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  1. Blog
  2. Interviewing
  3. March 11, 2021

How to Ask About Growth Opportunities During an Interview

3 types to keep in mind when you're job searching

Desk with a plant with pens stuck in it
Photo courtesy of George Cobbs

Picture this: You apply for a great job opportunity and get selected for an interview. Shortly after, you accept the job offer. After about six months on the job, you realize the company has no plans of investing in your professional development, leaving you to wonder about your future with the organization. 

If you find yourself in this situation, know that you’re not alone. In a 2019 survey conducted by Career Addict, 82 percent of employees reported lack of career progress as a leading reason that they would quit their jobs. Ultimately, employees want to work for a company that invests in their professional development and growth. By asking the right questions during your interview, you can suss out whether the company you’re interested in has growth opportunities.

Read more: The 20 Best Companies for Learning Opportunities     

What counts as ‘growth opportunities’?

There are different types of growth opportunities, so you should familiarize yourself with them ahead of the interview. For example, a salary increase or bonus would fall under financial growth while certificate programs would fall under career growth. 

Keep these examples in mind for your interview:

Type of growth opportunity: Financial 

How to define it: Exclusive opportunities to increase your earnings or enhance your financial profile

Examples:

  • Salary increase and/or bonus

  • Stock options

  • 401k employer matching

Financial growth opportunities are usually offered by larger organizations with bigger budgets, but smaller companies may offer these as well. Regardless of company size, most employers that offer financial growth opportunities require employees to be with the company for up to one year before taking advantage of these benefits. 

Type of growth opportunity: Professional 

How to define it: Any "perks" that are designed to advance your career, help you develop new skills, or expand your professional network. 

Examples:

  • Job promotion/advancement

  • Professional memberships

  • In-person or remote conferences

  • Continuing education

  • Skills-based training

  • Mentorship

Professional growth opportunities can help you earn more money, become a thought leader in your industry, and connect with like-minded professionals. You may need to be with the company for a while to take advantage of some of these opportunities, such as job promotion and continuing education. However, conferences, training, and mentorship opportunities may be available to you sooner. 

Type of growth opportunity: Personal 

How to define it: Opportunities for you to develop yourself outside work and foster work-life balance

Examples:

  • Remote or flexible work

  • Paid voluntary time off (VTO)

  • Bring your baby to work

  • Bring your dog to work day

While you may think I’m kidding about the last two, companies like The Muse have created policies that let new parents bring their babies to work. And companies like Uber, Amazon, Petsmart, and Trupanion have enabled their staff to bring their dogs to work, topping CNBC’s 2019 list of dog-friendly companies

Remote work is great if you want more schedule flexibility while VTO is most desirable if you want to donate your time to a great cause without losing pay. While these opportunities may not help you reap the same benefits as financial or professional growth opportunities, they can certainly help you feel more fulfilled in your life and be more productive when you are on the clock.  

Read more: 13 Perks That Support a Happier, More Diverse Workforce

What to look for in a company with growth opportunities

Companies that value professional growth for their employees tend to share common characteristics. If you notice one of the following, you can be confident that the company offers growth opportunities:

Growth opportunities are included in the job description

Wouldn’t it be great if every job posting included a list of perks and benefits? Although all job postings don't include this information, some do. In a recent review of current job postings, we found that growth opportunities were listed under sections entitled:

  • Select Perks and Benefits

  • Benefits

  • We offer...

  • Compensation

Look for one of these sections (or something similar) in the job posting. This can help you prepare your questions about growth opportunities for the interview.

Current and former employees have left positive reviews

Positive employee reviews are a good sign that the company embraces employee growth. InHerSight, Glassdoor, and The Muse are all useful resources for employer reviews. Here, you can gain insight on what efforts the company has made to promote employee growth and development. 

You like the culture (so far)

Companies with good culture typically invest in their employees. It might be challenging to assess the culture during one interview, but you can look out for promising signs of good culture. Indicators include clear mission and values, racial, gender, and socioeconomic diversity, and employee recognition programs. 

Read more: Ask a Recruiter: How Do I Know if a Company Is Living Out Its Values?

The company is in a growing industry

Keeping your skills sharp in a growing field is a must, so the company should actively support you (and your colleagues) in doing that. Health care, tech, and homestay (think Airbnb) are among the fastest growing industries. If you’re targeting a company in one of these fields, you may find abundant growth opportunities. However, if you find that the company you’re eyeing is hesitant to discuss growth opportunities or expect you to foot the bill for your own professional growth, you may want to find a better fit.

Read more: How to Grow When You Have Nowhere to Go

Specific questions to ask

Even with these pointers, you still may have a hard time spotting a company with growth opportunities. 

Get a better read on them by asking some of the following questions: 

  • Can you please describe the types of growth opportunities the company offers?

  • How has XYZ Company positioned its employees for long-term career success? 

  • How often are skills-based trainings provided?

  • What is the company’s stance on professional development for employees?

  • Now that conferences and networking events have stopped, how has the company invested in other professional development opportunities for staff? 

  • What opportunities for mentorship are provided at the company?

  • If I want to learn or advance my skills in marketing, would I be able to shadow someone with expertise in this area?

Read more: 4 Red Flags in Job Descriptions That Should Make You Think Twice

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Photo of Kaila Kea-Lewis

Kaila Kea-Lewis

Contributor

Kaila Kea-Lewis is a career coach and freelance writer, mainly covering career changes, job searching, and self-development. As a long-time advocate for remote work, she also enjoys writing about remaining productive while working from home. Her bylines include InHerSight, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, and ZipRecruiter.

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