‘When do I go to the top of the pay scale…can I leave early on a Friday afternoon…when can I expect to take over from you?’ On reflection, probably not the most appropriate questions to pose when the employer asks you if you have any questions at the end of an interview – but what should you ask?
A boarding school head teacher sparked controversy last month when he revealed that an applicant for a teaching post had asked him ‘Why should I work for you?’ at the end of his interview. The interviewer didn’t event attempt to answer the candidates question and informed him that he ‘wouldn’t be working for him!’ Perhaps the employer may have responded more positively if he had been asked why he enjoyed working for the school. Or how he would have described the school’s culture and ethos, which perhaps may have been the applicant’s intention. This incident does emphasise however how important it is to firstly, ask questions (as failing to do so may suggest a lack of interest and enthusiasm). But secondly, to ask the right question. The situation referred to highlights how a badly worded or inappropriate question can leave a negative impression and create doubt in the employers mind that you are the best candidate.
Effective questions at the end of the interview may help to convince the employer of your suitability and that you would be a good fit. But remember that it is also an opportunity to inform your decision about whether or not to accept a job offer. The interview is a two way process and there may be something you wish to clarify to reassure you that this is actually a job you want.
Having established the importance of asking questions, how many should you ask? A good rule of thumb is to prepare 3-5 questions in advance. Of course there may be other, more relevant questions that arise for you during the course of the interview, but having some ready in advance will help you feel confident and prepared. What are the type of questions that can create the right impression?
What makes people successful in this role?
Any question that suggests interest and ambition is a good one and with this question you are demonstrating both. It should also provide further insight into the skills and attributes that are required, in addition to the requirements identified in the person specification and job description.
How would you describe the work culture in your firm?
Culture is something that is difficult to define but nonetheless important in finding a role that provides job satisfaction. Work cultures differ significantly according to the industry applied to and gaining insight and understanding it will help you make a realistic decision as to the type of environment where your skills and personality can flourish. If your values and attitudes align with your employers, you are more likely to be happier in your work and believe in what you do.
Can I go back to that earlier question on…?
If there was a question that you felt you could have answered more effectively, why not ask the employers permission to revisit it? Saying, ‘I think this is a better example of a time where I demonstrated my problem-solving ability’, for example, shows confidence and the self-awareness that you recognised you could have provided a more convincing answer earlier in the interview.
What challenges do you expect to face in this industry/organisation in the future?
If you are ‘commercially aware’ and are confident that you understand the business and it’s clients and services/products, this question offers an opportunity to showcase this. You could respond to the employers perspective with your analysis and interpretation of the research you have done prior to interview
Can I ask why you like working here?
This isn’t an intrusive question and it will create a positive impression to take an interest in the interviewer, who may well be a future colleague. Their answer may also be instructive and reveal another positive aspect of the working environment that wasn’t apparent on the company website.
What would you expect the successful candidate to achieve in the first 6/12 months?
This could be another way to clarify the employer’s expectations and objectives. Your response to the employers answer to this question could be another opportunity to highlight your potential and suitability for the job role, ‘Your expectation that the successful candidate will provide analysis and insight is interesting. During my internship last summer one of my tangible achievements was to…’
What are the opportunities for further training and promotion?
Although this type of question may feel a little predictable, showing interest in your personal and professional development is important. It shows the interviewer that you are someone that wants to make a long term commitment and that you are someone they can invest in
Do you have any concerns about hiring me?
This may seem a slightly risky question. Why introduce an element of doubt in the employers mind if you feel you have made a positive impression up to that point? Nick Duncombe (Resource Manager from PlayGround Games in Leamington), provides a different take on the value of this question from the recruiters perspective however. “This is a great end of interview question. It’s bold, but if the interviewer has any doubts it gives you the opportunity to answer those concerns directly.”
So the questions you ask can be just as important as the questions you answer. Make sure that you prepare in advance and consider the following when deciding what questions to ask – will the questions you ask help to convince the employer that you can do the job, that you will fit and that you are motivated?