When imagining an interview situation it is typical to picture ourselves alone on one side of a desk, being bombarded by a seemingly unending barrage of questions intended to root out our weaknesses and prove our lack of suitability for the role.
Of course the reality is rarely quite as bad as that, but the intense nature of the experience can make us sometimes neglect one key component of the interviewing process – the part where you get to ask questions of the employer.
Most people fail to take this opportunity to ask questions either because a) they were too concerned with the questions they would be asked to have time to think of any questions themselves or b) they are so thrilled to have survived the experience up until this point that they do not wish to prolong the agony any longer.
Whatever the reason, by not asking any questions of the employer during an interview you are doing yourself a terrible disservice. Remember that the interviewer isn’t just being polite, they want you to ask relevant questions which build upon the interview which has just taken place. Ask the right questions and you can demonstrate that you have done your homework about the company and that you understand the role that you have applied for, but equally if you ask the wrong ones you risk doing the exact opposite.
True, you could potentially have hundreds of questions whirling around your head at this point of the interview, but you need to make sure that you are not just picking random ones out of your head for the sake of it. To make it easier to choose the relevant and interesting ones, consider the questions at your disposal under separate headings:
Most companies will have a work ethos by which they operate and encourage their employees to follow within their day-to-day dealings with one another. This ethos contributes to the company’s “culture” which basically describes what it is like to work for them and the image which they like to present to the outside world. With this in mind, an enquiry into the company culture can present you as a person who is very aware of individual companies’ different expectations of their employees and someone who is willing to adapt and conform to the way in which they operate.
A few examples of the kind of question you could ask about the culture of a company are;
“Generally would you say that there is a type of person who thrives particularly well within the company” or “What is the dynamic like between the team that I would be joining if successful?” or “What specific qualities do you think could contribute to the culture of the company?”.
How to succeed within the role
Of course you will need to consider this on a case-to-case basis, but asking question which encompasses the pursuit of success within the role presents yourself as someone who isn’t going to simply coast once they have got the job, but who is keen to achieve as much as they possibly can within it. A few examples of the kinds of questions that you could ask are;
“What would you say constitutes success within this role?” “In your opinion what employee attributes are most associated with success in this role” or “How would you like to see the chosen candidate develop the role over, say the next year?”
These particular kinds of questions can be especially effective for roles which are highly targeted or contain a lot of measured Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as they suggest a desire for long term success rather than simply hitting weekly/monthly targets.
A word of caution! When asking questions such as these it can be all to easy to come across as arrogant or overly competitive to the point that it may affect your relationship with other members of the team. To avoid this, be sure that you moderate your tone and pose the question as a genuine inquiry rather than a challenge or display of unbridled ambition.
Nothing turns an employer off faster than knowing that their company is just a stopgap until something better comes along. Even though this may be the case, it is of the utmost importance that you aim to cultivate an image of a candidate who is dedicated, passionate and most of all willing to work hard to be successful within the company and your career. To this end, asking questions which show a level of forward planning about your future career can work very well in your favour. However you must be careful that the questions you ask do not suggest a lack of willingness to fully embrace the role that you have applied for, or a desire to get out of it as soon as you possibly can.
Try asking things like:
“When considering more senior positions does the company tend to look to their current workforce for possible candidates?” or “Is there a type of person who tends to progress within the company?”
The company’s future
Employers expect you to have done your research about them during their preparation for the interview. In many cases, if you have not, they will be able to tell through the answers that you provide, but if you have done your homework you might like to take this opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge you have of the business and where it sits within the marketplace.
Of course the kinds of questions that you ask will be very much dependent on the role that you are applying for, but here are a few examples to give you a bit of inspiration.
“How is the company planning to adapt to the new legislations which will be introduced regarding X,Y,Z?”, or “Given the down turn in sales of “X”, how does the company plan to increase its level of sales?”
Asking direct questions about your interviewer can be a risky business and if not correctly considered in the context of the interview could make you appear impertinent, unprofessional or arrogant.
However carefully timed and well reasoned questions about your interviewer and their career within the company could show you as a person who is genuinely interested to hear first-hand experience as a way of better understanding what it is like to work for them. Just make sure that the questions you ask match the level of formality which the interviewer has set and that the questions are phrased to develope your perception of the company and not route out anything negative. Some questions that you could consider are:
“What do you enjoy most about working for this company?” or “How did you make your way into the company?” or “Have you always worked within this industry?” or “What positive changes have you seen in the company since you have been working here?”
As you can see, being given the opportunity to ask your interviewer some questions is actually a blessing in disguise, so don’t waste the opportunity!
Best of luck with your job hunt!
If you have got a big interview coming up you might like to check out some of these posts, which should come in handy!