Many candidates approach interviews with trepidation and mentally consider themselves supplicants who have to meekly answer questions and submissively accept the amount of information offered. Others aren’t so meek- yet go completely blank at the conclusion of the interview when asked if there are any questions!
Well-researched and appropriate questions are what marks the mediocre candidates from the great ones. Through a few clever questions, you can identify yourself as a bright, ambitious, and confident candidate—the type of employee that all companies are looking for!
A few things to consider about asking questions in interviews
- Have some questions ready- but don’t rely on them as a strict script as you’ll look a bit silly if that prepared question has already been answered during your interview and yet you ask it again anyway! (This happens all the time as candidates get too nervous to think on their feet.) Have lots of loose question topics prepared so you can adapt them as necessary.
- Don’t necessarily wait until the end of the interview to ask questions; it will go more naturally if you ask questions as they occur to you. This makes the whole interview feel more like a two-way conversation between professionals figuring out if the other party is the right fit, and with you finding out information about the everyday nature of the job. Even better, a natural conversation tends to veer the interviewer towards actually picturing you in the job- the more you talk and allow them to flesh out the details, the more real the idea of you working there becomes in both your minds.
- Remember, if a hiring manager isn’t open to questions that can be a useful red flag that this is not an organisation with a culture that welcomes employee feedback or initiative. As long as you ask good and appropriate questions, then you should never walk away from an interview regretting having asked them. After all, it’s worse to walk away with a question still gnawing away at your mind- particularly one that you need the answer to in order to make your decision.
Great questions to ask in interviews
What kind of training and development do you offer?
This question instantly identifies you as someone who wants to succeed in their career and wants to develop themselves into the best employee they can be. If this question has been answered previously, perhaps ask about the promotion paths, or even ask for examples of employees who have succeeded in climbing the ranks.
Are there any key skills or qualities you’re looking for that I haven’t shown you?
This question is difficult for most candidates to ask, as it opens you up to hearing about your inadequacies. This is proper ‘fear of rejection’ stuff, but in actual fact, you can only win by asking this question!
Four things might happen from asking this question:
A) You discover that they want a certain skill or experience that you actually have, but hadn’t got around to telling them. Now’s your chance!
B) The hiring manager realises that you’re a confident person who can seek and accept feedback.
C) You find out that you’re not really in contention, and can avoid waiting for the phone to ring.
D) You now know what skills you need to gain before you can apply again!
The alternative, obviously, is that you don’t get the job, and don’t know why. When you look at it that way, you realise there is no actual risk in asking this question, but an enormous amount to gain.
Can you tell me more about the team/the travel aspect/the flexible work schedule…?
Pick something that gives you more information about your day to day job. It’s easy for the interviewer to say ‘The role requires travel’. It’s up to you to find out what that looks like in a day-to-day respect- ‘How often will I travel, where, and how long are the trips?’ Drill down until you get a working idea in your head of what the job requires of you.
How would you measure my success in this role, and how will I know if I’m succeeding?
This shows that you really want to succeed, and that you genuinely want to know how to do so. It also identifies that you are interested in feedback- a hugely attractive trait in an employee.
What’s the company culture like?
These days, culture is king- and hiring managers know how important this is to get right. This is an extremely important question to ask so that you know if it’s the right job for you- but it also shows the interviewer that you’re in it for the long-term and care about the company’s values and working culture.
Above all, a job interview should be a conversation, not an interrogation- and you should always exit the room feeling that you have participated. The best way to do that is to go in prepared to have a conversation that shows you in your best light.