In theory, answering questions fired at you by an interviewer should be a much sterner test than coming up with questions from your side of the desk. Yet many people struggle to think of really good topics to raise with the interviewer. Others are so anxious to avoid being seen as overly demanding that they ask only the most insipid or trivial questions.
Licence to Ask
Cuts both ways:
Don’t assume it’s only you who has to impress; the interviewer also has work to do: ‘selling’ the job, the workplace and the organisation. Your questions will be both welcome and expected.
The questions you ask may reveal as much about your preparedness, confidence or commitment as the answers you gave earlier; interviewers are not inviting you to ask questions just to be polite.
Prepare and Remember
Lists, lists and more lists:
Write out your ‘stock’ questions before going to the interview – this will help you recall and select when you’re invited to take your turn asking questions; the more you prepare, the less restricted you’ll feel (especially if, as often happens, many of your questions are actually answered during the normal course of the interview)
Challenge the interviewer:
Most interviewers will respond well to more taxing questions – it tells them that you’re interested in your work and in the organisation; you might ask them what the top priorities are for the team over the coming year (and why); how DFT spending might impact on the work of the team and the skills the organisation needs; or what training support will be given (and to what extent employees have an input on their own development).
By all means ask about where the job may take you in the future – but be careful not to give the impression of being impatient to get the job for which you’re applying out the way as soon as possible before climbing the ladder (especially if you’re being interviewed by the very person who might stand in your way)
Certain topics should be strictly off-limits – asking personal questions about the interviewer or people in the team; holidays, lunch hours, how likely it is that you’ll be able to get out the door on the dot of five o’clock… anything that’s unlikely to be a major factor in your decision to accept an offer (should one be made) is best left unsaid.
Do your homework:
The least the interviewer will expect of you is that you’ve visited his or her organisation’s website beforehand – so don’t ask questions whose answers are there for all to see on the website (but by all means ask follow-up questions, showing you’ve done your homework)
Unless the interviewer raises the subject, it’s best to leave salary discussions to your consultant – asking directly about pay or benefits may highlight the fact that the interviewer doesn’t have the personal authority to make promises, leaving them feeling uncomfortable – and while that might not be your fault, it’s better for them to associate their meeting with you for positive reasons.
Deciding which Specific Questions to Ask
Most interviewers will give you an opportunity to ask questions after they’ve finished grilling you, so be prepared to make the most of it. Try to concentrate on issues that are important to you and combine an interest in the company with an interest in the job.
With a wide variety of interview styles and structures, there’s every possibility that everything you want or need to know about the job will have been covered over the course of the interview. There is always more information available though and if you don’t have at least five questions prepared, you’ll come across as passive rather than curious and interested.
Regarding role specific questions, look through the job description to see if there are any areas that you would like more information about. Here are some good examples of the questions you could ask about the role:
- Why has the position become available?
- What are the main objectives and responsibilities of the position?
- How does the company expect these objectives to be met?
- What are the measures used to judge how successful I am in the role?
- What obstacles are commonly encountered in reaching these objectives?
- What is the desired time frame for reaching the objectives?
- What can I expect from you in terms of development and support?
- What aspirations do you have for me at the company?
- Where will the job fit into the team structure?
Good interview preparation should have given you an insight into what it’s like to work for a company, but it’s good to get answers straight from the horse’s mouth in case you’ve misinterpreted anything. These questions are a good place to start:
- What’s the best thing about working at your company?
- What is the main thing the organisation expects from its employees?
- How do you build good relationships within teams?
- What is the turnover of staff like throughout the organisation/company?
- Are there any plans for expansion?
- How would you describe the company culture and management style?
To show your interest and knowledge of the industry the organisation/company operates in, it’s also a good idea to have a question ready regarding a current event or issue in the market. For example, “How do you think the recent contract awards to your two main competitors will affect the future of the industry?”
How well your interviewer reacts and answers your questions gives you a great insight into the company. The interview isn’t just for them to see if you’re the right fit for the organisation – if you’re confident about your skills and ability to do the job, you should also be making sure they’re the right fit for you.
Remember, generally, it’s not a good idea to ask about pay or benefits, as this can make you seem more interested in what the organisation can do for you, rather than what you can do for them. Good interviewers will normally outline the remuneration and benefits package.