By Clay Wyatt
Posted on 04/01/2016

Suppose you receive a job offer. Just before you accept, you learn that the two previous individuals who held that position were terminated for making minor errors within their first month on the job. Are you still confident that you should take it?

There are plenty of things to consider when evaluating a job opportunity. While it might not seem important to know why the company is hiring, this information can help you decide whether this is somewhere you want to work. But you’ll want to be tactful in this situation to avoid inadvertently decreasing your odds of receiving an offer. With this in mind, here’s how to ask why a job is open.

Ask Why the Job is Open

It’s just that simple in terms of the wording of your question. Simply ask why the job is open. The interviewer will hopefully give you an accurate response that you can use to help determine whether to work there if you receive an offer.

Don’t Suggest that the Previous Employee Left

“Why did the previous employee leave this job?”

The above question may seem harmless enough. However, the interviewer might be offended by it. Also, unless you are certain that someone left voluntarily, there are many reasons the job could be open.

Consider the Timing

The timing of your question may be important. The Orlando Sentinel advises waiting until it appears that an offer may be forthcoming before asking it. In other words, as it suggests, you shouldn’t ask this as soon as you sit down in the interviewer’s office.

Interpret the Response

“The previous employee was terminated for looking at me the wrong way.”

You’d probably hesitate to move forward if you received the above response. And while you probably won’t hear this exact comment in a future interview, there may be others that signal that you shouldn’t work there. Examples include those that suggest there is a high turnover rate or that there are chronic staffing issues. And if the interviewer makes negative comments about a previous employee, this is also a bad sign as this may be someone who won’t hesitate to damage your reputation if things don’t work out.

On the other hand, if the job is open due to growth within the company, you’ll have a good idea that it is doing well, which could translate into job security and other potential benefits. For example, if the interviewer says that the company has grown from two to 25 employees in two years and is currently filling five new positions, this is obviously a company that is growing fast. While this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll enjoy the job, it probably means the company won’t close its doors anytime soon.

The Bottom Line

Asking why a job is open may seem awkward and unimportant. However, tactfully doing so can be helpful for determining whether to move forward with a given job. As such, consider the mentioned tips during your next job interview.