

Note: an established team isn’t necessarily better. It’s easy to think it’s a good sign that all the team members have been in the role for X number of years. However, if your aim is to get promoted within a set timeframe or switch to another function in the company, it’s worth digging further to see if it’s a good fit. Bear in mind that established teams come with established ways of working, so it’s also worth seeing how open they are to new ideas and methods.

Question 8: What do you not like about your brand, the product, and the team? 

That’s right — the aim here is to ask what your interview doesn’t like, not what they do. 

It’s easy enough to say they love the team and the culture. It’s much harder to be honest about where the challenges lie, and where there’s room for improvement. This is a great question to test the interviewer’s transparency, and understand if the company is honest about where they need to improve.

Question 9: What professional development or growth opportunities are there for the team here?

If you’re one of the 87% of millennials that value professional development or career growth in a job, or one of the 3 in 4 Gen Z-ers looking for a situation in which you could have multiple roles within one organisation, this question is for you. Asking about future opportunities will shed light on how much room there is to grow within a company, and how open they are to job crafting.

Don’t just think in terms of promotions either. The flexibility for your role to move laterally based on what you’re interested to learn, and where you can add the most value, is just as important as the opportunity for you to ascend vertically.

And finally, here’s a question to ask yourself…

…do I want to work here?

The right job should empower you, help you grow, allow you to do something you truly believe in, and help you live your best life. On the flipside, accepting the wrong job offer can set you back in your career — not to mention it’s mentally exhausting.

While reverse interviewing your employer takes some getting used to, the opportunity cost of not doing it is far greater than the fear of doing it. Once you’ve got these answers, you’ll be equipped with the information you need to take the next step forward — offer or no offer. 

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