- Professional development is becoming increasingly desirable for job seekers.
- Job interviews are a great time to discuss upward mobility within a company.
- Insider spoke with career experts about smart professional development questions to ask.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.3 million American workers quit their jobs in January, and there are currently 10.9 million job openings. With such a demand for workers, American job seekers aren’t just looking for higher-paying work; they’re seeking companies that can promise more opportunities down the road.
That means providing things like career advancement and exposure to new skills and opportunities. As a job seeker, the questions you ask at the end of an interview can be the perfect moment to determine if the company you’re considering fits that bill.
Speaking to career experts and executives, Insider collected 14 questions to ask in your next interview to determine if you’re more likely to advance or stay stuck in place.
1. What qualities are the most important for doing well and advancing at the firm?
Kevin Harrington, CEO of Joblist, says asking this question sends a positive signal to the interviewer that you care about adding value to the company and team.
At the same time, it can be a great way to evaluate whether you would be happy at the company in a year or two from now. If the interviewer describes success as a springboard to other opportunities within the company that you find exciting, that’s a great sign.
If there’s no mention of growth, you will need to go deeper and be more direct with follow-up questions.
2. What is your management style?
Managers are often the single biggest variable that determines your career growth and mobility within an organization. How they answer this question can indicate if they’ll be an advocate for you in the future.
“A good manager who thinks highly of you and cares about helping you achieve your career goals — they can put you on the fast-track,” Harrington said. “Conversely, a poor manager can hold you back and significantly reduce your advancement options.”
He says it’s crucial that you evaluate your potential manager during the interview process. Do they come across as genuine? Do they want to help you grow and develop professionally?
3. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Becca Brown, cofounder of the women’s shoe-care company Solemates, interviewed 20 to 30 job candidates a year in her various roles at Goldman Sachs. She previously told Insider she wished candidates would have asked her this question.
“I think this is a good question for interviewees to ask,” she said, “because as a candidate if you see where the person interviewing you is headed, you can decide if that trajectory is in line with your career objectives. While they don’t have to be completely correlated, it’s helpful for the candidate to have some indication of the interviewer’s direction.”
4. How do you help your team grow professionally?
Bernadette Butler, CEO of StoryTap, and Jasmine Leong, People & Culture Lead of StoryTap, say this question will give candidates insight into mentorship, professional development, and the corporate advancement structure.
Having a proper mentor or supportive leadership is important for employees at every stage in their career. Find out during the interview process how the company operates to ensure you’ll have the necessary team support and team members to learn from.
5. Is this a new role for the company? If so, why was it created, and what managers does this role report to? If not, why did the previous employee leave?
This bundle of questions will give candidates insight into corporate culture, corporate growth, and how the company or team is evolving to the shifting workload, StoryTap says.
If a team member has left after a short period of time that could be a red flag. However, if a team member was promoted or grew into a new role, then you know that it is a company that supports employment advancement.
6. Can you share more about how the company supports its employees with professional development opportunities?
Career coach Sean Carney says this question demonstrates that learning and development are important to the potential employee.
“If an interviewer doesn’t have an answer, with specifics,” he said, “it’s a pretty good sign that it might not be part of the culture.”
Carney advises seeking examples. They provide better clarity of what is actually happening in the company.
7. What have past employees done to succeed in this position?
The answer to this question will give the candidate a template of success. Understanding the standards and expectations of the current role is required for a further movement in the company.
“This gives an idea to the recruiter that the candidate is here to achieve his goals rather than just work for money,” said Daniel Cook, HR director of the Mullen & Mullen Law firm. “Moreover, if the candidate is planning to succeed in his professional career, he would be beneficial for the company as well.”
8. How is performance tied into salary increases? What is a typical percentage increase? Are annual individual and/or team bonuses given?
Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster, says some companies rely solely on documented performance reviews and base that rating on your annual increase, while other companies have informal and ongoing feedback, and base increases on overall performance.
It all depends on the culture, Salemi says, but this answer can give you specific information as well as insight into their company culture.
9. How do you performance manage and review performance?
This question gives the candidate an opportunity to measure the job’s true requirements, says Damian Birkel, founder of Professionals in Transition Support Group. It can also be a good time to bring up similar accomplishments in previous positions.
Birkel says this is an “igniter question.” It focuses the interview solely on the person that you are meeting.
“Everyone likes to talk about themselves,” he said. “Many times you will learn extraordinary things about those you interview with.”
10. How often do you promote from within the company?
Career development coach Michelle Enjoli says there is no greater way to determine how vested a company is in the growth of its employees than by the rate of promotions within the company.
A high rate of promotions granted internally indicates a high level of engagement, interest, and investment from leadership to their employees.
11. What do the career paths of those who have held this position look like?
With this question, Joblist’s Harrington says, “you can quickly understand how others before you have progressed within the company (or not) and determine whether the available growth opportunities are a fit for your goals.”
For instance, he says, is there a standard promotion track? Do people have flexibility to transition into different areas of the company? How long do people tend to stay at the company?
“You are likely to receive answers to many questions by asking about the role’s expected career trajectory,” Harrington said.
12. How long have you been with the organization, and how have you been able to fulfill your development goals?
Asking an interviewer this question gives the candidate a firsthand experience from someone who is not only interviewing them, but is also an employee themselves.
HR consultant Raisa M. Ramos says that while the level of transparency in responses will vary, asking this question shows that the candidate is genuinely interested and wants to know if what they’ve heard by this point in the interview represents an employee’s typical experience.
13. I always appreciate connecting with more individuals across the organization, especially in senior leadership. Will I have the opportunity to interact with them in this role?
Networking with senior staff will give you a better idea of whether this role is right for you, says career coach Eliana Goldstein.
It can also create the type of relationships necessary for moving further in the company, she says.
14. If I were doing this job really well, what would be happening [on the team, with the project, in the department, in the organization] that is not happening now?
Career coach Jamie B. Gelbtuch stresses the importance of identifying the “gap” between where the team — or project, department, organization — is now and where they would like to be.
“Where there’s a gap, there’s a goal!” Gelbtuch said. “Once a candidate knows what success looks like and what the current gaps are, they can figure out how to best position themselves for the role, do it well, and continue on a path of upward mobility.”