Particularly if you have been out of work for a while, it is easy to start thinking that the interview is just a one-way street – an opportunity for an interviewer to ask you lots of difficult questions before ushering you to the door and then jotting ‘rejected’ against your name. No, that’s not true.
What questions shall I ask in an interview?
Do you have any questions for me?
Interviews are two-way streets and, if you haven’t been doing your bit, then no wonder you haven’t been getting those job offers. As an ex-interviewer, there is little worse (OK, yes there are things that are actually worse) than having someone sit in front of you like a big lump of cold suet pudding. As an interviewer, you’re bored, fed up with the same dreary candidates and worried that none of them are ‘up to it’ or possess an iota of star quality. Another dull candidate comes and goes and you’re one further down the list. So you long for an interviewee to show some signs of sparkle.
As an interviewee, what should you ask to brighten up the interviewer’s day?
Well, what is the function of an interview?
The purpose is for both you and the interviewer to decide if you are suitable for the company and if the company is suitable for you. Therefore give some thought as to how that might be achieved. You have to be positive here – assume the job has got your name is written on it (which it might have if you ask the right questions).
Let’s split what you should ask into 3 categories.
Make the interviewer feel that this job matters by having researched the company beforehand and thus being in a position to ask about their recent projects, developments, products, strategies etc. Even five minutes on the internet can get you a wealth of information and there’s usually a company leaflet that summarises everything – so download it and print it out. Without being obvious, let the interviewer see you’ve brought it with you – refer to it, perhaps.
No matter how menial the job you are applying for, find a connection between it and one of these projects or developments. Listen attentively to the interviewer’s response and try to find a follow-up question in the interview.
- What do your staff enjoy about working here?
- How often do you review your staff?
- When will you be making a decision?
An interview is a prelude to a very formal and very binding contract. Don’t be embarrassed about asking pertinent questions or afraid of losing a job as a result. Querying salary (that’s why you go to work), working hours, holidays etc should not cost you a job. In fact, it should demonstrate your businesslike attitude and confidence.
If you are one of those people who find such things awkward, get over it. Practise with a friend or in front of a mirror but get over it now, today. Your main opportunity for sorting out conditions of employment is in the interview so make a list beforehand of what you need to know, take it into the interview with you and tick off the questions as the interviewer answers. That includes during the interviewer’s little speech that he or she will make at the outset.
- What else can I show you about my experiences?
- What is the reason for the vacancy?
- What does a typical day look like in this role?
- Why do people leave your company for other roles?
- What is the next step in your interview process?
Again, this is your big chance. While asking dozens of questions about time off for various reasons might set off alarm bells in the interviewer’s head, posing a couple of ‘general ones’ about flexible working, being able to make time up if necessary, holiday dates etc fair game. It’s better to find out at this stage than to land the job and then get involved in a bitter wrangle. If you are worried about seeming ‘too problematic an employee’, intersperse your questions with ones about your new workplace or colleagues.
Listen carefully to the interviewer’s answers and mark them off your list as you get them. Don’t be afraid to make notes or slow the interviewer down while you do so. You can be certain that they would do that with you if they felt the need.
- How many people work in my department?
- Is there anything else you would like to know about me?
- Can I tell you anything more about my qualifications?
- How long have you worked for this company?
Never ask the same question twice so listen hard to the answers and get them clarified if you aren’t clear and always be confident.
A question I was once asked at the interview was ‘What purpose do you see this interview as a serving?’. My answer (which got me a job offer) was, ‘For me to impress your company and for your company to impress me.
If I can do it, so can you.