Asking the right questions

At this point in proceedings, you will most likely have finished an endless line of questions about your experience, skills, and work history, and you are pretty confident that you have held your own.

It is now the turn of the interviewer to ask “Do you have any questions?” This isn’t your cue to ask how much money is on the table, because asking about anything other than work-related issues is not a good move. However, it is a great opportunity, by virtue of sensible questions, to leave a positive impression. We’ve never heard a client complain about a candidate being too interested in work!

A little word of warning at this stage: don’t ask questions that can be answered from their website or job description, as this shows a lack of thought and insight. Your questions should be tailored towards acquiring a better idea of the role, responsibilities, challenges, culture, and future potential of the role and company.

It is worth bearing in mind that passing up this opportunity may suggest that you are not fully engaged with the process and that you are simply going through the motions. If you are not interested, it is acceptable not to ask questions; however, if you are interested and pass up the opportunity to ask questions, you risk being perceived as someone who is not truly interested. It is also worth noting that questions which demonstrate that you share the same goals, values, and beliefs as your potential employer will more than likely gain you a further interview, and may put you ahead of others who show little interest or lack of initiative.

There is no set number on how many questions you should ask, and no formula for these questions since, of course, it depends on what information you have already acquired and how much you need to know. The following list of questions, however, may be a good starting point:

10 Good Questions to Ask:

  1. How would you best describe the company’s culture and ethos?

All companies have their own way of doing things and not every corporate culture will suit you. The difference between the marketing department of a law firm is vastly different to the creative department of an ad agency. It is healthy to gain an insight into the ethos and values of the company – there is no point being a square peg in a round hole.

  1. What are your company’s plans for the future?

Gauging the potential for professional growth in a job is very important for some. Even if you aren’t pushing to head up the department within the first twelve months, you will still want to know that you are joining a company which is striving to better itself, develop, innovate, and be competitive in their respective market.

  1. What type of person succeeds in your company and what particular characteristics do they possess?

Gaining a good insight into your potential future colleagues is wise, and it can be very useful to take note of those who progressed through the ranks. You want to work in an environment where your efforts are recognised and rewarded.

  1. What do you enjoy most about working for this company?

This is real eye-opener, and an awkward silence or long pause for thought is not what you want! There is only one reaction you are looking for and that is a positive and honest one.

  1. What are some of the vital skills and abilities necessary for someone to be successful in this role?

This will give you a clear insight into the challenges of the position and what will be needed to perform well in the role. You will want to ensure you will be challenged and your skills enhanced.

  1. What will be the most important aspect of my role within the first six months?

There isn’t much point moving to a like-for-like position. Most of all you will want to be motivated and enthused before you join your new employer, and, of course, you want enjoy the challenges and environment your new role will create.

  1. How do you envisage my role developing and evolving over the next twelve months?

A good answer to this should be specific because most employers will know the challenges ahead and where you will be expected to play your part. It will also demonstrate that the interviewer has given time and thought as to how this role will be integrated within the company.

  1. What team members will I work closely with and what is there ethos like?

Remember that you are going to spend the majority of your working hours at work, and your new job will only be as good as your relationship with your new colleagues and boss. It is very wise to meet and spend time with your potential new colleagues, and take in the environment and general buzz and atmosphere of the office. If you are going to be working directly for one boss, you will need to know if their style is democratic or autocratic. You will need to be comfortable with their style as well as that of your colleagues.

  1. How would you describe the atmosphere here, both formal and informal?

Even if you are taking a highly-paid job, the immediate environment needs to be positive and one that helps and develops you. You may need to talk to mentors or advisors about this question, but, once the advice is in, weigh it up with your own observations – no-one knows what makes you tick better than you do.

 

       10. Where does my role fit into the company structure?

You need to understand the relationship of your role or department within the company structure.  You will most likely want to find out who you will work closely with and how best you can develop those relationships.

It is probably not wise to ask all of the above questions, and there may be others you want to ask which are not on the list. Employers will judge you on the quality of questions you ask, so make sure you don’t ask ones which can be easily answered by looking at their website or the job description, and try not to simply regurgitate questions – the above list is a suggestion, not a script. It is wise to have three to five really solid questions of substance that are based around the role, the company, what you can offer, and, as far as possible, that are tailored to the individual interview. You will also need to handle your questions with tact and diplomacy, especially if you are asking about the interviewer’s management style or a recent raft of redundancies. Although you do need as much as information as possible to make informed job choices, asking certain questions in the wrong tone may make you seem way too audacious.

An interview is a two-way street, and by asking relevant and interesting questions you will be able to gauge a healthy insight into the opportunity you are considering. You will need to weigh up the salary, future earnings, prospects, and culture, as well as all those intangible things that can only be summed up as a “gut feeling”.

Before you make any decisions, it’s a good idea to ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do you like the work, culture, and general atmosphere?
2. Will you enjoy it?
3. Will the role provide you with a sufficient challenge and develop your career?
4. Do you get a good feel about the place and people? Instinct is very important in this case.
5. Is the location, stability, and company’s reputation in line with your needs?
6. Is the money and benefits on offer the best you can get?

Please note that money is only one aspect of the evaluation process. There are many factors to take into consideration before making a final decision.

Making a graceful exit:
You sense that the interview is coming to an end, and if you are still seriously keen, try not to go away empty-handed. Try to leave both a positive impression and a strong indication to the employer that you want to be seriously considered for the role, without being over zealous. It may be sensible to tie up any loose ends and overcome any objections that were raised during the interview. Repeat the necessary skills and expertise that you possess for the role, and be sure to reaffirm both your interest in the role and respect for the company. You may want to consider using the following statements as a way to remain in the interviewer’s memory for the immediate future:

  • What is the next step in the recruitment process and when do you think a decision is likely?
  • I’m really enthused about your opportunity – do you feel my skills and experience are suitable?
  • I know you are busy and have other candidates to consider, but do you know when I am likely to hear from you following this interview?
  • I genuinely appreciate the time you have afforded me and look forward to hearing from you.

You may wish to consider e-mailing the employer post-interview but be very mindful of content and do not overplay the part. It is best to keep it simple, concise, and polite – express your appreciation for the interviewer’s time, and remind them of what you can do for the company and not what the company can do for you. Provide references if necessary because they can make all the difference – what they say about you is far more powerful than what you say about yourself. Even if the employer plans to offer you the role, your follow-up will create goodwill that will in turn give a boost to your early days when you join the company.