There’s nothing worse than the old bait-and-switch. You interview for a job, think it sounds great, and accept the offer, believing you’ll be doing all the fun and interesting stuff you talked about with the HR people. Then, you start doing the actual work, and it’s nothing like what you signed up for.
One way to avoid this fate — or at least to try — is to ask in the interview, “What’s a typical day like?” This might yield a useful answer, but as Sara McCord writes in a great Muse post titled “3 Better Ways to Ask ‘What Will I Be Doing Each Day?’ in Your Interview,” that’s the kind of question that can be dismissed by a hiring manager. (“There is no typical day.”) As the title of McCord’s article suggests, there are other ways to get a sense of your prospective responsibilities, and they’re more likely to illicit the kind of response that’ll actually prove useful when it comes to making your decision.
First up: “What are the top organizational priorities?” Here, you’re taking the big-picture view and trying to suss out how your job fits into the company’s overall mission. You might get a sense your department is on the verge of being phased out. Conversely, it might appear there are opportunities for growth, as the firm will soon be in need of people with your skill set. Either way, asking about overarching goals will make it seem like you’re “invested in the company as a whole,” as McCord writes.
Next up, McCord says, you should ask whether there are any projects on the horizon that weren’t mentioned in the job description. McCord gives the example of taking a job that requires strong writing skills, only to find out that, surprise, grant writing will be one of your responsibilities, and oh yeah, you’ll be expected to bring in a whole lot of money with those grants. Asking about the future might save you from accepting a job you’re bound to hate, and if nothing else, it’ll show the interviewer that you’re a forward-looking person.
Lastly, McCord says, it’s useful to ask how the job changes throughout the year. If you’re a real people person who likes the idea of courting new clients, but it turns out that only happens during certain months, and the rest of the year is spent working solo at a desk, then the job that looked so great on paper might not be right for you. Touching on how the job changes throughout the year will make you look good, just like the previous two questions, and even if you’re walking into a role where the duties are fairly constant, you might get a sense of when the busy seasons are. If things get crazy in December, and you’re someone who likes to tune out during the holidays, you may consider holding out for another opportunity.