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Economic Uncertainty and Job Interviews: What You Must Ask (and Avoid) to Land the Job

Alexane Lambert

Mon, 24 Apr, 2023

  • Reading Time:
    ~ 3 minutes

Navigating the job market can be challenging, especially during times of economic uncertainty. While you can’t predict how a new job will turn out, you can use the interview process to get a good feel for the health of a company and how its leaders are thinking about steering the ship. With news of tech layoffs and a potential economic downturn, doing your due diligence is more important than ever.

In this article, we’ll explore eight questions that you should ask during your interview to help you spot any problematic companies and identify those that give you confidence. For many of these questions, you aren’t looking for specific answers. Instead, look for honesty, transparency, and a sense that the business is well-run.

1. How are you thinking about the runway?

The runway is the number of months a business has before it runs out of cash. Anything less than 12 months is a cause for concern, and any business that doesn’t come across as honest in this question should be a red flag. The best businesses will talk about scenarios and how they’ll respond to the changing market. This shows that they’re thinking about the future smartly since no one truly knows what will happen. Weaker answers will be vague.

2. How has your sector been affected by the economic downturn?

Before your interview, it’s important to research the company and its sector. This question allows you to get the company’s take on the market changes and see if they respond with a good sense of perspective versus being overly optimistic.

3. How has your company been affected by the downturn in tech?

You want to see signs that the company can respond quickly to changing and concerning circumstances. If you’re not satisfied with their answer, it might be worth being more direct with a question like “What’s happened to key metrics since the start of Jan 2022?”.

4. How much do you expect to grow in the next 12-24 months?

This broad question allows a company to talk about the growth of the team, revenue, and product. Will this be a period for the company to survive or thrive? If a business is currently not making revenue, ask them when they expect to start making money. Be wary if the answer sounds overconfident.

5. How have your plans changed in line with the market environment?

Here, you’re looking for clear examples that the company is adapting to the changing environment. The best companies will show a level of focus and have a clear strategy that they’re able to articulate confidently with you. Press further with questions like “What are your top areas of investment?” and “How are you going to win?”

6. Have you made any layoffs?

If a company has made layoffs, this isn’t necessarily a red flag. It is, however, a reason to probe and see how they respond and talk it through. Do they speak about employees like numbers or people? If they haven’t made layoffs, there’s still value in asking hypothetical questions like “What would cause you to make layoffs?” and “if you were to make layoffs, are there any areas of the business that will be more affected?” to get a feel for how they think.

7. How are you thinking about the value of employee share options given the market adjustment?

Share options are often a benefit of joining an early-stage company. However, the valuation of tech companies has fallen in the last 6 months, and that means some companies are now overvalued. The best companies will talk about how much they were worth at the last valuation and whether that’s now a fair reflection of their current value. Additional questions to ask here could be “What valuation does the company have to reach for me to get a great outcome?” or “How much upside is there with my options?”.

8. Who can I speak to in the business?

Understand the company’s culture, values, and work environment. These insights can help you decide whether the company is a good fit for you and can help you prepare for any challenges you may face.

In conclusion, when it comes to interviewing for a job during times of economic uncertainty, it’s important to do your due diligence and ask the right questions. By asking these eight questions, you can get a good sense of the company’s health and how leaders are thinking about navigating through difficult times. Remember to look for honesty, transparency, and a sense that the business is well-run, and don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions to get a deeper understanding of the company’s situation.

Good luck with your job search!

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