It's a well understood rule you should never leave a job interview without asking one or two questions of your own, but it’s not just a formality – you’re still in the hot seat, and what you say here could even be the decider as to whether or not you get hired. Here’s how to make your questions count…
Never Leave Without Asking A Question
Even if you’ve proven you’re more than capable of the role, asking your own questions help you control the interview and show your personality – and what you say here could sway an undecided interviewer to favour you over a candidate with similar experience.
This also is your chance to bond with your interviewer, says Natalie Severt, Resume Expert at Zety. “It’s an opportunity to turn your talk into a two-way conversation instead of an interrogation,” she says. Your interviewers have allowed the time to hear from you at this moment so take the opportunity to show your interest and impress them. “If you don’t, you risk coming across as unenthusiastic or over confident.”
Show You’re Knowledgeable About The Company
If you prepared for your interview thoroughly, you’ve probably done a lot of background research into the company that you haven’t had a chance to talk about (or show off) yet. Well this is your moment: think of something interesting you saw on their website – perhaps about the company ethos, history or mission – and weave this into a question.
For example, if they’re committed to reducing their carbon footprint, how are they going about achieving it? Other ideas could be to form a question around the company's competitors, products or targets for the year.
Cater Your Questions To The Interviewer
Who you’re interviewing with should inform what questions you ask. For example, if your first interview is with an HR representative or recruiter, rather than someone in the department you’d be working in, tailor your questions accordingly and ask about the company culture, the onboarding process or how long employees typically stay at the company for.
If, on the other hand, you’re interviewing with the hiring manager or a member of the team you’re looking to join, questions around succeeding in the role and desired accomplishments for the chosen candidate to achieve might be more appropriate.
Avoid Uncomfortable Topics
The ultimate no-no of questions to ask in an interview has to be asking outright whether you’ve got the job. Even if everything went well up until that point and they were likely to offer you the role, asking on the spot whether the job is yours is tactless and might cause the interview to change their mind and go with another candidate. Of course it can be hard to walk away without knowing the outcome when you really want the job, but that’s just part of job interview etiquette.
One way around this is to ask the interviewer whether they have any reservations about your ability to do the role. While in some cases it may still be considered brash – and you should gauge whether your interviewer would be comfortable with a bold question like this before asking – it could also give them an opportunity to address any concerns they have, and you a chance to counteract these with specific examples of your experience and competence.
Ask About The Recruitment Process
If your interviewer has already covered all your questions about the role and company, it’s okay – handy even – to have a couple of questions up your sleeve about the recruitment process, such as what the next stage is (another interview or outright job offer for the chosen candidate, for example), or when they’d be looking for the preferred candidate to start. These questions will show you’re eager and you can phrase them without seeming pushy or overly confident by swapping out ‘me’ or ‘I’ for ‘chosen candidate’. For example: “When would you be looking for the chosen candidate to start?”
It also goes without saying that topics such as bonuses, how long you’ll get for lunch or annual holiday allowance should be avoided until the contract is yours – asking these questions before you’ve got the job suggests your heart is in the wrong place and you’re not really passionate about the role.
Make Sure You Prepare Enough Questions
A common interview pitfall can be to prepare two or three great questions, only for your interviewer to cover these topics spontaneously, leaving you on the spot when you’re asked if you have any questions. Make sure you prepare at least a dozen questions to cover you in case this happens – you probably won’t get around to asking more than a couple of them (and don’t want to keep your interviewer too long) but it’s better to be prepared then left with nothing to offer at the end.
Here are 10 questions you could ask at the end of your interview...
1. What can you tell me about the job that isn't on the job description?
2. How do you measure performance in this role?
3. How is feedback given to employees?
4. How long does the average employee stay with the company?
5. What is the biggest challenge or change the company has had to face recently?
6. What will be the biggest challenge for the company over the coming year?
7. How long have you been with the company?
8. What do you enjoy most about working here?
9. What's the next step in your hiring process?
10. When can I expect to hear back from you?