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If you are only allowed one question in an interview, choose this one.

What are 3 things that hiring managers would prefer that you didn't know? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Ian Mathews, Senior Executive for two Fortune 500 companies, on Quora:

"Do you mind telling me why this position is open?"

If you are only allowed one question in an interview, choose this one. There are only so many reasons that can be plausible.

  1. Company is growing - This is the ideal situation for a new hire. The company is simply growing quickly and the current team needs help. Growing companies offer more opportunities for you as a new hire. Growing companies pay more to retain talent, promote more from within and generally spend more on retention and employee morale. Growing companies are more likely to have competent managers than shrinking companies. If you don't hear about growth when you ask this question, make sure to ask a follow-up question about growth in recent years and months.
  2. Someone was promoted - This is a close second to growth and often synonymous with a rising company. It is a good sign if a company promotes from within as you will have similar opportunities if you perform well. The company is probably growing if they just promoted someone internally (but not always). There is one catch to this answer. You will be following in the foot steps of a star and it may prove difficult to turn heads with your performance. Think of what it would be like to play shortstop for the New York Yankees after Derek Jeter. That is what you are walking into.
  3. Someone was fired - This situation can go either way. On one hand, the bar was set low by your predecessor. If you replace a poor performer, every small win you deliver in the early months will be celebrated. It is all incremental. By comparison to a poor performer, you look great. The other side of this equation is the company might just fire frequently and have unrealistic expectations of individual performance. If you are replacing someone who was terminated, don't be afraid to ask a few follow-up questions to learn more.
  4. Someone left voluntarily - This situation should set off alarm bells. There just aren't many good reasons why employees leave voluntarily. Here are a few stats according to a 2018 research study by Randstad:
    • 60% are leaving or are considering leaving because they do not like their direct supervisor
    • 59% believe their company views profits as more important than how people are treated
    • 58% do not believe their company has enough growth opportunities for them to stay longer
    • 58% are leaving or are considering leaving because of negative office politics

A hiring manager is rarely going to share that the company has an employee retention problem. If you are replacing someone who left voluntarily, think about all of the reasons they could have left.

Acceptable:

  • Retired
  • Moved to a different location
  • Health

Concerning (and much more likely):

  • Relationship with manager
  • Overall office culture is negative
  • Left for more pay

The odds are high that something is amiss if you are replacing someone who left voluntarily. Don't be afraid to ask several follow up questions. Give points to a manager who is honest with you. If a manager tells you that they have lost some good employees and that they take it personally, you might be dealing with a good situation.

Managers with emotional intelligence, confidence and self awareness will shoot straight with you. After all, lying will only backfire two weeks later on your first day. If they want to change the situation, they should recruit people who understand the challenge and are up for it. If not, the situation will keep repeating.

One other potential positive in hiring into a situation with turnover is that the company will be more willing to negotiate on salary. Desperation can drive a company to take unusual steps.

Any interviewer is going to dig in and ask about why you left every employer on you resume. They want to know what motivated you to leave and determine if you'll be a flight risk in their culture.

You have every right to ask the interviewer the same line of questioning as to why they are hiring in the first place. Dig in until you are satisfied with the answer and understand exactly what you are signing up for.

Good luck out there!

This questionoriginally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

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