Twenty years ago, it was pretty unusual for a candidate to ask an interviewer many questions during their interview. Recruitment though has changed! Now, not only are you invited to ask questions, you will be assessed on the intelligence and wisdom of those questions. So, what should you be asking and what should you be avoiding? The Recruitment Lab has a look at how you can dig beneath the interview gloss and ask some interview questions that really do provide you with some insight and tick the right boxes for the interviewer.
Why Even Ask Questions?
In today’s world a candidate asking questions is not seen as impertinent or inappropriate. Recruitment managers really do expect you to ask something. For them it shows a basic level of preparation and an enthusiasm for the job. Flip the scenario…not asking questions makes a recruitment manager feel you are unprepared and unenthusiastic about the job! That is not your goal.
Asking questions is how you are going to learn aspects of the company and the job that have not been revealed to you. It is a chance for you to assess whether the recruitment manager and/or others in the room are talking your language! I have been at plenty of interviews where I have asked questions and the response has left me underwhelmed in terms of the calibre of manager sat in front of me and the quality of answer. In such circumstances I politely declined the job offer when it arrived.
Preparing Your Questions
Broadly speaking you really need two to three questions ready to go. If the situation dictates you may wish to ask a fourth question. However, realistically you do not need to ask more than three questions in total. Avoid closed questions that can be answered with a yes or no. You want focused, open-ended questions. Only in rare circumstances do you start asking more than three questions at the close of an interview
The questions you are going to ask should be of real importance to you and should be allowing you to glean a better understanding of the role. You are assessing the role beyond the job description and learning what is really involved. Simultaneously you will have a valuable insight into the company culture and philosophy you will be a part of. You want to make sure that your first week on the job is not full of surprises and you end up ringing your recruitment agency saying “this is nothing like I expected.”
I am a great believer that you can prepare in advance by writing down the questions you wish to ask during the interview. When the recruiting manager asks if you have any questions, you are not relying on memory, you just pull a piece of paper out of your pocket. You look organised and prepared. You are suddenly not falling silent as a result of memory failure created by the pressure of a job interview.
What to Ask?
- How would you describe a typical day in the life of this role?
- What do you see as the difficulty of this role?
- In your opinion, what are the most important qualities required to be successful in the role?
- Can you tell me more about the key performance measures and targets attached to this role?
- What can I do in the first three months to impress you?
These kinds of questions allow you to learn from the recruitment manager what their expectations are for the role. Suddenly you have moved from the actually job description and are looking under the bonnet. The recruitment manager’s response should go along way to help you decide if this is the right job for you.
- Can you describe the working culture of the organisation?
- Can you tell me more about the people within my team?
- What do you find most enjoyable and least enjoyable about your role?
- Why is this job available?
- How would you describe the management style of my potential supervisor?
- What does the organisation do to have fun?
You want to grasp the bigger picture of how an organisation operates and how it performs. You’re tapping into the recruiting manager’s opinion about what they like and dislike. You’ll understand how people are valued and expected to behave. Is the job available because the last employee has been promoted or fired for inappropriate use of an apostrophe?
- Is there anything else I can provide you with that would be helpful or any other questions I can answer for you?
- Can you tell me about professional development opportunities and the career path within the company?
- How do I compare to the other candidates you have met so far?
- What are the next steps in the interview process?
- In terms of timelines when can I hope to hear from you and ideally when are you wanting the successful candidate to start?
This is the moment where you can be looking to draw things to a close, or if you feel the situation demands it, address any thoughts the recruiting manager may have that you want to correct. It is important you judge the situation carefully though. You need to appreciate what rapport has been built during the interview.
The Interview Has Already Answered Your Questions
I have been in that scenario with my three questions carefully stored away, but the Recruitment Manager answers them during the course of the interview. There is then a long silence they ask if you have any questions!!! Sweat breaks out across your brow and you start thinking very quickly on your feet!
However, if you have taken the approach I mentioned above and jotted down your questions in advance you can pull out the piece of paper and just say – I had my questions all ready to go but you answered them for me earlier. You still look prepared; the interview has probably gone well if that is the case and a Recruitment Manager will not be disappointed in anyway.
What Questions to Avoid
While above we have tried to give you a guide as to the types of questions you should be looking to ask, there are also those you should try to avoid!
You want to avoid the “me” questions. These are questions about how much holiday you will be given, the working hours, the pension scheme. Recruitment managers will view these kinds of question as you putting yourself before the company and they don’t like it. If the recruitment manager raises salary then it can be discussed. But, at interview you are trying to highlight how you can contribute successfully to the organisation, not what you can take out.
These questions can cost you the job. Once you have a job offer on the table then you can start negotiating with the recruitment manager, but not before. You maybe impatient to address the salary, but the recruitment manager may not be.
So, there you have it, a list of interview questions you can be asking and the reasons behind why you asked them. And in addition, some detail on what to avoid! Too often candidates ignore this aspect of the interview, but it can be truly vital.
Asking questions is your only chance to gather information as to whether you will be happy within an organisation. Recruitment managers are also wanting those questions and are to a degree evaluating you on them.
Furthermore, it is a two-way street now. If you do not like the answers you received, if you have been left less than impressed you can decline any job offer that is offered.
About the Author
Simon Royston is the founder and Managing Director of The Recruitment Lab (A recruitment agency based in Aldershot that offers employment services across Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and beyond). Simon lives in Guildford and has worked in Recruitment for over a decade. He has a degree and a masters in psychology as well as a diploma in Human Resource Management. If you would like to know more about anything written in this blog or would simply like to express your own thoughts and opinions do not hesitate to contact Simon through The Recruitment Lab website.