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I am looking for Job change and attending Job Interviews. But I am concerned about job security. I have framed the following questions where the answers from prospect employers would helpful in addressing my concern. Those questions are

  • How your company has sustained when there is a recession occurred in 2008?
  • Now IT is highly on competitive edge and facing many challenges all over the world. What is your strategy and plans to sustain and secure your employees growth?
  • Does your company involves any cost cutting measures in the downtime? If yes May I know what are those?
  • How secure the job in your organization?

Now my specific questions are
Is it professional and asking such questions in Job Interview?
How can I professionally pose questions related to job security to the potential employer with out getting bad impression?

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I don't think anyone can answer those questions. If you are in the position to ask for it, demand a severance package. If your severance package is one years salary, then laying you off is not going to cut costs in the short run. –  emory Aug 30 '13 at 20:54

8 Answers 8

I think you are hoping for an honest answer when you ask these questions:

  • How your company has sustained when there is a recession occurred in 2008?
  • Now IT is highly on competitive edge and facing many challenges all over the world. What is your strategy and plans to sustain and secure your employees growth?
  • Does your company involves any cost cutting measures in the downtime? If yes May I know what are those?
  • How secure the job in your organization?

The questions themselves show a genuine desire to understand the corporate culture; I think a realistic interviewer can identify with your concerns... there isn't a problem asking the questions themselves.

The somewhat cynical-but-sad reality is that some supervisors will not tell you the truth if you ask. So the quandary you are in is how to know the answers are genuine when you know virtually nothing about the daily political dynamics or corporate machinations.

In two different jobs, I remember directors or VPs telling us that there was no possibility the company would be sold, or that there would be layoffs (the argument was that we had fixed our product quality issues; however, most of us knew better). Within six months, those statements were obviously false and the very event that was so vigorously denied happened.

I have noticed that sometimes the thing that people most desperately don't want you to believe is in-fact what you should be most concerned about. GoodMost managers know that people avoid uncertainty like the plague; some employees would proactively leave if the difficult truth were known. These unethical managers have a "plan" to fix the issues, and this is their twisted justification for lying to employees and prospects.

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+1 At best interviewers will say anything to make the company sound better if they can without outright lying –  Paul Brown Jan 4 '13 at 12:27
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@yueerhu - While I am pretty sure it isn't the case that the VPs didn't stretch the truth in your case, its not out of the realm of possiability that, the situation changed and what they thought what was unrealstic actually happen. An example would be being offered a million dollars for a company only worth 500k dollars, if they never thought it would be offered, and it just so happens they were offered their magic number. –  Ramhound Jan 4 '13 at 13:11
    
+1 for a great answer although I think jumping to the conclusion that they are lying to you is extreme. Most spin doctors believe their own spin (or at the very least wish it to be true). The takeaway is that simply by working for a private company you are always at risk of being laid off. No words by any authority will ever change that, and simply because human beings are creatures of comfort we will live in denial about the true risk and believe what is more convenient and makes us feel better. It is important to be skeptical and listen to your intuition rather than authority. –  maple_shaft Jan 4 '13 at 17:56
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Also be aware that if they are negotiating with a company to buy them, they are likely forbidden to discuss it or the deal may fall through. There may even in some situations be legal reasons why they cannot discuss things before they happen. –  HLGEM Jan 4 '13 at 20:12
    
+1, If you can do it, it is always a good idea to try to have a frank and informal discussion with someone who is a past or current employee (outside of the context of the job interview). –  Angelo Jan 5 '13 at 15:14

These are relevant questions but they can backfire so you need to prepare properly and phrase them carefully.

Do you homework first. Research as much as possible, form your own opinion and only ask questions that are supplemental to what's publicly available.

Bad: "So how is your stock price doing?" This is a really dumb questions, since you can find this out in 10s yourself.

Good: "So I see that your stock price had a bit of a roller coaster this year. Now the Wall Street journal thinks you are on a good path and while the New York Times was less bullish. Could you give me insider perspective, without violating any confidentiality". This clearly shows that you have prepared and that you have specific interest in the business side.

Bad: "Will you be having layoffs?" Too blunt and too controversial.

Good: "I have read that your revenue did somewhat decline this year, do you think this may have any impact on the size and structure of your work force?". Again, it shows preparedness and business concern.

