5 Things Candidates Want to Know (But Don’t Know How to Ask)

Confident young woman interviews for a position in an office. She is greeting the office manage. She is smiling confidently.

In the modern hiring culture, it’s important to understand that every interview is a two-way road. While you are trying to determine if a candidate is the right fit for your company, the candidate is trying to determine if your company is the right fit for them. This is why all good interviews include moments where the candidate is invited to ask questions, not just answer them.

Candidates often ask for details on the position, benefits, or how your office is designed. But there are also things that they want task yet don’t feel comfortable doing so. Just as there are things you can’t safely ask in an interview, many things a candidate might want to ask will appear to reflect badly on them. Even if the questions are perfectly practical or based on previous bad experiences they want to avoid.

In your goal to hold the best possible interviews, knowing what these unspoken questions are can help you to subtly or even directly address potential candidate concerns without putting them in an uncomfortable position.

“What is the attitude about using PTO days?”

Every workplace has a different attitude about taking rightfully earned paid time off. Some companies discourage taking any time off and will subtly punish employees who take a vacation or even sick days. Any professional who has been in this kind of environment in the past will be wary about just how much of a benefit their on-paper PTO days will be in the future. Others may really like to work and feel weird when pressured to take time off.

Many candidates will want to ask you, straight up, what the company attitude is about taking time off. Are they encouraged to use vacation before it expires, are sick days examined with a fine-tooth comb, or is it really up to their discretion?

“How do you handle performance concerns?”

Internal review and disciplinary concerns are almost never covered in the interview process because, for both sides, it seems like you’re predicting a bad future. An employer who outlines disciplinary process might be saying they expect trouble, while a candidate asking might be saying that they expect to be a problem.

In reality, many hard-working professionals are concerned because they have seen poor performance handled badly in the past. Either they were forced to work with an under-disciplined coworker who caused problems or they saw someone overly punished who just needed some coaching. It would be a comfort to know that your company has a reasonable and effective way to address performance concerns, though this conversation is difficult to start.

“What are my professional development prospects in this position?”

In an interview, almost everyone is privately wondering how long it will take them to start earning raises and what it will take to earn a promotion. Some workplaces are very development-oriented, providing in-line training with great internal hiring options along the way. Others are very resistant to development, with policies that prevent employees from even seeking a small raise until years after their starting day.

Candidates may feel comfortable asking if there will be in-line training, but bringing up raises and promotions during the hiring process seems very premature. Fortunately, this is something you as the interviewer can outline in a friendly way without needing to be asked.

“How do I apply for accommodations I don’t want to discuss with coworkers?”

Many people have private medical concerns, family obligations, and not-so-obvious disabilities that they will need to seek accommodation for. However, they also may not want these private needs to be known by their direct coworkers or affect their working relationships in any way.

This will mean applying for accommodations subtly but without opening the possibility for gossip, pity, or discussion among their team. They want to ask how to privately contact HR, and find out what accommodations are available, but may not be comfortable broaching the topic or seeming needy in the interview process.

“When will I hear back about this job?”

Finally, the question every job candidate wants to ask and is usually too nervous or polite to do so. When will you contact them to provide an offer or decline their candidacy? Every professional in the business has been ghosted and left hanging. Many have been strung along for months before receiving a final decision, and a few have even been given an aggressive and sudden offer they weren’t prepared for yet.

By giving your candidates a realistic timeline for response, and sticking to that, you can start your professional relationship on a very positive note. Even those you decline will appreciate prompt and courteous information about their candidacy and their chances of being considered for the next position that comes along. For more expert advice on how to find the ideal candidates for your business, contact us today!