Published on 31st July 2016
An interview is a two-way selection technique – it’s just as important that you are able to make an informed decision about the company and the vacant position as it is for the company about you.
It’s important to select a role that provides short and long term benefits. You need to choose a job that you are going to enjoy doing, one that is challenging and satisfying in the aspects that you feel are important. It should be a job and company that will help you develop your skills and provide you with marketable experience.
While the Interviewer will hopefully give you some information, asking questions can provide a greater insight to the company and the job itself enabling you to make a more informed decision.
There are two benefits in asking good questions; firstly you get the information you need and secondly; if they are good questions asked in the right way you will impress the interviewer as someone who is thorough, analytical and professional. Delivery is as important as content. Sometimes you’ll need to phrase the questions in a certain way or use humour to ensure that you don’t project yourself as arrogant or hard faced.
You should ask questions about those aspects of the job or the company that concern you most. Since you rarely get the chance to ask ten questions in one go you should use those that appeal to you first.
I have included ten of my favourites in four sections and you can also prepare for interview questions and learn how to sell your skills using our interactive tutorial.
About the job itself
Assuming that you have a job description and/or the interviewer has described the job in some detail you will want to ask questions that will give you more information about the key issues. Three possible questions are:
1) What are the reasons that the job came about – if it’s an existing job why did the person move on? If it’s a new job why has it been created?
What you are seeking here is clarity ie does the Interviewer /Manager really knows the reasons for the job AND are they logical. For example if it’s a new role you need to be convinced that the rationale for creating the position is sound and that you are going to have the support and resources required to do the job properly. If the job is a replacement job why did the person move. It’s a great sign if they were promoted to a new role in the same Company – not so good if they moved on from the Company after a short period of time. If they are still with the company it may be worth asking if you could speak with them about the role. It's an unorthodox request but can provide you with another perspective on the role and the issues and challenges associated with it.
2) What are the key challenges in the first few weeks and months of the role?
Often the answer to this question will give you the meat of the job – and will outline the immediate issues and challenges. If this is different from what has been described you need to resolve the differences. If it’s the same it gives you some confidence that the role will be as described.
3) How will you assess that I’m doing a good job? What will I have achieved in 6 months or 12 months?
In understanding how your performance will be assessed you better understand (again) the key issues of the job and what factors will be used to appraise your output. This is a reasonableness check for you. If you think that the job is too easy or too hard and the appraisal mechanism or resources available don’t reflect this then this should affect your decision on the job or at least provide you with further questions.
You also get an idea of what achievements will be noted on your resume in 6-12 months and whether this aligns with your goals.
4) How and where does this position fit into the structure of the department? Do you have an organisational chart?
Sometimes jobs have titles that portray a certain level of responsibility. If you ask the Interviewer to show an organisation chart and describe just how the people in the department or division work together with a particular emphasis on your role you will get a better idea of how you will fit in and whether it’s a role you want.
About the Organisation
In building your career it helps if you are working for an organisation that has a clear vision and good values and one that emphasises the importance of developing its people
5) What is the organisation’s Vision and values?
If the Organisation is large with a website you are likely to have researched this question prior to the Interview. However, it’s still useful to ask possibly with reference to the division -what is its vision are what are its values? You can then deduce whether they correspond with yours.
6) I have noticed from reading your last annual report that your organisation faces the challenge of … in its key business sector? What other major challenges does it face in the near future?
Again your research may have revealed that the Organisation competes in a business niche or sector with specific challenges and issues which may be positive or negative. By phrasing the question as above you indicate that you have done some research and understand some of the issues but are interested to learn more - all good traits to display in an interview.
7) Assuming I have tackled the role successfully in 2-3 years what other opportunities would be open to me and do you have recent examples of people moving on within the organisation?
The nature and seniority of the role will determine the way you ask this question but essentially you are trying to understand whether it’s usual for the Organisation to promote from within. You want to hear both reassuring words about the Organisation’s commitment to you and your career AND have recent examples to back it up
About your manager
Issues and conflicts with one’s direct manager are one of the key reasons that people want to move jobs so it would be helpful to understand more about their pedigree and perspective on work
8) Can you tell me about your background and how and why you joined this organisation?
This is a great question to ask. You want to learn about the pedigree of the person who is likely to be your mentor for the next phase of your career and from whom you will need to learn. Most managers are only too happy to talk about their background and you can often deduce all sorts of traits and qualities from their answer
9) What do you perceive as your strengths and what are the qualities you do and don’t like to see in your team members?
This is more of the same and is really three questions in one – you’re asking them where they see their strengths which is obviously important for your ability to learn from them and to see if there are any unexpected issues arising from the qualities response
About the assignment process
10) What is the next step in the selection process from here and when should I expect to hear from you next?
This is obviously helpful to you in understanding the process and time line’s involved which maybe important with regard to other opportunities you are considering.