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Sep 22, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

New hires will always have a deluge of questions to ask about their new workplace.

  • How does everything work?
  • Who will I work with regularly?
  • What does this do?
  • And what does that do? 

They ask these questions because most on-the-job learning is apophatic — learning by understanding what their job is not.

When they ask questions about every little process as part of their new hire orientation, they’re eliminating uncertainty from their job. It shows that they care. Woe is the manager whose new hire asks them nothing.

Turning the tables on job candidates

What we don’t expect is for managers to turn the tables on candidates and ask a few questions themselves.

Why would they? Between reading their resume, interviewing them, and getting their onboarding together, what don’t managers know about the people they hire?

Well, more than we’d like to think, and asking the right questions can reveal several things about cultural fit, work ethic, and of course, what that thing really does.

What questions should you ask of your new hires? I’m glad you asked…

1. What’s the biggest difference between what you thought the job was like and what it’s really like?

This is a great question, for two reasons. It identifies what job your candidate thought they were getting into, and it can help improve job descriptions.

Did you know only 50 percent of administrative professionals think their job description is accurate? If this pinpoints a difference crucial to the way the job works, (for example, if they didn’t think a software job would involve so much databasing), it could be a sign they aren’t exactly fit for the job right out of the gates.

As part of your new hire orientation, make sure your new employee is where they thought they’d be.

2. What’s the hardest part of getting used to working here?

This is generally a question you ask further down the road, but asking it earlier can prove far more useful.

Sometimes, the biggest issue new employees have is knowing whom to ask the tough questions. Often, this admission to difficulties in the workplace come long after the new hire orientation because the employee doesn’t want to seem incompetent or needy. But understanding the problems employees have earlier on can help you improve future orientations.

Taking the initiative shows you’re interested in them and leaves them free to bring up problems without fear of being seen as a bad hire.

3. What part of your job are you most excited about doing?

This is another question that could help you redefine the role you’ve hired for.

Sometimes, people end up moving to another department. Other times, they start off doing a variety of things at a company before settling on a specific role. This question can help you find what your employee does best, or what they love doing most.

If they need to change departments, consider that external hires receive significantly lower performance evaluations and have higher exit rates than internal ones. So it pays to ask this one early.

4. Is someone taking care of you?

We don’t mean this in a grander sense, of course. If you’re a hiring manager, you don’t have the time to spend all day with your new hires, but you should at least check in with them regularly throughout their first week.

More importantly, you need to make sure that someone at your company is guiding your new hire during their early days at your company. You may have a laissez-faire attitude about work and not want to micromanage, but 37 percent of HR people want a mentor program as part of their new hire orientation.

Your employees may have to take a big part of their day to help the new person along, but consider it a long-term investment.

5. Are you sure you want to work here?

Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt.”

Your new hire may be uncertain about their new position, whether it’s because of their lack of cultural fit, their inability to find proper footing within their work, or for a number of other reasons. You may not like the answer, but you need to make sure your employees love their jobs, even as much as six months in.

Some hires are lost in doubt, waiting for someone to ask them this question and help them crystallize their uncertainty into something they can be sure of. It’s a tough question to ask, for sure, but asking it will ultimately lead to better things for you and your new employee.

These questions will catch them off guard

Most of these questions can catch employees off guard since they’re used to being the ones asking the questions. But you need to cover these bases, make sure your employees are working on the right projects, and more importantly, staying at the right company.

Ask these questions and you may need to hire again, but in the long-term, it’ll be the best thing you could have done.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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