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Interview questions to ask

Having interview questions to ask the interviewer, or panel, is another aspect of the job interview process you will need to ready for.

Your questions are quite important.

Why? Because they can give a strong indication about your real interest in applying for the position.

Most people admit to being unsure about what interview questions to ask. Or, they are fearful of asking questions which might blow their chances of getting the job.

Here we will explain where your questions fit into the job interview process, and list some interview questions you can, and should ask.

We will also look at the type of questions you should ideally avoid, and why it's a good idea not to ask them.

When to ask your questions

This depends to some extent on how the interviewer wants to conduct the interview.

Sometimes in a highly structured interview you will be instructed to defer any questions until the end of the interview.

In less formal interview situations the interviewer may, at the beginning of the interview, suggest that you ask questions at any stage.

One advantage of a more free-flowing interview is that will be likely you'll have the opportunity to ask questions that you hadn't previously thought about.

For example, during the interview there may be discussion taking place about some aspect of the job, or the work environment, about which you'd like more information or clarification. It will probably be easier for everyone if you ask your question then and there, rather than having to return to the topic at the end of the interview.

In summary, be guided by the interviewer about the best time to ask your questions.

Even in free flowing interviews it is likely that towards the end of the interview you'll be asked if you have any more questions.

One outcome could be that when that time comes you will have run out of questions to ask!

Don't panic if this occurs. Here are a couple of things you might try:

  • Say something like "I wrote down a few interview questions to ask you, let me just check that everything has been covered."
  • Then, briefly summarise for the interviewer the questions on your list so that they understand the types of things you wanted clarified during the interview.
  • Alternatively just say something like "The things I was most interested in finding out, or asking were........ but you have covered these pretty well for me, so I don't have any other questions."

The important thing to convey in this situation is.......that you had in fact prepared some questions for the interviewer.

Interview questions to ask - suggested approach

Your questions should be about the position and its challenges.

Seek to understand what the employer's priorities and needs are from the successful candidate.

Armed with this information there may be another opportunity for you to explain how you can meet that need, or tack that problem.

Remain focused on your role in the job interview process......to sell your capabilities in the 3 main areas the interviewer is likely to be exploring. These are:

  1. That you have the right skills and knowledge for the job
  2. That you are applying for the job for the right reasons - that is, explaining your motivation
  3. That you will be a good fit with the organisation, your co-workers, and clients

Because these are the areas that the interviewer will use to decide the best candidate, use these broad areas as a guide when preparing your interview questions to ask.

Aim to ask questions that will give you more information about what the interviewer really wants or needs in each area.

Then, you can continue sell them on your suitability!

Questions to avoid

Remember - your questions can be very revealing about your true interest in the position. If your questions are all about salary and working conditions, you are in danger of creating the impression that this is your main interest in the position.

Therefore it is strongly suggested that you avoid questions which directed solely at the terms and conditions of your employment, such as:

  • What will the salary be?
  • What options are there for salary packaging?
  • What perks come with the job?
  • What are sick leave entitlements?
  • What are the annual leave entitlements
  • What leave allowances are there that cover absence due to family illness?

The advice to avoid questions relating to salary and working conditions is based on a strategy whereby you concentrate on getting a job offer first - then negotiate salary and conditions of employment.

There is strong anecdotal evidence that the longer you delay salary and related issues the stronger your position will be in the negotiation process.

When to ask questions about salary and working conditions

When applying for a new job it is natural that you will want to clarify your salary and other conditions of employment.

So.....when is the best time to do this? For reasons previously stated, the ideal situation will always be to let the employer or interviewer be the first to initiate the discussion.

In the job interview process the issue of salary can arise:

  • During pre-screening - you may be asked what your expectations are, and if they are too high you may be eliminated from the process.
  • During the first interview - often the interviewer will ask about your salary expectations. It's OK if the interviewer raises the issue.
  • Typically it is raised by the employer during second or subsequent interview rounds.

Suggested interview questions to ask

Use the 3 main areas that the interviewer is going to explore with their questions to design the questions you want to ask.

For example, in relation to the skills and knowledge they want in the successful applicant you typical interview questions to ask could be:

  • Of all the skills you are seeking in the successful applicant, which are most critical to the performance of this job? Why?
  • If there was one single attribute or skill you are seeking in the successful applicant what would that be?
  • What would satisfy you that a candidate you are considering has the right skills and knowledge to do this job?

Typical interview questions you could ask that relate to what is being sought in relation to motivation and attitude towards the job include:

  • What are the main priorities for this position in the next 6 months?
  • What outcomes (or results) are you expecting in the next 6 months?
  • What are likely to be the most significant challenges in this position?
  • What do you believe it takes for someone to do this job successfully?
  • How will I know that I'm meeting expectations?
  • What are the broad aims for this organisation over the next 5 years, and how does this job (or my team) fit in with this?
  • Who are the organisation's major competitors, and how do we compare with them?

Interview questions to ask in relation to fit with the organisation and team include:

  • Who will I be working with most closely in this job?
  • What is it that people like most about working for this organisation?
  • How would you describe the management style here?
  • What type of person is most likely to fit in well here?
  • Who will I be reporting to? (and if they are not on the interview panel ask "When will I get to meet them?"
  • How will my induction into the organisation be handled?

Interview questions to ask -
Two things you must find out!

Before the interview concludes there are two very important pieces of information you need to have. These are:

  1. What are the next steps?
  2. When will you be advised that you will be involved in the next steps?

You are entitled to know this information so that you can manage your role in the job interview process.

Without knowing what is to happen next and when you are completely in the dark. Most reputable organisations will attempt to keep you in the picture, but this doesn't always happen.

When you know the timing of the next steps you can follow up at an appropriate time if you haven't heard from the organisation.

And.....the best job interview advice I can give you is - yes, do follow up if you haven't heard.

At the same time don't make a pest of yourself when making contact. All you need to do is ask politely "During my recent interview with you, you indicated that successful candidates would be contacted. Seeing as I haven't heard from you I was wondering if you could clarify the status of my application for this position."

Interview questions to ask - Summary

The job interview process is meant to be two way.

While your main objective is to make a positive impression, it is important that you also interviewing the organisation to determine if this is the right job and organisation for you.

This means having some questions to ask the interviewer.

In addition to finding out if this is the right opportunity for you, your questions should also contribute to creating the impression that you are very interested in this position and its challenges.

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