By Gerald Walsh ©
You should always remember that interviewing is a two-way street. The employer is asking questions of you to learn about your background, experience and skills to determine if you are a good fit for their organization. So it only stands to reason that you should ask questions to the employer about the job, the people you’ll be working with, and the organization to determine if it is the right fit to you.
In planning your questions, keep in mind that employers place a lot of value on the types of questions you ask them. Make sure they are strategic and insightful so that your questions leave a positive, lasting impression. Many employers have told me that the calibre of questions candidates ask of them are as important in their selection decision as the candidates’ answers to their questions.
If you don’t ask decent questions, you will leave the impression that you haven’t prepared for the interview or are not interested in the job. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had candidates say to me, “Nope. I don’t have any questions. I think you’ve answered everything for me.” Don’t ever say that. Always have questions ready to go.
Types of Questions You Can Ask
One easy way to think about the types of questions you can ask is to organize under the categories of Job, People and Organization. Here are ten examples of questions under these categories:
1. What are the key responsibilities of the position? This is an opportunity to learn more details about the job so you can make an informed decision about whether the job matches your skills and interests.
2. What are the biggest challenges of the job? (Or, what do you see as the priorities for the position?) This question will help you uncover their problem areas and figure out how you can help them. For example, if they say the biggest challenge is their unmotivated workforce, you can tell them how you improved employee morale in your last job.
3. How would you describe the ideal candidate for the job? This question will help you discover additional qualities they are looking for that might not have been listed in the job posting. Listen carefully, as people tend to name the most important qualities first.
4. How do you measure success (or performance) in this job? This question will help you identify their performance metrics. Knowing what is important to them will help you explain how you achieved or exceeded your performance targets in the past.
5. What are the expectations of the supervisor? This question will help you clarify what the immediate boss expects from the new hire. They might explain their answer by telling you about their expectations for the first 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, and year. If they don’t, ask that question specifically.
6. How engaged are the employees in the department? This question will help you gain insight into overall morale and help you decide if you want to join their company, should you be offered the job.
7. What do you like most about working here? This is an interesting way to get the interviewer to share her personal perspective on why it is a good place to work.
8. Where do you see the company being in five years? This type of detail is rarely included in the job posting so ask the interviewer about her longer-term plans. This will help you decide whether you fit.
9. How would you describe the culture in the organization? This question will give you a better sense of the work style and overall atmosphere in the office. But take this with a grain of salt. Many employers say that they encourage teamwork, yet they work behind closed doors.
10. What are the biggest issues facing the company right now? This question is a well-placed, strategic level question. You can be assured these issues are what the CEO is focused on right now.
Final Tips to Remember
Be conscious of the interviewer’s time and be sure to ask how much time they have available for your questions. While it’s great to bring a long list of questions to the interview, it’s quite likely that you only have time to ask three or four.
Question: Think about the types of questions you asked in your last interview. Were they insightful and strategic? Do you think they added to the impression you left with the interviewers?
To share your thoughts on this blog post, please write me at walsh@@geraldwalsh.com
Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and writer. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn