There’s the job description, and then there’s the job. They might
not match, you know. And here you are thinking you’ve landed your dream
job and then the reality hits you that the job is just like your old one -
except with older tools and technologies.
You can help protect yourself from the “job description is not the job”
problem by asking the hiring manager questions that relate to the department.
Let’s take a look.
What is the first project I’d be assigned on taking this position?
Always good to find out what you will be diving into once you start a new
job. It could be something easy. Or challenging. Or really what you are looking
to do. The key is not the answer to your interview question, but what
conversation the question produces about how the hiring manager will utilize
What is the biggest business problem facing you that I could help
This question gets to where the pain points are for the hiring manager. Is it
the technology? Poor workmanship? Poor quality? Or something to do with
interpersonal communication between your coworkers? If you can help solve the
pain points – not something stated on the job description, of course – you can
be successful faster.
What is the most important accomplishment your group did so far this
The manager has goals. One would think some would be accomplished in the past
X number of months! What are they and why are they important accomplishments?
And listen for the business accomplishment, not the accomplishment for the
group. You want to hear the business benefit of the work, not the work.
“We completed this humongous project to replace our CRM software.” That’s
great, I know that is a lot of work to do – but so what? What
did the business get out of replacing that software? That’s the key to the
value your group has to the business at large.
What is the biggest challenge facing your department for the balance of the
This is similar to the “biggest problem right now” but done in a way that is
oriented toward business goals. When you have to get X done by the end of the
year, it allows you to discuss the type of work, why it’s important, and what
the urgency is to get it done (and hire you to help get it done).
If you could only get one more thing done this year, what would it be?
In theory, this could be the same as the last question, but it is very
possible the biggest challenge isn’t the biggest accomplishment. It could very
well be that the current work on a business goal is proceeding as planned, is
huge in terms of the business benefit and, if it were completed, would be five-star work. You want to know about what the most important thing is to
accomplish for the hiring manager – so you can help.
Get to the work, not the job description
Each of these questions is designed to help you understand the work to be
done, not the job description. It gets you off of your job skills and instead
helps you understand what is needed – and gives you the opening to explain how
your work solves the very issues facing the hiring manager.
The job description is a great place to start to develop your interview
questions. But make sure you get to the hiring manager’s priorities and
concerns. That’s the sweet spot of what the hiring manager needs to do and how
you can help.
Scot Herrick is the author of I’ve
Landed My Dream Job -Now What? and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. CubeRules.com.
provides online career management training for workers who typically
work in a corporate cubicle. Scot has a long history of management and
individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.