Another good way is to sneak the question and relating it to the job: "What do you think are currently the biggest threats/competitors/obstacles to your business and how could I help in this role to address them".

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Those are good questions when you are speaking with someone who is in a position to know this. An IT manager that is likely to be interviewing the OP is probably not at that level. But I agree with your premise of having some knowledge and demonstrating it. Just take care not to come across as pompous or like a "Know-it-all" when you ask the questions. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jan 4 '13 at 14:40

I did something very similar in an interview, I didn't get the job and the strong signal was because I'd asked those questions.

Now I'm more experienced and I've interviewed more, I think I know why it didn't come across well - always try and frame questions positively and do your own research outside of the interview. Don't put the interviewers in an impossible position (they want to sell you the company, asking them for negatives will be hard, especially something as negative as job security) if you can help it.

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Maybe, it's a good thing for you that you didn't get job there. Perhaps, it's not only the HR manager rejects candidates who ask hard questions; your not-happened-to-be colleagues might expose the same attitude. :) –  bytebuster Jan 5 '13 at 5:41
    
It might help your answer to give the question exactly as asked; it could be that the way you asked was what threw them off. –  Andy Jan 6 '13 at 21:32

How could they answer that question? No one will guarantee job security. If the organization needs to evolve to stay relevant in the market that could make some job roles extinct, they are not going to keep them around because of a guarantee made in some interview a few years back. If you are lousy at your work, they need to be able to make changes and not be beholden to a guarantee made in your interview.

With a bit of research, you can learn the 2nd question on your own. You can mask the question a bit about talking about growth over the last year to year or something similar. Else, find the answer on your own. If you ask it, they are going to respond optimistically and say, yeah, we're doing great.

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Short answer: It's possible to ask these questions without too much negative impact your job search, but not asking these questions is definitely the "safer" way to go. If this is a key area of concern for you, then ask the questions as well as you can. If it's more of a curiosity, don't bother.

If you're interviewing a "good" company, questions on those topics should be fine. Because those questions aren't standard and answering them can be uncomfortable, there will of course be interviewers out there who will hold those questions against you when making the hire/no-hire decision. If you don't want to work for a company that has had problems in this area, those are the ones that are most likely to take offense so the actual impact on your desirable job prospects may be minimal.

You can help mitigate that by framing those questions well. If you're asking, it's probably because you had recent experience with job insecurity, so leading in to the questions with something like, "My previous employer had trouble responding to a recession, and ended up doing things like laying off high-quality peers (or whatever the problem was)." Be careful with this, because you're criticizing your previous employer, which can be a major no-no in interviewing.

Adding, "I don't enjoy switching jobs, and I'd like to work for a company with which I can see a long future" can help (if it's true). This emphasizes that the reason you're asking the questions is that you'll be a loyal employee and not likely to hop jobs in a year or three.

Of course, you may be able to do research ahead of time and answer the question yourself or be able to ask more targeted questions. If you plan to ask the questions, work with someone you trust (preferably someone who has been an interviewer) to practice asking the questions so that they are as least offensive as possible. I've fielded questions like this, and they were asked in a way that I took it as the candidate's honest interest in working for a company for a long time.

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Asking about future plans and employee growth opportunities is great - but careful work is required here. That's where the research comes in. Do as much as you can to be specific in your questions regarding the company itself and not the industry as a whole. And be aware that managers are going to sell you on the most positive aspects of the company. Hopefully most are honest and will evade rather than lie when they know information that isn't great news from a new hire perspective.

Taking things point by point to improve the questions:

How your company has sustained when there is a recession occurred in 2008?

This is something you can research - do they have stock? How was their stock price? Were there any news articles related to recessions?

What was this particular industry doing as a whole? For example the defense industry usually does well in a recession year, but badly a few years after that - so an unscrupulous manager may say "we did just fine, in fact we grew!" but a more business savy person would say "we did well but so did everyone else in this industry - the important part is how we did in 2011 when the tax base from the recession coupled with the retreat from a full scale Middle East operation triggered defense cuts - here's how we did then...."

So, know the industry a bit, know it's challenges and opportunities and ask what the company is doing.

Now IT is highly on competitive edge and facing many challenges all over the world. What is your strategy and plans to sustain and secure your employees growth?

