Ask your own questions

  | James Innes

Interviews are always a two-way process. Not preparing your own questions for the end of an interview is a common – and significant – interview mistake, as a recent survey found, with 29% .of recruiters polled stating that the candidate not asking questions – or asking poor questions – at the end of the interview was sufficient reason for them to ‘fail’ them.

There aren’t many interviews that conclude without the candidate being asked ‘Do you have any questions for me/us?’ Almost all interviewers will give you a chance to ask questions and you should use this as an opportunity to further demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm. If you don’t then you’ll come across as passive and uninterested.

Don’t ask too many questions – you’re the interviewee, not the interviewer! But do be prepared with a few intelligent questions. Here’s a good selection of examples for you:

·       What are the top priorities for my first six months in the job?

·       What would you expect from me in my first 100 days on the job?

·       In what ways does this role impact on the growth of the organisation?

·       How has this role evolved since it was created?

·       How would you describe the team I will be working with?

·       How would you describe the work culture here?

·       What do you enjoy most about working here?

·       How do you see my role evolving over the next two to three years?

·       How do you see the organisation evolving over the next five years?

·       Are there any plans for expansion?

·       How does the organisation measure its success?

·       In what ways is performance measured?

·       What training and professional development opportunities will be available?

·       What scope is there for future promotion?

As you will notice, these questions have been phrased as if you have already got the job. It’s a subtle psychological technique which will project self-confidence and help further persuade the interviewer that you are the right candidate for the job.

As an additional point if you have not been asked about something which you feel illustrates an important aspect of your ability to do the job, don’t be afraid to bring it up yourself at the end of the interview. You could, for example, ask how important such-and-such an ability is to the job. When the interviewer answers that it is indeed important then they’ve given you the perfect opportunity to roll out a pre-prepared example demonstrating that you have this ability.

Another good question to ask is whether or not the interviewer has any reservations about your application – and what they are. It takes a bit of nerve to ask this question and you had better make sure you are ready to address any reservations they may have; this will probably be your last chance to do so. If you can uncover any possible objections the interviewer might have to hiring you – and counter-attack effectively – then it can make all the difference. It’s a question which will certainly demonstrate confidence in yourself at the very least.

There are some questions, however, which should be avoided. First and foremost, are issues around pay and benefits. Unless the interviewer brings up these topics themselves, never raise them yourself. Such matters can always be covered in later discussions. Bringing them up during your interview can place too much focus on what you are expecting from the employer – rather than what you are offering them. This is never a good idea.

Also, avoid questions to which the interviewer may expect you to already have answers. This includes questions about the organisation which a quick look at their website could have answered. You’ll expose a lack of preparation.

Make sure that you ask questions when your turn comes, but be selective in what you ask. Whatever questions you select, be aware that they can reveal a lot about you – the way you think, your motivations, your needs, etc. Remember this and try to keep your questions upbeat and positive.

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