Be Your Own Career Private Eye

How do you know whether or not to accept or pass on an employment offer?

One factor involves you asking the right Woman smiling at interview with manquestions during the interview process in order to get the insight you need about the actual work and the organization.

After arriving early before an interview a couple of days ago, I got the opportunity to chat with the Director of Human Resources. She shared that, remarkably, many interviewees neglect to ask one simple question that can provide critical insight in your decision-making process:

“What happened to the person who previously held this role?”

And, in that moment, I realized that question was noticeably absent from my own list of questions!


Most companies will conduct a background check on you. So, conducting a background check on them is smart move. Through research on the organization’s website and a search on LinkedIn, I had discovered who had been in the role for which I was interviewing. However, I had not thought to ask that simple and revealing question.

According to my new HR interview guru, someone being promoted out of a position versus someone exiting voluntarily or involuntarily can provide valuable insight about the company. And, she’s absolutely right. Equipped with this new awareness, I did ask that question during my interview and discovered that my potential predecessor got engaged and relocated for personal reasons.

One of my favorite television characters, Richard Castle played by Nathan Fillion on ABC’s crime-drama series, Castle, completed an online course to become a private detective this season. With this character’s new work and this topic in mind, I wanted to know more about the skills of a PI. I found a quick and useful article, “12 Essential skills for the professional investigator,” that lists skills that are very much applicable in the employment interview process.

Here are five of the 12 skills listed in that article:
1. Project positive attitudes towards others
2. Be clearly and genuinely interested in others
3. Adapt to different personalities and circumstances
4. Communicate effectively with others
5. Manage conversations and effectively draw out information


Become your own career detectiveSome months ago, I also found an article entitled “51 Interview Questions You Should Be Asking.” Of course, no one has time to ask or wants to sit through answering 51 questions. However, the article does provide some great ideas and questions categorized into different areas (e.g., performance, the company, culture, etc.). What should guide your decision on what questions you should ask? Who you are, where you are in your career, and what you want to achieve.

I’m a mid-career professional and I want to stay a while in the next position that I take. So, I’m focused on trying to make sure that a company will be a good long-term fit for me. If I was at the beginning of my career and trying to gain experience to determine the best path for myself, my question list would be different.

Here are some questions that are important to me now:

• Why did you choose to work for this organization?
• What is your mission/vision for your role here?
• What’s your leadership style?
• How will success be measured for this role?
• Who is the employee with the most longevity with the organization and how long have they been here?
• Does your organization support and invest in the professional development of staff?
• What are the normal office hours for employees?
• And of course, “What happened to the person who previously held this role?”

How are you a PI in your own career?

What questions will get you to the answers you need to make an informed decision about an employment offer?


Interview magnifier image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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