Applications / Interviews

Three questions to ask at interview

We all know that interviews end with an opportunity to ask questions. Sometimes by the time you get to the end of a long interview you just want to escape, not prolong things by asking questions. Anyway the employer has probably been telling you about the company for ages. There’s nothing to be gained by asking a question is there? If you ask anything you might look as if you haven’t been listening. Can’t you just go home?

Well no! You do need to ask questions. In most organisations you are also being assessed on this part of the interview. So how many questions? Three well-chosen and specific ones is probably the optimum. Any fewer and it might look awhy_question_mark_190s though you couldn’t be bothered to do your research, any more and you risk holding up the process and the next candidate.

Do plan questions in advance and not on the day. You’ll need to have a good 4 or 5 planned. It’s quite possible that answers will have been provided to some of your possible questions during the day. You do need to be responsive to information you’ve been given, otherwise you’ll look as if you haven’t been listening!

So what to ask?

Question 1.

This should demonstrate a real understanding of what the organisation says about itself on the website. Try to be ingenious with this. “I see you have recently won an award for…, are you expecting any more awards this year?” isn’t very incisive! You could however note an award and ask a more complex question. For example, you could refer to the recent recognition of a law firm as part of the global elite and ask how the employer feels that the market will develop as performance is increasingly measured on a global rather than a regional basis. How important will it be to have good market share in MINT countries? You’ll have used the same bit of information from the website and crafted a very different and much more impressive question. Do make sure you have a good grasp of the firm’s global reach before you start asking questions like this though!

Question 2.

You might move on to demonstrate that you have been following the news about your prospective employer. Think carefully about this one and avoid being negative. You need to look as though you want to work for the organisation. Asking Tesco if it believes it can ever recover its credibility and rebuild profitability would not be a winning move! A quick bit of internet research just now has shown me that I could instead ask informed questions about the rise in online business across the supermarket sector and the need therefore to secure more warehouse space. The second option makes me look interested, informed and committed to the long term future of the sale of groceries, however that might happen.

And Question 3.

How about something to do with the training the employer is planning to put you through. Make sure that the answer isn’t on the website though! Demonstrate a clear understanding of the training offering and nuance your question. For example, the Civil Service Fast Stream will see you doing 6 different jobs over the 4 year training process. You could ask whether you will have any say about which departments and areas you will work in. You might also ask about the extent to which your personal responsibility will increase over the training period or what contribution the employer will be looking for you to make to the business. If you’ve been to presentations on campus and had the chance to talk to recruiters and trainees this might have given you some really excellent ideas on potential questions, (It’s one reason why it’s worth keeping a record of such events.)

And finally…

The response to your questions will give you some clues as to how the interview has gone. If the interviewer deals with them in short order while ushering you to the door then you might not be expecting the offer. On the other hand if he or she waxes lyrical about the joys of working in the organisation and takes the opportunity to do a hard sell you might be on to a winner!

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