6 important questions to ask your next employer

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Stylist Team
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A stylish woman in a job interview

Posing smart questions in a job interview is just as important as having impressive answers. Suss out if you really want to work somewhere with these savvy queries. 

In a strange twist, some of the tricky issues that are currently dominating the headlines – such as Brexit, the gender pay gap and mental health awareness – are also the reasons now could be the perfect time to find a new job.

With the UK’s departure from the EU threatening to squeeze skilled workers out of the talent pool, the second national reports on gender and pay due, and companies reassessing policies on harassment and workplace anxiety, employers are finally realising they need to offer new employees more than just a token pension scheme. 

In fact, you may well be in a stronger position when going into a job interview than you’d previously thought. By 2025, millennials will make up the majority of the global workforce, and our approach towards careers is already shaping how businesses are run. According to the latest Deloitte Millennial Survey, more than 40% of millennials expect to leave a job within two years – meaning that employers need to prioritise issues like diversity and flexible working policies if they want to attract and retain talented staff.

Feeling empowered? Here are six questions to ask your potential new boss at your next job interview. 

1. What are you doing to ensure your male and female employees have equal pay?

A woman and man discussing the gender pay gap in a job interview
How to bring up the gender pay gap in a job interview

We know disparities in pay and opportunity for men and women aren’t new, but the push to finally see a substantial shift in the matter is. Last year, the government made it compulsory for companies with 250 or more employees – who are collectively responsible for employing more than 50% of all jobs in the UK – to publish their pay gap data annually.

The first reports were made public last spring and showed that there was a 14.5% gap in favour of men, based on mean hourly pay. Depressingly, more than three-quarters (78%) of employers reported a gender pay gap in favour of men.

This year, organisations will be required to disclose their gender pay gap for a second time, revealing the average percentage difference between their male and female staff earnings, with figures broken down by hourly rate to account for those working full or part-time.

It’s the perfect opportunity to probe. “While almost every employer will have a gap this year, what matters is what they do with the information. The best employers will use it as an opportunity to take action and implement policies that support their whole workforce,” says Conservative MP Anne Milton.

2. How flexi is your flexitime?

Flexitime is no longer the preserve of parents and caregivers. Increasingly we all want our job to fit into our lives better, whether that’s having time to walk our dog or avoid rush hour. 

Research by communications company Powwownow says 67% of us would like to be offered flexible working, while 40% would choose it over a pay rise. And, in a study of 5,000 employees by Flexjobs, 62% said they’d left or considered leaving a job because it didn’t have work flexibility. 

Those leading the charge include Unilever and Vodafone, praised for their flexitime policies, with companies such as Netflix and LinkedIn going a step further by offering their employees unlimited holiday.

3. How does your company support its employees’ wellbeing?

Staff in an employee meeting
How to ask about employee wellbeing in a job interview

With continuing discourse around mental health, we’re in the midst of a seismic shift in our expectations of employer accountability. The latest research from the Health and Safety Executive into work-related stress, depression and anxiety in the UK reveals there were 595,000 cases recorded in 2017/18, with 15.4 million working days lost due to these factors.

“More people expect organisations to show concrete steps have been taken to ensure workplaces are open, honest and active when it comes to gender equality and mental health, or whether complaints are hushed up,” says John Lees, career coach and author of The Success Code.

4. How could Brexit affect this role?

An EU flag
What and how to ask about Brexit in a job interview

While there continues to be a maelstrom around Brexit and our leaving date, quizzing a prospective employer on their agenda during the process will give you an insight into their approach to change as a whole.

Laura Hinton, chief people officer at PricewaterhouseCoopers, explains, “It’s about the employer having open communication so there won’t be any surprises, whether that be via an immigration helpline for staff concerned for themselves or their family, or a list of frequently asked questions.”

5. How do you encourage staff to give back?

A woman volunteering at an allotment
How to ask about corporate volunteering in a job interview

Research by Deloitte reveals that being involved in good causes through work gives employees a real sense of empowerment, with 77% involved in such initiatives last year (companies such as Allianz, Nationwide and Experian give staff a set amount of paid leave to dedicate to volunteering). 

Businesses have to articulate what their core values are as we now look for them to match our own. Otegha Uwagba, founder of Women Who and author of Little Black Book: A Toolkit For Working Women, says, “Companies who offer opportunities for their employees to do things such as volunteer with local charitable causes are becoming more the norm than the exception.”

6. What new skills can I learn?

Two women talking at work
How to ask about skill development in a job interview

In a study by Manpower Group, four out of five employees said the opportunity to gain new qualifications and learn new skills was top of their agenda when applying for a new job – with coding and other digital skills becoming increasing priorities. Yet fear of automation means we are looking to future-proof our skill set in other areas too. 

Pip Jamieson, founder of The Dots network, explains, “The three things machines don’t have are common sense, empathy or the human capacity to be creative. This new way of being multiskilled will mean this generation will hold on to their jobs for longer.” 

Sounds good to us.

A version of this article was originally published in issue 339 of Stylist on 16 January 2018. It has been updated throughout.

Words: Kate Leahy / Moya Crockett

Images: iStock / Charles Deluvio / Pexels Photos