How Is the Company Performing? (Questions for the Interviewer)

By Joe Stein

There are many questions that are considered standards, in that I mean they are asked year-after-year and really are almost a given during an interview. In contrast, there are questions that are asked because of something that is occurring at the moment that causes that issue to become relevant.
 
The question of “How is the Company Performing” is one that has taken additional meaning and relevance over the last year. It has gone from a question that may have startled an interviewer to one that is asked rather frequently and may even be expected.
 
A key will be to ask this question in a non-threatening and non-confrontational manner that will spark conversation. Let’s take a deeper dive regarding this question in order for you to determine if it works for you.
 
 
Why Should You Ask It?
 
·        Know What You Are Getting Into – Asking this question provides you with some information to assess the performance of the organization. Keep in mind, whatever response you receive will most likely be a “safe” answer that the Hiring Manager may have been coached on. The question should not be asked in lieu of research, but rather to assist you in what has been already gathered via a variety of resources. For Job Seekers, it is critical that they attempt to land with a company that will provide them some stability. This is important not only for their own obvious personal reasons, but also to provide some continuity to their resume. This is even more crucial for those individuals currently gainfully employed but potentially leaving an organization to join another.
 
·        Another Point of View – In some occasions, you may receive a different perspective from someone inside the organization than via public information. For example, you may be reading about how sales are down with the organization, but the rest of the story may be how cost containment has proven successful, or that the company is better positioned than their competition. The point being that there may be more to the story than just what the news reports.
 
·        Appear Engaged – This question will allow you to appear engaged and active in your job search. It displays that you aware of the surroundings of the industry and the employer, along with an interest in how they are connected.   
 
How It Can Be Asked:
 
·        “I Have Been Following Your Industry…” – By asking the question in context to the industry it removes some of the pressure surrounding focusing on just the prospective employer. Try to tie the question around something topical that you have read about the industry.
 
·        “I Recently Read In the News…” – This is a fairly safe way to ask this question, in that the Interviewer should be aware of what has been reported. He or she may even have received some “Talking Points” from Management to assist in responding to the question.
 
·        “How Have You Positioned Yourself in This Current Economy?” – This is a nice way to ask the question in an open-ended, non-opinionated way. When you ask the question in this manner, you are not assuming anything regarding the company other than just inquiring to what they have done. A key, when asking the question this way, will be to not appear as if you have failed to do any leg-work or research.
 
 
How Not To Ask the Question:
 
·        In Lieu of Preparation – Do not ask the question and engage in the conversation when you have not done your research. It will cause you to appear shallow and non-engaged.
 
·        By Sharing Confidential Information – You may have received some information about the prospective employer during the course of your networking. This “scoop” may be, in some form, confidential. Be careful, during the conversation, NOT to share any information that is not for public knowledge.
 
·        In a Confrontational Way – This is not a 60-Minutes interrogation. In no way should you come across as confrontational or demanding when making your inquiry. This is especially true if you currently are employed by a company that is a competitor to the organization you’re speaking to. You may come across as someone who is pumping the competition for information.
 
 
The Q&A portion of the interview is a crucial time for you to gather information and, to further sell yourself. Take advantage of the natural give and take of this portion of the interview by asking questions that will allow you the time to either provide information regarding why you should be hired, or display yourself in a positive fashion. 
 
As always, best of luck in your job search.