“So, do you have any questions?”
Going for an interview is hard work.
It’s the rehearsal of telling the story of your CV, the pre-planning of what outfit you’re going to wear and the deep dive Internet search to make sure you have some killer questions to ask. For some unlucky few, it’s also the psychometric tests that you need to do beforehand. Exhausting isn’t it?
It’s easy to get caught up in the ritual of an interview that we forget one important thing:
We should also be interviewing the interviewer.
Asking the right questions at interview stage is one of the most important things you can do at an interview. It’s also one of the things that is most overlooked.
Standard questions such as – ‘What’s the culture like?’ – or ‘What do you enjoy about working here?’ – rarely give you the insight you are looking for, so prior preparation is key.
Asking the right questions can be the difference between long term success and short term failure.
Do you know what’s important to you?
This is becoming a more common question that is asked by seasoned interviewers. They are asking that question to establish if there is a match between what’s important to you and what they can offer.
But don’t worry if this question is never asked. I’m going to share with you some of my 5 favourite questions that are geared around understanding the following:
- How the role makes a difference to the organisation
- How people are supported and developed
- How performance is evaluated
- How the company feels about people having a life outside of work.
These are ideal questions to ask when you are being interviewed by someone who is going to be your boss.
“What is the most important thing that I could do in this role that would make the biggest difference?”
Most roles these days come with job descriptions as long as your arm. Finding out the key parts of the role can be difficult.
With this question you are looking to find out a couple of things:
- What you would need to do as a priority to ensure you are delivering against the expectations of the role.
- Understanding what is important to your line manager and therefore how you can make their lives easier.
- Context into some of the challenges the business may be facing and how you can best help them.
“Could you give me an example of the last person you developed in your team? How did you help them and what position do they do now?”
If you are looking for development and want to work for a supportive line manager, then this is a key question to ask. They should be able to share with you an inspiring story of how they supported and coached someone in their team and how it made them feel.
Or if they are a new line manager, they should be able to have a two way conversation with you about how you like to be managed and developed so they can bear this in mind.
Great managers (new or experienced) should be able to answer this question easily.
“How would I get feedback on my performance?”
On a regular basis. This is the best response to receive.
If having clarity on how you are performing and how you can improve is important to you, then working for someone who can give you real time feedback is a must. These are the best managers to work for because you always know where you stand.
If you get a response that talks about formal appraisals process for example, that should raise alarm bells. I know I don’t have the patience to wait for one meeting a year to find out how I’m doing. Do you?
“I sing in a choir 3 times a week and sometimes this means I have to leave at 5.30pm on the dot to attend my class. How far would this be a problem if I worked here?”
With this question you are looking to evaluate two things:
- How the line manager and/or company support employees having a life outside of work.
- Whether long working hours are custom and practice so you are in an environment that frowns on leaving work on time.
If they are able to give you examples of how people in their team or department work flexible hours for example and some of the reasons why, this tells you a lot.
There will always be situations where anyone is expected to put in the extra hours but it should be give and take. If having time to do what makes you happy outside of work is important to you, this is a key question to ask.
“If I got the job, what would I need to do to be seen as one of your best hires?”
This is a great question to convey energy and that you are committed to doing a great job. It also demonstrates that you want to make your boss look good (every manager wants!)
It is very similar to the first question but it hones in on traits and characteristics, rather than specific tasks related to the job.
If nothing else, this question never fails to put a smile on an interviewers face.
Feeling ready to go?
The reality of how a company operates and treats their people can be really difficult to work out from job descriptions and sparkling adverts. It’s even harder as more and more companies are using expensive PR and marketing techniques to attract candidates just like you.
If you are serious about your next job and want to make sure it’s right for you, don’t be nervous about asking probing questions.
The questions you choose to ask at your interview should be a direct reflection of what is important to you. Don’t just ask questions to make you look good. This is your career and it demonstrates you are taking it seriously.
Ps When you are asked the question ‘Do you have any questions’ please don’t be that person who takes out their notebook. It doesn’t matter how well they hide it, every interviewer will inwardly groan and that is not the reaction you want. #justsaying