Job interviews can be both daunting and challenging—but remember that the interview is just as much a chance for you to evaluate the company as the other way around. And while there is seemingly endless content and advice on acing the interview, the professional world tends to focus less on how to determine whether a role and company is the best fit for your goals and values. One key red flag is when multiple interviewers ask you the same question during an onsite—here we’ll explain why, and what you can do about it.
Many companies preach transparency and open communication, but these values are difficult to instill in practice. Some experienced candidates can detect these inconsistencies when they interview, and keeping an ear out for duplicative questions can help you do the same. When you interview, receiving the same question can be indicative of a deeper disconnect in communication within the team, as it suggests that they’re not even liaising during the interview process for a new team member—which is arguably one of the most important times for a team to be aligned.
We all know (and mostly hate) the go-to generic interview questions… greatest strengths and weaknesses, where do you see yourself in five years, etc., and have likely had to answer each one at least once. But if multiple interviewers within the same organization are asking you the same generic questions, this could indicate that they haven’t really prepared for your interview—and should call into question whether they’d value your contributions to the team.
In addition, generic questions can be indicative of poor listening skills, as interviewers who don’t really pay attention to what you’re saying have a harder time asking follow-up questions. If you feel you’re not being heard in your interview—before you even join the team—it’s worth considering whether this would change if you did come on board.
If, on the other hand, you’re receiving the same questions that have clearly been tailored to your CV and the role, the team might simply be failing to communicate amongst themselves, which a missed opportunity for them to get a better sense of your qualifications for the role.
Best practices for on-sites dictate that each interviewer should have a specific focus area, or something to drill into which can give the team a more holistic view of how you would fit. Failing to do this could either point to poor planning, or simply the team’s lack of experience with hiring. In smaller startups, this may be exacerbated, particularly if there is not yet an HR or recruiting function—so keep in mind the context as you evaluate your interview experience.
To be sure, receiving duplicate questions probably won’t make or break your decision whether or not to join a company, but might be a trigger for you to raise additional questions about the culture and team dynamics. Rather than asking broad cultural questions, which leave room for your interviewers to improvise, try to get granular about your concerns—ask about meeting culture, team communication, and feedback processes, or whatever else you’ve found to be important in your past professional experience.
In addition, it might be a good idea to do some due diligence for external insights into the company’s culture, or even details about the team members you’ll be working closely with. Tap your network for connections who know people at the company to see if you can get some firsthand insights into the personalities and working styles of your potential new colleagues. After all, regardless of how exciting the company and product are, your happiness in a new role will likely largely be determined by your relationships with your team and other collaborators, so it’s worth taking seriously any concerns you have about the culture.