How often have you stayed up late the night before a new job interview rehearsing your answers to those tricky but always-asked questions – ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’, ‘Why are you right for the role?’ and ‘What are your long-term goals?’. Responding in the right way is essential if you want to be seriously considered for the role, but remember, it’s not just your answers that are important – the questions you ask can also make a lasting impression.
“An inquisitive candidate is an interested one,” explains Kate Allen, managing director of recruitment agency Allen Associates. “All hiring professionals want to meet someone who is keen to know more about the company and the role on offer.” The right questions cannot only make you more appealing to your potential new employer, but they’re also a chance for you to check that you really want the job on offer. So, how can you make sure your questions count?
“When it comes to asking questions in a job interview, execution and delivery is just as important as content. Ensure that you can demonstrate that you have done your homework, that you are passionate about the company and the role and you are genuinely interested in the opportunity,” Kate advises. “To achieve this, be sure to introduce your questions at an appropriate time. Some questions will be best asked at the end of the interview while performance-based questions may be more appropriate in the middle of the conversation discussing roles and responsibilities.”
And don’t forget this key piece of advice. “The number one rule in job interviews is to do your research thoroughly – you don’t want to be caught out asking something that can be found after a brief skim of the company website,” Kate says. “Make sure your questions reflect your interests and passions, so that your personality really comes across and they remember you when making their final decision.”
With this in mind, we’ve asked the experts for the questions they think you should have up your sleeve…
What are the biggest challenges facing the department at the moment?
“Questions like this show you as someone who is thinking about what the job will actually entail - someone ready to take on key tasks and responsibilities and also help the company move forward,” says career counsellor Lynn Williams, who’s also the author of Ultimate Interview. “The interviewer's answer gives you the opportunity to assess what will be required of you, and, if that meets your own criteria, enables you to recap briefly the skills and experience you have that will be useful meeting those challenges and developments. It's your chance to leave the interviewer with a short, pithy outline of your job suitability which should linger in their memory.”
Or, you could ask: What will my daily to-do list look like? What’s the first project I’d be working on? What do you expect from this role in the next three months, six months and a year?
Why are you recruiting for this role and why did the last person leave the company?
“Getting into the nitty-gritty details will make sure you leave your interview well-informed,” Kate explains. “After all, if the person in the role before you was promoted, it’s indicative of the path you could take progression-wise. Alternatively, if somebody left for a pressing reason it will allow you to analyse potential pain points in the role. You can suggest areas for improvement that you intend to tackle, and really show your drive and determination. Ask this question to impress the interviewer with your intuition and motivation to improve the role.”
What, if anything, would you like to see on my CV that you feel is missing?
“This is a good way of getting instant feedback on how the interviewer feels about your suitability,” says Lauren Armes, the founder of Welltodo (welltodocareers.com), which aims to help people find a job in the wellness industry. “It also gives you the opportunity to explain how you would use your existing skill set to successfully thrive in the role and discuss things that you may not have listed on your CV.”
If you are slightly under qualified for the role, or are missing some key experience, you could also use this point in the interview to explain how you might overcome this – perhaps you are already undertaking some extra training at home, or maybe you could suggest shadowing someone at the organisation if you were to succeed in the interview.
Or, you could ask: Is there any reason why you don’t feel I would be right for this role?
What are the immediate and long-term goals for your company?
“This is an opportunity for your interviewer to sell the role to you,” Rebecca Siciliano, managing director of Tiger Recruitment, says. “While you may not see yourself staying with the business for five, 10 or 20 years it’s good to know that if you do wish to stay, they aren’t going anywhere.”
Or, you could ask: Does the organisation have any plans for expansion? What sort of impact will Brexit have on the company?
How are you different from your closest competitor as an employer?
“This type of question puts the interviewer on the spot, giving them the opportunity to sing their company’s praises,” Kate explains. “You can tell a lot about the company by how enthusiastic the interviewer is when listing the key differences and better features they have to offer. This will prove valuable when deciding on whether the role is right for you. After all, it’s crucial to be aware of the market you are entering.”
Or, you could ask: What’s the culture of the team here? What do you like best about working here?
How will you measure my performance and how is feedback given?
“Target-driven employees are motivated ones – which is exactly what recruiters are looking for,” Kate says. “Mentioning your desire to progress will ensure the interviewer knows just how driven you are. Also, identifying from the get-go how this will be measured will prepare you for your first few weeks and beyond, allowing you to impress immediately.”
Or, you could ask: What opportunities are there to progress here?
When can I expect to hear from you?
“Don't be afraid to ask about how the hiring process works going forward – it’s only natural to be inquisitive about the next steps,” Lauren says. Plus, finding out when you should be contacted means you won’t be anxiously checking your phone every five minutes in the days following the interview.
Or, you could ask: What are the next steps from here?