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The questions you should ask in your next interview

Jan 31, 2022

An interview for a prospective job can be a nerve-wracking experience. What to wear, how early to arrive, what to talk about are just a few of a myriad of things to consider. One of the main things people spend time on in advance is how to answer questions as well as how to get across their experience to the interview panel. However, just like going on a first date, the questions shouldn’t all be one-way traffic and finding out about the company, team and culture are also crucial as important.

A job interview is just as much about finding out about if you would actually like to work at the company and whether you would be a good fit for them, not just the other way around. So next time you’re preparing for an interview, spend some time planning which questions you’ll ask. Asking questions throughout the interview and not simply answering questions also gives an air of confidence and authority, while only answering them can sometimes be seen as passive and lacking in initiative.

There are a million different questions that could be asked in an interview, below is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a start to give you some ideas on what can be good to ask. There will be questions that only apply to specific positions, so think about what is relevant to the job you’re applying for.

What does the company look for in employees?
This question allows you to hear what the company values. First and foremost it will give you an insight into how the organisation runs and what kind of behaviour they reward, and secondly, if you like what you hear, it gives you the opportunity to wax lyrical about how you fit those values.

Is this a new position or am I replacing someone?
This is a good question to ask because it allows you to find out if it’s a new role and how you might be able to shape it. Employers usually like hearing about how you plan to make a position your own. While if you’re replacing someone, they will tell you why the previous person left usually, and if they don’t ask. If it was in unceremonious circumstances you might get a sanitised answer, but can usually pick up on what might be going on. This can be a clue to poor management or a toxic culture, and it’s good to know these things before signing on the dotted line.

What’s the company’s biggest challenge at the moment?
Asking this question can certainly surprise some members of the interview panel, but it’ll likely be in a good way. If they take too long to answer and it’s a vague one, then you might find the senior management have an unclear direction which can be a red flag. If you get a good concise answer that sounds like appealing, talk about how you’re ‘up for the challenge’ and this response and the original question will likely leave a positive impression on the panel.

What’s the company culture like and the team atmosphere?
This might seem like an obvious one, but just because it is doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask it. You spend more waking hours working than doing anything else, so the environment you sign up to be a part of plays a big factor in whether you’re happy or unhappy. So it is therefore wise to find out as much about the culture as you can.

What is the retention like here and the opportunities for internal advancement?
One of the biggest concerns HR and hiring managers have is turnover. It costs a lot of money to hire people and train them up. This question shows you’re interested in your career and ideally at this company, which will likely paint you in a positive light. Meanwhile, if retention is poor and there are limited promotions available, this could be a sign you don’t want to work there.

Is there anything that concerns you about my background in regard to being a good fit for this role?
This question is a bold one. You are opening yourself up to any response really, but as long as you haven’t lied on your resume or fabricated your references, it’s a good one to ask because if the panel does have concerns they can air them and it gives you a chance to defend yourself. The panel are going to be concerned about any perceived weaknesses anyway, so you might as well be able to put forward your case. For example; they might say they are worried about your lack of a direct report if going for a role that manages someone. You can say that you have been wanting to get into a position that manages a junior employee for a while and have enjoyed managing interns in previous roles. You may even like to talk about what you like in a manager and the style in which you would manage a direct report. This may then alleviate some of the panel’s concerns.

Need some more ideas for questions? This blog from The Muse has 51 questions to choose from. For other preparation, you might like to find out what not to do in an interview, or perhaps common interview questions you should prepare for. This blog about how to make a great first impression may also come in handy.

While multiple things are important when getting ready for an interview and all will play a part in forming the interview panel’s opinion of you, no doubt asking the right questions can help to set you apart from others as well as give you valuable insight into the company and help you decide if it’s a good fit for you.

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