11 questions to ask about job security in an interview

In an uncertain environment, it’s natural to feel cautious about changing jobs.

Almost a third, or 32%, of Kiwis say they’re concerned about their job security, while 66% are worried about another wave of COVID-19. One in six admit they were planning to leave their current role, but decided to stay because of COVID-19.

But in some sectors, the number of advertised roles is growing. This increased demand for employees means it could be a good time to consider changing roles. Finding out about job security is hard, though, without inside information into the organisation.

Asking the right questions during an interview can tell you a lot about the security of the role and the organisation, and how your potential new employer has adapted to change during the pandemic.

Here are some specific, practical questions to ask during a job interview to find out about the security of a role, and what it’s like to work for that business in a time when things are uncertain.

Questions about the role

Part of assessing security includes working out whether the role is right for you, so that you don’t have to leave it just a few months in and find yourself back in the market for a job.

Asking questions to understand the role will help you work out whether you’re the right fit, says Leah Lambart, Career Coach at Relaunch Me.

“Ideally, you don’t want to accept a role that really isn’t going to suit you at all, and then find yourself in a bad position six months later,” she says.

Asking the following questions will help you determine if the position is going to suit you long-term:

  1. What type of person usually succeeds in this role? Or what are the key skills and attributes someone needs to be successful in this role?
    It’s nice to think we’re the right fit for a role we’re being interviewed for. Rather than assume this though, asking a question like this helps you discover whether you are actually a good fit for the role on offer. Is it what you expected it to be from the job description? Do you have the right personality, strengths, skills and experience to be successful?
     
  2. How do you measure success in this role?
    This question will help you assess whether the expectations of the hiring manager or organisation are realistic, particularly given the current challenges faced by many businesses. This question will help you understand where the bar is set in term of performance expectations, and whether you think it’s realistic and something you want to be striving to achieve. 

Finding out about the longevity of the role will reveal whether there will be an opportunity to progress with the company in the future, Lambart says. To get a better understanding of this, ask questions such as:

  1. What would be a typical career path for someone starting in this role?
     
  2. What skills would someone usually develop working in this position, and what would this lead to?
     
  3. What learning and development opportunities are available in this role?

    “These questions will help you understand what the career path might be look like, and help to ensure you have a good sense of what the role may lead to on a longer-term basis,” Lambart says.

    Organisations and managers who are clearly thinking about development and career progression can be a good indicator of job security.

    Lambart explains that this is extra important if you’re looking for a role you can settle into without moving again too soon.

Questions about the organisation

Plenty of industries and organisations have either directly or indirectly been affected by the pandemic. Lambart suggests asking questions to help understand how the organisation has been affected, and what they’re doing to overcome those challenges.

David George, Managing Director of Michael Page Australia explains that you can uncover how COVID-19 has affected a business by asking the following questions:

  1. What impact did the pandemic have on your revenue or profit in 2020?
    This will help you understand how sustainable the company is, and whether they were able to adjust their business model quickly to the changing environment, George says.

    “This will also indicate how nimble the business is, and how resilient they are in difficult conditions.” You can also ask whether they received JobKeeper funding, and if they relied on it to keep going.
     
  2. What have you done to reduce risk and reposition your offering to customers?
    This will show how the business is setting itself up to future-proof against future downturns. “This gives an indication into how forward-thinking and agile the business is. Have they learnt new and better ways to operate in order to protect themselves?”
     
  3. What is your medium-term strategy?
    This will indicate whether the business is evolving and adapting to the new environment, George says. “Or are they simply operating in the same way as before the pandemic and hoping for the best or not learning from the experience?”
     
  4. What headcount changes have you made in the last two years?
    This will show how they prioritised their staff and if they supported their key employees, George says.

    “Did they do what they could to retain people, or did they simply let them go as soon as the market was challenging, only to rehire again once the worst of the pandemic passed?”
     
  5. How have you adapted to flexible and remote working, including adopting new technologies?
    This will help you understand if the organisation is looking to the future and learning how to evolve in the new world, George says. Asking about technology will also reveal the options you have to continue working during lockdowns and from flexible locations. “If the business isn’t evolving, then it’s stagnating and in time could fail.”

    Asking this question also provides you an opportunity to assess whether the organisation’s offering meets your expectations in term of flexibility.
     
  6. How do you feel you have performed in relation to your key competitors over the last two years?
    Are they taking market share or delivering on their key objectives, and therefore creating opportunities for their employees, or are they struggling to deliver and going backwards?

    “This will give an indication of the future stability of the business,” George says.

It’s important to listen to an organisation’s responses to questions like these in the context of the recent pandemic. Many businesses have struggled but still kept their heads above water by being adaptable, innovative and supporting their staff.

Job security matters, of course. But being overly cautious can mean that a great opportunity might pass you by. 

These key questions will not only reveal information about the organisation and potential level of job security, but will also show that you’ve done your research and have put thought into the new role.

Finding out that extra information will give you the confidence to make a move to a new opportunity – if it’s the right role for you.

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4000 Kiwis annually. Published September 2021.