As a recruitment agency, we see a lot of clients through the job interview process, and one thing we stress to all our candidates is to make sure you ask questions! A surprising number of candidates don’t take the time to ask questions at all. This is a job that you’re considering spending 40 or more hours at a week, a job that might have a huge impact on your career and your quality of life for years to come. You should have questions!
You may have worries around what questions to ask, take a look at the list below of the best 8 questions to ask in an interview, when it’s your turn- to both impress your potential employer and help you get useful insights into whether or not this is the right job for you.
Questions About the Position
1. “How will you measure the success of the person in this position?”
This gets right to the crux of what you need to know about the job: What does it mean to do well, and what will you need to achieve in order for the manager to be happy with your performance?
Initially, you might think that the job description already laid this out, but it’s not uncommon for the while the hiring manager to have very different ideas about what’s most important in the role, so it’s useful to have a real conversation about what the role is really about. You might find out that while the job posting listed 12 different tools, your success really just hinges on 2 of them, or that the posting dramatically understated the importance of 1 of them.
2. “What are some of the challenges you expect the person in this position to face?”
This can get at information you’d never get from the job description. It can create an opening for you to talk about how you’ve approached similar challenges in the past, which can be reassuring to your interviewer. I don’t recommend asking questions just so you can follow up with a sales pitch for yourself, but if asking about challenges leads to a real discussion of how you’d approach them, it can be genuinely useful for you both.
3. “Can you describe a typical day or week in the job?”
If the job description mentioned a combination of admin work and program work, it’s important to know whether 90 percent of your time will be spent on the admin work or if the split is more like 50/50. But even barring major insights like that, the answer to this question can just help you better visualise what it will actually be like to be in the job day after day.
Tip: Some interviewers will respond to this question with, “Oh, every day is different.” If that happens, try asking, “Can you tell me what the last month looked like for the person in the job currently? What took up most of their time?”
Questions About Your Success in the Position
4. “What are you hoping this person will accomplish in their first six months and in their first year?”
This question can give you a sense of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and the pace of the team and organisation. If you’re expected to have major achievements under your belt after only a few months that might be fine if you’re coming in with a lot of experience, but it might be worrisome otherwise. On the flip side, if you’re someone who likes to jump right in and start getting things done, you might not be thrilled to hear that most of your first six months will be spent in training.
This question can also draw out information about key projects that you wouldn’t otherwise have heard about.
5. “Thinking back to people you’ve seen do this work previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great at it?”
The thing about this question is that it goes straight to the heart of what the hiring manager is looking for. Hiring managers aren’t interviewing candidates in the hopes of finding someone who will do an average job; they’re hoping to find someone who will excel at the job. And this question says that you care about the same thing. Sure, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll do extraordinary work, but it makes you sound like someone who’s at least aiming for that — someone who’s conscientious and driven, and those are huge things in a hiring manager’s eyes.
Plus, the answer to this question can give you much more nuanced insight into what it’ll take to truly excel in the job — and whatever the answer is, you can think about whether or not it’s something you’re likely able to do.
Questions About the Company
6. “How would you describe the culture here? What type of people tend to really thrive here, and what type don’t do as well?”
If the culture is very formal with lots of hierarchy and you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment, this might not be the right match for you.
Similarly, if it’s a really competitive environment and you’re more low-key, or if they describe themselves as entrepreneurial and you prefer structure, it might not be an ideal workplace for you.
Equally, hiring managers want to ensure that whoever they hire is a good match for their team, so they will be assessing the cultural fit as well.
7. “What do you like about working here?”
You can learn a lot by the way people respond to this question. People who genuinely enjoy their jobs and the company will usually have several things they can tell you that they like about working there and will usually sound sincere. But if you get a blank stare or a long silence before your interviewer answers, or the answer is something like “the paycheck,” consider enquiring further.
8. Ask the question you really care about.
Sometimes people use their turn to ask questions in an interview solely as an additional chance to try to impress their interviewer — asking questions designed to reflect well on them (by making them look smart, thoughtful, or so forth) rather than questions designed to help them figure out if the job is even right for them in the first place. It’s understandable to want to impress your interviewer, but interviewing is a two-way street — you need to be assessing the job and the employer and the manager, and figuring out whether this is a job you want and would do well in. If you’re just focused on getting the job and not on whether it’s the right job for you, you’re in danger of ending up in a job where you’re struggling or miserable.
So before you interview, spend some time thinking about what you really want to know. When you imagine going to work at the job every day, what are the things that will most impact whether you’re happy with the work, with the culture, with the manager? Maybe it’s important to you to work in an informal culture with heavy collaboration. Maybe you care most about working somewhere with sane hours, where calls and texts on the weekend or in the evenings are rare. Whatever’s important to you or that you’d want to have answered before you could know if you’d really want the job, think about asking it now.
Of course, you shouldn’t rely only on your interviewer’s answers about these things. You should also do due diligence by talking to people in your network who might have the inside scoop on the company’s culture or the manager you’d be working for, reading online reviews at places like Glassdoor, and talking to other people who work there.
Questions About Next Steps
9. “What’s your timeline for next steps?”
This is a basic logistics question, but it’s useful to ask because it gives you a benchmark for when you can expect to hear something back. Otherwise, if you’re like many people, in a few days you’re likely to start agonising about whether you should have heard back about the job by now and what it means that you haven’t, and obsessively checking your phone to see if the employer has tried to make contact. It’s much better for your quality of life if you know that you’re not likely to hear anything for two weeks or four weeks or that the hiring manager is leaving the country for a month and nothing will happen until she’s back, or whatever the case might be.
As your chosen recruitment agency it will be our responsibility to manage communications between you and the company. We take every opportunity to provide helpful feedback, and make the job application process as smooth as possible
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And have a look at our very own Job Search and Interview Handbook!
Originally published by Alison Green
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