OK - so this one's kind of muddy - employee growth vs. staying competitive are related, but your first statement here is making the manager think about competitive strategies for the organization. The real question is "how do you grow your employees?" - which I assume is stuff like conferences, training, funding of college degrees, growth assignments and mentoring. Asking about all of those is important and totally fine - just make sure you ask a question that will get you a clear answer.

Realize that "do you do state of the art work?" is a pretty hard question to get a straight answer on from most IT managers. Most shops I know of have some awesome advanced work and some ancient legacy work. Chances are the manager will eventually want you do to do at least some legacy work, and is unlikely to admit that. This is an area to tread cautiously in if you worry that your resume is already out of date, since they may very well be hoping to have you do some of that legacy stuff, and saying "I don't want to do that" can be an opportunity killer".

Does your company involves any cost cutting measures in the downtime? If yes May I know what are those?

This one would be really hard for a manager to answer honestly and accurately. I'd probably rephrase this as "what's your strategy when you need to cut costs?" or "how does the business work in a down turn?" As written, there's an implication that what the company did in the last layoff it will do in the next layoff - and in my experience, that's rarely true. Companies reinvent themselves to survive changes in business conditions - how they treated a downturn 4 years ago versus how they'd treat today are honestly quite different.

And the gruesome truths simply won't come up. You will never hear "well, we consider people to be the easiest to reduce cost, so we lay them off first". You will hear all about how careful they are to preserve "as many jobs as possible" and their investment in their people as domain experts, etc. But in the next downturn, just about any company will look at itself and figure out how it needs to change resources to survive.

What to look for, instead, is how the company conceives of its core business - what's the "must do" stuff and what's the new adventure, interesting add-on, or extra support that they would live without if they could? What's your confidence that their view will remain practical and relevant? If you're working in a core area, and you believe it will continue to be vital over the next 5 years, then don't worry about how they did the last layoff - it won't be you.

How secure the job in your organization?

If you can find a manager who can actually answer this, I'll be impressed. Any layoff or reduction in staff is partly the position itself and partly the person in the position. If you provide more value than the cost of your salary and provide more flexibility for moving to a new job - you'll likely do better in a layoff. There's no magic formula.

Any time you transition jobs, you're at a slight risk, as you are the guy who knows the least about what's going on. No manager will say this because you can still survive a layoff by being completely awesome... they can't judge how awesome you are - you only just got there.

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there's an implication that what the company did in the last layoff it will do in the next layoff - and in my experience, that's rarely true - There are quite a few companies that I have worked with that do the layoff cycle including some fortune 500 companies and other companies that are considered industry leaders. It has the effect of weeding out the strong and highly skilled new talent and building a core of mediocrity but the people who make the layoff decisions do not see that level. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jan 7 '13 at 15:50

I'd be wary about the phrasing of these questions as well as how prepared are you for some of these questions to be answered in a rather unsatisfying way. Let me go through these one by one:

How your company has sustained when there is a recession occurred in 2008?

What if the answer is, "This company wasn't around in 2008," or "Those that ran the company in 2008 have left so I don't know how they handled the company." There is also the question of while there may have been a general recession in 2008, within the market of the company, were things so bad in 2008? This is really a big question as in one of my work places things were pretty good in 2008 though now is another story entirely. Thus, you may have to be very careful about what kind of strategies the company has for handling a downturn.

Now IT is highly on competitive edge and facing many challenges all over the world. What is your strategy and plans to sustain and secure your employees growth?

I'm not sure how these come together as the answer to the question is going to be from HR on how the company views employee development. Unfortunately, this is likely to be deflected too as this isn't an easy question to nail down.

Does your company involves any cost cutting measures in the downtime? If yes May I know what are those?

While this is a nice question, the key would be explaining what you want to know about how the company would handle an economic downturn of various scales. While I like the question, the follow-up here is going to be the big challenge.

How secure the job in your organization?

While I can appreciate the concern, this isn't a good question to ask. A better way to phrase this would be, "What do you see as the future for this position?" as the idea here is to figure out what is the idea behind this position. Is it a temporary position while something is being piloted? Is it a well-known position with various opportunities for advancement? While I can understand the question from the side of, "Is this position still going to be here in a few years?" the flip side to consider here is, "Where could I be in a few years?" as there is a good chance that positions will evolve and change and this is part of how the world works these days.

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Is it professional and asking such questions in Job Interview?

absolutely. By asking those questions you show that you are seriously considering working there for a long, long time

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