What do you most enjoy about working here?
One of the best ways to start once the interviewer hands the meeting over to you, this question encourages a personal response from your interviewer, which means you’ll probably learn a lot from their answer. “You'll get an insider's view of the company culture and working environment and you may even get to discover how your interviewer got their start in the business and how they progressed,” says Dan Mason from graduate recruitment advisory site Prospects. Just be careful if your interviewer happens to be the business owner, warns Stacey MacNaught from MacNaught Digital. “The experience will be slightly different [for him or her] and probably driven by the desire not to be employed by someone else.”
What are the company’s plans for the future?
Whether it’s finding out who they consider to be their biggest competitor, how fast the company is growing, or where they sit in the market, experts agree asking what plans the company has for the future is the best angle to take. That way, you can find out how your role fits into any long-term goals. “The response you receive will give you an insight into the company's progression plans and its place in the market, while giving you a general idea about job security,” says Dan. “You may also get a heads-up on any major upcoming projects.”
Is this position a new or existing one?
If asking about daily workload feels a little bit uncomfortable, this question will give you an idea of what’s expected of you, as well as leading to a wider discussion of the day-to-day tasks. “If it’s a new post, ask why it’s been created or how your performance will be measured,” advises Michael Cleary from recruitment specialist Reed. “If it’s an existing one, ask who you’ll be replacing.” This could give you a better picture of why that person left, or any other short-term staffing issues.
How senior do you consider this job?
Understanding the pecking order is usually only something you can learn on the job. But asking where your prospective role fits in could shed some light on the broader picture. “It’s important to understand the company staff structure, so you know where you fit in and if there are any opportunities to move up in the future,” says James Carfell, HR manager at MWB Solutions. “Also, this is a good question to ensure they see you at the same level of responsibility you feel you’re at. If you felt you were going to be managing [people] and you end up finding you don’t have the power or position to push changes, you may find yourself quickly becoming frustrated.” Finally, if the job is entry-level, try asking what kind of assessment or development processes are in place to help new employees move up the food chain.
What's the progression path?
Failing to find out what the career prospects are could turn out to be one of your biggest mistakes. “The last thing you want is to fall into a dead-end job all because you didn’t find out more about the potential for career progression,” warns Michael. “Ask how the position fits into the company’s long-term plans, and see if there’s a clearly defined career path for you to follow. It’s also a great way to demonstrate your drive and desire to progress within the company.” If you don’t get the answer you want, ask about the different training and development opportunities – it always helps to know whether you could develop skills to leverage elsewhere.
What do the day-to-day responsibilities of the role look like?
Experts agree this is the most proactive way to find out about your 9-5. “Find out what a typical day in the role would entail and ask your interviewer if they can describe your area of responsibility, and what their expectations are. That way, there’ll be no surprises if you end up being offered the job,” says Michael. Just be sure the original advert or specification hasn’t gone into major detail, warns Stacey, as it might look like you haven't read it thoroughly.
What do you see as the most challenging aspect of this job?
“It’s a great question because it shows you're already thinking about the obstacles you'll need to overcome and you're not expecting everything to be plain sailing,” explains Stacey. Just don’t be surprised if the interviewer keeps their cards close to their chest and tried to dodge the question – if they like you, they’ll be trying hard not to put you off.
What are the qualities you’re looking for in a candidate?
It’s a tricky question, but it could help determine whether this job just isn’t right – for either of you. “You want to ensure the employer’s expectations for the role match your own. The more you understand about the position and what they expect of you, the more you can feel comfortable that you’ll be trusted to perform at your best,” says James. Just be aware that asking it requires building up a bit of a rapport with the interviewer, first. “No matter what they say, it’s probably safest to not add anything afterwards, too,” warns Michael – especially if it’s to say how much it sounds like you.
What are the next steps in the process?
It’s probably the most common question, but experts agree it’s the ideal way to round things off without looking overly confident. Keep the tone neutral and polite, and the interviewer will understand you’re still interested in moving forward in the process, all being well.
Plus, five things you should never ask…
What does the company do?
It’s never a good look to ask a question which could have been researched beforehand. “All this question really says to a recruiter is that you can’t think of anything worthwhile to ask and, more importantly, that you haven’t even deemed the interview significant enough to spend a few minutes on a search engine looking the company up,” warns Michael.
How easy is it to move into other areas of the business?
If you’re not sure this job is your dream position, but you’re passionate about the company’s mission or brand, try to be upfront before going along to an interview. “As disinterested questions go, this one is right up there,” says Michael. “Take your current audience into consideration and always try exhibiting your drive and enthusiasm for the position you are applying for.” If the job simply isn’t right for you, but you love the company, try emailing the hiring manager first to see if they have any other vacancies coming up.
How much sick pay would I get?
All this says is that you’re already planning an absence. It’s also the sort of information which will be included in your draft contract if you’re offered one, so there’s no need to cloud the interview. “When it comes to sick pay and annual leave, it’s probably best to leave them alone, or at least until you receive an offer. Otherwise it just looks like you’re pre-empting being away a lot. And no hiring manager wants to see that,” agrees Michael.
What’s the social life like here?
The importance of getting on with your colleagues shouldn’t be underestimated, but at the interview stage, all this question says is that partying is more important than your work. As Michael says: “There’s a time and a place for everything. And the time for asking about the best places to go out in the area is not during your first interview. Finding out more about the team or asking an open-ended question about company culture is fine, but let any other social aspects come up naturally when you have the job.”
How did I do?
Experts agree that finishing off an interview this way could be a deal-breaker. “It may seem like an innocuous or even humorous question at the time, but no matter how much rapport you feel you’ve built, asking how you did is likely to put the interviewer in an uncomfortable position. And more practically, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to provide you with the answer you’re looking for,” says Michael.
For more career or interview advice visit the National Careers Service here