One of the most common questions we get from candidates as they are preparing for an interview with a company is, “what are the opportunities for growth in this role?”

While a very valid question (and a quality company will want to hire people who are thinking about their long-term professional and personal growth), it must be asked with care.

From a company’s perspective the “growth” question can be perceived as, “how quickly can I get promoted and/or move on from this role to something better?” Most employers are weary of this question simply because they don’t want to be running this same search in 6 months and are looking for someone who is looking to settle into a role for the foreseeable future.

9 times out of 10 this is not the intent of the candidate asking the question, which is why thinking through how to both ask and investigate the “growth” question is worthwhile.

See below for 5 tips on how to investigate potential for growth when interviewing for a new role:

1. Clarify your intent: Ask yourself, what do you mean by “opportunity for growth”? Are you curious if there is room to take on additional responsibilities over time or are you asking if there will be an opportunity to be promoted? Be clear about what the intent of your ask is and formulate a more specific question that will address your concern.

2. Ask a deeper question: A great way to show your future employer that you're eager to grow and learn new things but are very excited about the role you are interviewing for is asking for ways in which you can grow within your role. Do they have a roadmap for how this role can take on more responsibility over time? Do they encourage out of the box thinking from this person? Is there opportunity for ownership within the role over time? This style of questioning shows that you want to learn and grow but are excited about the role you are interviewing for.

3. Think about timing: Think about when you ask the growth question. We recommend saving questions about growth opportunities until the final stages of the interview process, not during the first interview. It’s distracting and actually a deeper question that can be better addressed after getting to know each other better.

4. Read between the lines: Take a look at the company’s team page. Many employers will highlight if they value personal/professional development on their website. Do they offer a professional development/education stipend? If so, chances are they value growth in their employees.

5. Do your research: Do your research on LinkedIn. Notice if employees have stayed at the company longer than a year and if so, have they been promoted over time? If they have, that’s a positive indicator that they value growth and are making an investment in their employees.

In short, it’s great that you want to know about growth opportunities when interviewing - that means you are a smart, driven, and quality hire! The key is just to think critically about how to ask and understand the opportunity in a way that isn’t misunderstood by the interviewer.